“Women in the ’70s understood very clearly that having control over reproduction is central to women’s ability to determine their own futures, to get the education they want, to have careers,” Dr. Schoen said. “As people got used to having access to abortion — and there’s a false sense that we’ve achieved a measure of equality — that radicalism women had in the early years got lost.”
Some millennial women who can easily and safely get abortions do not connect the experience to their political activism. Cynthia Gutierrez, 30, a community organizer in California, got a medication abortion in 2013. Because she did not struggle with medical access or insurance, the experience did not immediately propel her toward advocacy.
“I had no idea about the political landscape around it,” she said. “I had no idea that other people had challenges with access or finding a clinic or being able to afford an abortion.”
Around that time, Ms. Gutierrez began working at a criminal justice reform organization. “I wasn’t thinking, let me go to the next pro-choice rally,” she said. “The racial justice and criminal justice work I did felt more relevant because I had people in my life who had gone through the prison industrial complex, and I experienced discrimination.”
Other young women said they felt less drawn to reproductive rights messaging that is focused strictly on legal abortion access, and more drawn to messaging about racial and socioeconomic disparities in access to abortion, widely referred to as reproductive justice.
Deja Foxx, 20, a college student from Tucson, Ariz., became involved in reproductive justice advocacy when she confronted former Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, at a town hall event over his push to defund Planned Parenthood.
But abortion access is not what initially drew her to the movement. She wanted to fight for coverage of contraceptives, as someone who was then homeless and uninsured, and for comprehensive sex education, since her high school’s curriculum did not mention the word consent.