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“No One Working for Social Justice Should Expect Their Opponents to Just Go Away”

Marlene Gerber Fried

Marlene Gerber Fried

Marlene Gerber Fried, Faculty Director of the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program at Hampshire College, and a founder both of the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts and the National Network of Abortion Funds, has been a reproductive justice activist since the 1970s. You’d think she’d be burned out by now, but she’s not, and despite a flurry of recent legislative setbacks—the Guttmacher Institute reports that 57 new abortion restrictions passed statehouses in 2015—she’s not even discouraged.

“Sure, I sometimes shake my head in disbelief that we still have to fight these battles, but no one working for social justice should expect their opponents to just go away,” she begins. “You have to have a long view.”

That attitude has allowed Fried to celebrate both small, incremental victories and the positive ideological shifts that she’s seen over the past several decades. 

She is heartened, for example, by how much the reproductive rights movement has changed, moving from the single issue of abortion to reproductive justice, an anti-racist, anti-sexist framework that includes trans rights, sexual justice for the disabled, and support for programs that support childbearing—from quality public schools, to nutritious, affordable food and clean water and air. In addition, the growing number of R.J. organizations, many of them led by young people of color, inspires Fried and keeps her energized and optimistic.