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Choice USA is a reproductive rights and justice non-profit organization in the United States based in Washington, D.C. It is youth-led, with a focus on pro-choice movements. Choice USA announced that it was changing names in July 2014 and is now called URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equality.
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History and organization
Choice USA [now known as URGE] was founded in 1992 by Gloria Steinem, an American feminist, activist, and writer. The organization's first projects analyzed the activities of the religious right in elections and promoted electoral participation by women, young people, and people of color.
In recent years, the organization has focused its efforts on mobilizing people under 30 in support of abortion rights, comprehensive sex education, and access to sexual health and wellness services.
In 2014, Choice USA changed its name to URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity. In a statement on its website, the group said the name change reflected work it was already doing outside of abortion rights advocacy. It described its mission as “catalyzing the power of young people to fight for the ability of all people to build the families they want, access the healthcare they need, and to live and love in the way that’s true to who they are."
Currently, URGE's programs reach young people in every region of the country by supporting youth leaders in creating chapters at college and university campuses.
Mission and values
URGE envisions a world where all people have agency over their own bodies and relationships and the power, knowledge and tools to exercise that agency. Choice USA builds this vision by engaging young people in creating and leading the way to sexual and reproductive justice for all by providing training, field mobilization and national leadership for a youth-driven agenda.
The organization is guided by the following *UPDATED* principles and values in order to ensure diversity and inclusion: URGE:
- Embraces sexuality as a universal, positive, and healthy component of human development. We promote positive sexuality in culture, policy, and practice.
- Believes that the individuals and communities most marginalized by current sexual and reproductive policy should be the ones to articulate a new vision. We create spaces for these people to lead us to a different future.
- Promotes bold, creative ideas and action. We are timely, reflect diverse young communities, and build a vibrant, relevant and fun movement!
- Measures our work by concrete reproductive justice victories for our members, chapters and allies. We approach each campaign with the expectation of success at the local, state, and national levels.
- Works in collaboration and partnership with organizations, institutions, and individuals. We strive for transparency, honesty, accountability, and an assumption of good intent.
- Values diverse voices and has created an inclusive structure.
URGE also advocates for these core reproductive and sexual rights and health issues:
- comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education
- accessible and affordable access to safe sex methods, including contraception and emergency contraception
- safe, accessible, comprehensive, quality and affordable reproductive and sexual health care that encourages parental involvement but does not require their notification or consent
- safe, accessible, comprehensive, quality, affordable, and legal access to abortion services
- informed consent for decisions related to reproductive and sexual health care, including non-coercive and unbiased counseling about contraception, abortion, pregnancy and birthing
- comprehensive prenatal care
- culturally and linguistically competent reproductive and medical care
Reproductive Justice Organizing Institute
The Reproductive Justice Organizing Institute is a set of trainings and programs developed by Choice USA to develop and support emerging pro-choice leaders.
- Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute (GSLI): an intensive training for college students and leaders, held throughout the year in Southern, Midwestern, and Western parts of the United States. Participants learn about reproductive choice and justice issues, network with other young people, and develop leadership skills for reproductive justice activism.
- Specific Issue Strategy Sessions (SISS): workshops designed to develop strategies around local campaigns.
- Grassroots Organizing Weekends (GROW): Choice USA partners with United States Student Association for this workshop that prepares student activists to promote and defend reproductive choice.
- Voter Action Strategy Training (VAST): teaches participants how to run voter registration, voter education, and get-out-the-vote efforts that build electoral power to pressure decision-makers and win policy changes.
- History of Choice, Future of Justice: an overview of the history of reproductive rights, the pro-choice and oppositional movements, and ideas for the future expansion of reproductive rights into a broader, social justice-based framework.
- Training of Trainers: a training program designed to specifically train activists to be experts in a number of Choice USA trainings.
Campaigns and activities
- In 1996, the Next Generation Campaign was created in response to the decline in young people’s support for reproductive choice compared to previous generations, assisting in the organization's transition to exclusively youth-led and focused
- In 2005, Choice USA focused on defeating California Proposition 73, which would have amended the California Constitution to ban performance of abortions on minors until 48 hours after the minor's parent or guardian were notified by a physician
- In 2005, Choice USA launched a National EC Campaign, in an effort to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make emergency contraception available without a prescription
- In 2006, Choice USA joined in the cross-organization campaign to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which excludes abortions from covered Medicaid services
- In 2006, following the approval of over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception to women 18 and older, Choice USA joined in the fight to make emergency contraception available for all women at health care centers and pharmacies
- In 2006, Choice USA and the Latina Institute for Reproductive Health hosted the Young Women's Collaborative training, the first training for what would later become the Southwest Partnership, in Tucson, AZ.
- In 2007, Choice USA collaborated with other organizations to support the Fairness in Flowers campaign, in an effort to change working conditions for female flower workers in Ecuador and Colombia
- In 2007, Choice USA began working with students to reverse the negative impact of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act on Birth Control prices on college campuses.
- In 2007, Choice USA sent 35 Reproductive Justice Youth Ambassadors to the first United States Social Forum in Atlanta, Georgia to participate in the discussions and activities around reproductive and sexual health and social justice
- In 2007, Choice USA began a collaboration with Generations Ahead on Egg Donation
- In 2008, Choice USA hosted the first annual Gloria Steinem Membership Conference.
- "Beyond 'Choice': Youth-Focused Reproductive Rights and Justice Organization Renames Itself URGE - Rewire". Rewire. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
- "Gloria Steinem | Profiles | Finding Your Roots | PBS". Finding Your Roots. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
- Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (November 29, 2009). "A Pregnant Pause". New York Times.
- "About Our Name Change". URGE.
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