- Text by Marta Bausells
On the eve of Trump’s inauguration there was little to smile about, but a glimmer of hope took form in the shape of a tiny zine about reproductive rights.
Co-created by artists and activists Layla Alter, India Salvador Menuez and Emma Holland, it’s printable, foldable and customisable at home, designed for any and all women, trans and gender non-conforming people to use.
The Repro Rights Zine offers information and practical advice on reproductive health services across America, contraceptives, helplines, ways to help others, and advice on rights that might be under threat. It started doing the rounds in early January, and it has since been distributed on Women’s Marches across America, got an art revamp, and been embraced by teens across America, Transparent creator Jill Soloway, and women all across the United States.
What gave you the idea of creating Repro Rights Zine?
Layla Alter: The idea came from a feeling of helplessness and eagerness to take back control of our bodies. I felt like everything was going to slip away once Trump won the election. I work for Killerandasweetthang.com, a progressive sex ed start up, and I knew I had to create something to spread information about reproductive rights. I knew I wanted it to be downloadable online, easily distributed, inclusive, and aesthetically pleasing and it took off from there!
How would you describe the zine, in one sentence?
LA: An easily accessible/distributed DIY zine to help you take charge of your body in light of the election!
Emma Holland: A little book of the most bare-bones necessary information you need to stay safe and in control of your reproductive rights, presented in a simple, participatory, and inclusive way!
India Salvor Menuez: An empoweringly easy to reproduce info packet on how reproductive rights in the USA currently stand, how they may change and ideas about pre-emptive measures to protect your right to choice.
How did you guys go about creating it?
LA: It started with me reaching out to India to illustrate the zine and her wanting to not only illustrate it but to help it come to life! India and I came up with the format of it and what information we wanted to provide. From there I spoke with Emma and she instantly wanted to help write it. We then collectively wrote it with my sister Ellie who helped us out as well. India’s partner Jack laid it out for us and Mars Hobrecker illustrated it!
IM: The three of us scavenged the internet, finding cross-references and compiling research for about a month on the topic, and then it took about another month to find a way to consolidate the information we found in a way that felt concise and easy to digest. The minutia of state by state legislature on this topic is so tedious and ever-changing that there are things we had to leave out, in place of which we put reliable links for readers to find these kinds of details online.
Much of the interactions patients have with the complicated and ever-changing health care industry of this county are scary and overwhelming, so a goal for us when compiling information was to make it clear, simple and unlike the usual unpleasant experience of trying to figure out what choices you actually have.
I imagine you guys are trying to fill a gap in information around reproductive rights.
EH: Like Layla and India mentioned above, we did a ton of research, and this really doubled-down for us how necessary creating this was. There’s a gap in information for sure, but it’s less about quantity and more about content. There’s actually so much information out there. But it’s all nebulous and contradictory and overlapping and changes the second you cross state lines. It was hard for us to not be able to capture everything in this tiny little book. We tried to find the intersection of the most crucial, the most detailed, and the most widely applicable information.
We knew that while there were definitely younger girls in New York City who could and would benefit from this, the real need was going to be in places where this stuff is never taught in schools, where parents don’t talk about it, and where governments are making you feel like reproductive health doesn’t matter or is a dirty topic.
IM: Accessibility as a key word to this project means we don’t have a target demographic. It is easy enough to reproduce within a limited budget (only requiring one sheet of paper, black and white printing capabilities and access to a computer to print the downloadable pdf from), so it can reach audience at demand. The structure of the project fuses old school DIY zine making tactics with the new interconnectedness of the internet to push its reach as far as it is needed.
There’s a huge DIY element here, as people can print it and distribute it themselves. Could you talk about what your hopes are for it?
EH: We wanted the zine to be this living, participatory thing that people felt personally invested in and like they could make it their own in whatever way they wanted. Having it be free and downloadable online has let us get it to corners of the country we never could have otherwise. We incorporated a fun social media component where we ask people to submit pictures of themselves with the zine and post them on the Instagram, which I think really makes people feel like it’s this collective project.
LA: I feel this way of distributing information is really relevant and relatable. It’s interactive, aesthetically pleasing and engaging. We’ve done a good job at distributing the zine locally and promoting it online. The next steps are making sure to get it into more hands of underserved youth in NYC and across the country. As I’ve said before – it’s easy for us to get it out to our little bubble here in NYC but making it accessible to those who don’t have the privilege we have to have access information is what we are really pushing for.
IM: Although the zine is made for folks of all genders and generations, it has reached female teens more so than any other demographic, likely because these are the people seeking it out. We have girls sending us DMs on our Instagram page regularly from across the country, pictures of their own zine-folding parties, messages about getting their principals permission to hand them out in their school, etc.
It’s exciting to see these young people taking their sex ed into their own hands. Especially since I remember learning so little about the extent of contraceptive options at school, and in general finding the structure of my public school sex education syllabus to be patriarchally structured in how the boys were taught about how masturbation was normal, while the girls had to focus more on how not to get pregnant.
What have been the main challenges? Have you encountered difficulties or opposition from anyone?
LA: We are lucky to not have encountered many challenges, other than feeling eager to make sure the zine is as updated as possible. We did receive a message expressing disappointment in us suggesting folks get an IUD. Fertility and birth control is a very personal choice. An IUD is most certainly not for everyone, which is why we stress to explore other options. We are passing along information that we know is important and hope that if getting an IUD is a good choice for you, you would get one because it is a long-term, reliable option that will outlast Trump’s Presidency.
We also very much acknowledge the ways in which women or people of colour are not always given the same space to be autonomous in the doctor-patient relationship. We wish we had more room to cover all that we want to in our first zine but we luckily have big plans for upcoming zines, so stay tuned!
What kind of feedback have you been getting?
IM: In general really positive, and actually it has been exciting to see some trans and GNC (gender non-conforming) folks get excited about how the zine is inclusive of them in a way material of similar topic often is not.
LA: We’ve gotten such an amazing response, it is so goddamn rewarding to create something that is educating people and is being well-received.
What are your plans as to what to do next?
EH: We want to make more! Both an updated version of this one, and also some tangential iterations that cover other important but related subjects. We’re also thinking of ways to incorporate a more to-the-minute aspect into our website – a way for us to cover and distribute less set-in-stone news or updates to reproductive freedoms as they get discussed in government. This would also allow us to cover a much wider spread of information and get more specific state by state!
Find out more about Repro Rights Zine, and print your own.