Since the overturning of Roe V. Wade in June 2022, reproductive freedom, and privacy have been hot issues on the minds of many. Many states followed suit in passing restrictive legislation banning access to abortions and accompanying strict consequences. Those who wish to have an abortion, and the doctors who help them, can be prosecuted, and data gathered by period tracking apps, fertility apps, or web searches that point to a potentially terminated pregnancy can be weaponized as evidence of the “crime.”
Criticisms wielded against those in power who pass these “pro-life” bills often include their lack of familiarity and education surrounding periods, reasons for having abortions, and general attitudes and motivations of those who have actually had them. But, one person in the room has been and continues to be committed to revealing the truth behind reproductivity and the dangers of anti-abortion legislation: Congresswoman Sara Jacobs, representative of California’s 51st Congressional District and the fourth youngest member of the Democratic House of Representatives.
Born and raised in San Diego, Rep. Jacobs didn’t initially plan to join the political realm, but after pursuing political science in college, she realized her true passion for international affairs and conflict resolution. “I always try and find the hardest problems that are impacting the most vulnerable people and see where I can make an impact on them. I think there are two kinds of problems in the world. There are problems where we know what to do; we just don’t have the political will to do them, and problems where we don’t know what to do even if we wanted to. And so I really liked that second bucket of problems,” Jacobs tells Her Campus.
Sometimes, people who have never had someone question their right to make decisions about their own body don’t understand how fundamental it is.
Existing as a woman in male-dominated spaces can often feel like carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, having to work 10 times harder to make simple things you have always known and had to live with as clear as possible to those who haven’t. On the House floor, Jacobs was the first person to discuss using Plan B and her period, issues others deliberately turn their heads at, privileged in their bubbles. “Sometimes, people who have never had someone question their right to make decisions about their own body don’t understand how fundamental it is,” Jacobs says.
The Importance of “Kitchen Table Issues.”
Much of Jacobs’ past is rooted in initiative and leadership for solving problems that have long since plagued communities, such as poverty, access to education, and violence. One form of violence that she has been particularly dedicated to is that against reproductive bodies. The Secure Access for Essential Reproductive Health Act and the Access to Infertility Treatment and Care Act highlight Jacobs’ direct approach to what she considers genuine health concerns that should not be sidestepped or downplayed for the comfort of older white men who refuse to be educated in reproductive truth.
“I’m a 34-year-old woman: basically for the last 15, 20 years of my life, what I talk about with my friends around the kitchen table is our period, and who wants to have babies and who doesn’t want to have babies, and who’s going to give you the ride to the abortion clinic if something happens,” Jacobs says. “These are real issues that people are talking about all the time, and they shouldn’t be stigmatized, and we’re not going to be able to make good policy about these issues if we’re not talking about them. And I’m one of the few women of reproductive age in Congress, so these are a normal part of my life.”
The My Body, My Data Act.
As a response to the overturning of Roe V Wade, Jacobs introduced the My Body, My Data Act. You probably noticed many people tweeting about deleting your period tracking apps and being careful with what you search because it could be used against you. This is exactly what Jacobs’ bill seeks to protect against. “I realized it shouldn’t be on each individual person to try and figure out how to keep themselves safe, and it shouldn’t be up to the goodwill of companies,” says Jacobs “It’s our job as the government to protect this really sensitive personal data.”
The bill would ensure that these apps and companies can only collect data you specifically ask for and provide, that you can delete certain data from the app, that the company is not permitted to share or sell this data, and that you as the user can sue if they break these regulations. While some success has led to having the bill in the House and the Senate, Jacobs admits that with the House Speaker being Republican Kevin McCarthy, the actual vote for the bill is unlikely to be brought forth just yet, though Jacobs is hopeful of the future: “We’re going to keep working on building support and trying to make sure that when we do have the vote, it’s ready to go.”
I often think about [activism] as a relay race. This is not the ultra marathon; you’re not running all 50 miles yourself —you’re working with a team to make sure that we are making change.
Political burnout is real.
A Post-Trump world sees Ron DeSantis, notorious for his extreme right-wing views, pledging his run for President, leading Gen Z to feel more disillusioned by the government meant to protect them. With frequent social media bombs of bad news, young folks in the fight for justice are succumbing to burnout. Yet, Jacobs urges the importance of staying committed while setting boundaries: “I often think about [activism] as a relay race. This is not the ultra marathon; you’re not running all 50 miles yourself —you’re working with a team to make sure that we are making change,” Jacobs says. “And sometimes that means you have to pass the baton a little bit and take care of yourself. And sometimes it means it’s your time to take the baton and run with it.”
Additionally, Jacobs emphasizes how normal it is to feel burnt out and pessimistic about political activism and advises Gen Zers to take care of their mental health: “Have some self-compassion, and remember that you can’t pour from an empty glass,” Jacobs says. “So you need to make sure that you’re doing the things that fill yourself up and protect yourself before you can make sure that you’re helping others.”
Gen Z, hold onto hope for the future.
But, despite all Jacobs has and continues to accomplish, she was a college student once, too, and deeply values the voices of our generation. “I remember what it was like being a girl in college or a young person in college and how much anxiety there is about the future, and how insecure you’re probably feeling about your body and your place in the world, and I just want you to know it’s going to be okay,” Jacobs says. “Often, as a young person, it feels like you don’t know enough yet, or someone else knows more than you, or it’s not your time. I’m here to tell you that we need you: We need your voice, we need your creativity, we need your ideas now more than ever.”
For folks looking to get involved, Jacobs urges them to stay informed and participate in causes they are passionate about. “Do your homework, make sure you know what you’re talking about, but don’t feel like you have to wait or that you’re too young to make a difference because you’re not, and we need you.”