Heather Booth Social Change Strategist and Organizer | MANUFACTURERS profile
HEATHER BOOTH: The amount of change we make depends on how much power we’ve built, how many people we’ve hired, and how strong we have to move people forward with a common set of values.
I was born in Mississippi. My father was in the army there, in a military hospital. But we quickly moved to New York. I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn with my brothers and other families nearby. I had also been shaped by the moral values of my family. They not only believed that we should be good people and treat others with dignity and respect, but that we should actually make this world a better place.
When I was in Mississippi, people would sometimes say, are you willing to die for freedom? I really wanted to live. But I was willing to take that risk if it was necessary to secure freedom.
In 1965, when a friend told me that his sister was pregnant and almost suicidal and wanted an abortion, I found a remarkable doctor, Dr. TRM Howard. I made the arrangement with him. The procedure was successful. And I really thought that would be the end. But someone else called. And then the word spread. And someone else called. And as an organizer, I understood that a system had to be put in place. It was not in fact within the framework of a political action. It was really acting on a moral belief, really, that you should do to others what you would like to be treated.
As more and more people arrived, I recruited others to continue this work. And because three people talking about an abortion was a conspiracy to commit a crime, we told people, “Pregnant? You don’t want to be? Call Jane.” And we would call the system “Jane”. There were probably 100 women who were in the service over time. It was unthinkable at that time. It was a time when many doctors were not women. He was short on care for the women involved. And as a result, we have created a caring community.
Right after the “Roe” decision, about one in three women who were pregnant would have an abortion. It means it could be your sister, your cousin. It could be you. And so that’s one of the greatest freedoms we can have in our life, that freedom to make the most personal decision about when or if or with whom we’re going to have a child.
I do the work that I love. And nothing gave me the level of satisfaction of working with others to help them find their own power. It is not only about abstract values of democracy, freedom and justice. As important as they are, it’s about improving real life.
Nearly 80% of the population did not want “Roe” to be overthrown. But we have the opportunity to make so much more progress. And so much is at stake. But we can make a difference. And now it’s time that if people take action, if they organize, if they make the phone calls, if they text, if they go door to door, if they engage , if they do the illustrations, if they create the songs, if they create the videos, if they create the Makers conferences – that when we organize, we can change this world. But we must take this step now.