Heather Booth Social Change Strategist & Organizer | MAKERS Profile

Heather Booth Social Change Strategist & Organizer | MAKERS Profile

Video Transcript

HEATHER BOOTH: The amount of change we make depends on the amount of power we've built, the number of people we've engaged, and the force that 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 army hospital. But we moved quickly to New York. I grew up on the streets in Brooklyn with my brothers and other families close by. I also had 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 we should actually make this a better world.

When I was in Mississippi, people would sometimes say, are you willing to die for freedom? I very much wanted to live. But I was willing to take that risk if that's what was needed to ensure that there would be freedom.

In 1965, when a friend told me that his sister was pregnant and nearly suicidal and wanted an abortion-- and I found a remarkable doctor, Dr. T.R.M. Howard. I made the arrangement with him. The procedure was successful. And I really thought that would be the end of it. But someone else called. And then word spread. And someone else called. And as an organizer, I realized then we should set up a system. It was actually not as part of any political action. It was really acting on a moral belief, really, that you should do unto others as you'd want to be treated.

As more and more people were coming through, I recruited others to carry on this work. And because three people talking about an abortion was a conspiracy to commit a felony, we said to people, "Pregnant? Don't want to be? Call Jane." And we'd call the system "Jane." There probably were 100 women who were part of the service over time. It was unthinkable in those days. This was a time when many physicians were not women. It was run out of the caring for the women involved. And as a result, we created a caring community.

Right after the "Roe," decision about one in three women who were pregnant would have an abortion. This means it could be your sister, your cousin. It could be you. And so this is one of the greatest freedoms we can have in our life, this freedom to make the most personal decision about when or whether or with whom we have a child.

I'm doing the work that I love. And nothing has given me the level of satisfaction of working with others to help them find their own power. It's not only about abstract values of democracy, freedom, and justice. As important as those are, it's about improving real lives.

Nearly 80% of the population didn't want "Roe" overturned. But we have the possibility of making so much more progress. And so much is at stake. But we can make a difference. And now is the time that if people act, if they organize, if they make the phone calls, if they do the texts, if they go door to door, if they engage, if they do the artwork, 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 need to take that action now.