Last week, I was thrilled to be able to travel down to Montgomery for a gathering at the State House, in support of women’s reproductive rights. Supporters gathered inside to travel through the halls, hoping to speak with legislators; and outside on the steps to increase visibility and awareness. I know that right now our legislature feels extremely inhospitable to women’s rights, and so it can be very intimidating for us to plead our case. But I think it’s more important than ever that we do so. Contacting our legislators and letting them know about our concerns doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll listen to us and do the right thing–but not letting them know how we feel guarantees that our voices are lost.
In 2011, I had my first real experience in women’s issue activism. A “personhood amendment” was up for a state-wide vote that November, and voters in Mississippi, one of the most religious states in the Union, were expected to approve it. Even the Democratic candidate for governor came out in support. Not only would this have completely outlawed potentially every abortion, but it could have outlawed some types of birth control, and completely eliminated in-vitro fertilization for people trying desperately to conceive. These “personhood” initiatives go far beyond simply attacking abortion–since they give an embryo or blastocyst the full legal rights of a human being, they make every woman’s pregnancy or potential pregnancy into a legal nightmare. Fortunately, the campaign opposing personhood was fantastically organized. Their tireless work helped to educate Mississippians about the true cost and ramifications of this proposal, and in an election where Phil Bryant was elected governor by over 60% (yes, that Phil Bryant), personhood lost, decisively.
Well, Alabama, let’s hope we don’t have to go and do the same thing sometime soon. A personhood amendment was just one of the terrifying bills with reproductive rights implications up before the legislature this year. That issue appears to be set aside for now, fortunately, with just a short time left before the end of the session. When it comes to women’s rights, our legislators seemingly couldn’t leave town soon enough–we don’t need them doing any more damage!
At a time when our state is scraping and clawing for money to keep our Medicaid program running, our legislators are trying to throw money away on the legal defense of the indefensible.
At a time when Planned Parenthood has been under attack by videos that tell lies–-let’s call them what they are now; they are lies, they are untruths, they are false accusations–and by threats of shootings, executions, and arson; our legislators have tried to deny the organization the legally mandatory funding they need to continue providing birth control, counseling, and other services to women and their families.
At a time when abortion–not only a completely legal procedure but one with specific legal protections–is getting harder to access safely, they are trying to outlaw what is often the safest abortion method for women in the second trimester.
At a time when clinics and their patients are being harassed by sidewalk protesters screaming and holding graphic signs, our legislators are not protecting the clinics or their vulnerable patients–our legislators are targeting them for removal under the guise of protecting school children from the chaos. Let me ask you, if I went and protested, holding graphic photos of victims of police violence, outside of a police station that was near a school, do you think the legislature would make the police station move? It seems very clear to me that these are targeted laws aimed specifically at harassing abortion clinics out of business.
This is not acceptable. This is not OK.
We need for our Senators and Representatives to advocate the best interests of all of the people, not the narrow views of certain special-interest groups. And if they will not, we need to hold them accountable. Every legislator who votes for or sponsors these bills needs to be held accountable. For some, maybe this means talking to them and helping to guide them down the right path. For others, maybe this means finding them an opponent in 2018. Alabama’s women deserve better.