Running for Reproductive Rights


 

Photos By: Matt LeBlanc

By Carley Crain

 

Donuts, track, and reproductive rights – an unlikely trio. But, with the right to abortion under attack across the United States, Val Moyer and Matt LeBlanc felt the need to take action.


Four donuts, one mile, and over $500 raised for The New Hampshire (NH) Reproductive Freedom Fund on a brisk afternoon in Dover, New Hampshire–just about the necessary amount of money it costs to fund one abortion–which is a representation of how expensive abortion is in the United States.


“Sometimes I think running fundraisers don’t go towards the more controversial issues, like they are focused more on the turnout or being apolitical,” explained Moyer.



After the Politico leak that suggested the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, the duo of Moyer and LeBlanc went to work–and came up with the idea of creating a lighthearted community running event during a historic low point for many Americans.


“With such a devastating decision and it being so heavy, we wanted to do something that was a fun activity, one that would celebrate people fighting back while also raising money for a very important cause,” said LeBlanc.


A handful of gooey, frosted donuts with the combination of a few laps around the track made for a unique way to spread awareness about an issue that hits close to home for many – abortion. In collaboration with the NH Reproductive Freedom Fund, Moyer and LeBlanc hosted an event that brings two different communities together – politics and running.


“Donut mess with reproductive rights” was an event that not only combatted typical stereotypes about running but also suggested a different way to view track and field. Moyer and LeBlanc framed track as more than just a place for athletes to run fast, using the sport as an avenue for people to run for something bigger than themselves.



“I think that men need to step up and be a voice because there aren’t as many,'' said LeBlanc on men’s roles in reproductive justice. “Abortion still impacts men and is a basic human right. It’s healthcare. We can’t go backward. Women have already had enough oppression put on them and rights taken away from them.”


LeBlanc and Moyer are both avid runners with the Rainbow City Run club, which is a community-focused group in New Hampshire that encourages inclusivity through running. Moyer and LeBlanc feel that running typically favors abled cisgender individuals and strive to make running a safe place for everyone.

The decision to host at a local high school track came from the thought of accessibility for all. For runners who may be in wheelchairs or are impaired in other ways, a track offers a flat terrain that typically is easier to navigate. Runners were given the choice to run, walk, or jog– whatever felt the best for them. After all, the four-lap race wasn’t about winning a medal or receiving a monetary prize.


The money raised is crucial, as abortions in New Hampshire are rarely paid for by insurance plans, forcing patients to pay on their own. Smaller and more local abortion organizations, like the NH Reproductive Freedom Fund, directly help patients access the services they need.


Moyer and LeBlanc also knew raising money for a local organization would be more beneficial in the long run.


“These organizations are more local and are going to people right in the moment across New Hampshire,” said LeBlanc.


“To me, abortion is the bare minimum and is something we have to keep fighting for. The 6-week abortion ban was scary for many reasons and I know that it will affect marginalized people more drastically,” said Moyer. “As a runner in college, I wasn’t getting my period regularly. Like no way that was happening and that really hit home in a different way because I wouldn’t know in 6 weeks. I would go like 3-to-4 months without a period and thought I was fine.”


Moyer's experience is not uncommon as many runners with female anatomy experience missed or delayed menstruation.


In the case of unexpected pregnancy, runners who are accustomed to irregular menstruation might not become aware of their pregnancy until it is too late for them to make a decision. This concern is exacerbated in states where abortion is restricted as early as six weeks.


“I feel very connected to my body through running, and over the years I think it is a great way to find your physical limits and push yourself to do more than what you think you can do and feel great in your own body,” said Moyer. “These laws are really scary and bad in a lot of ways, but they really go against that connection and control over your own body.”


“Donut mess with reproductive rights” is not the first time abortion has been mentioned in the running community, but these conversations have previously been met with silence. In 2020, Olympic gold medalist Brianna McNeal for example shared her abortion experience with The New York Times after being banned from competing for a missed drug test. McNeal’s punishment was not adjusted and her story was met with the same silence that has come to represent the stigma around abortions.



Moyer and LeBlanc seek to protect not only women’s right to choose, but also their right to privacy–a right McNeal did not get to have.


But with silence comes activism, as athletes like Moyer and LeBlanc show that runners are not afraid to use the track as an avenue for change.






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