Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Concrete things you can do today to advance reproductive rights

We've been so conditioned to think that the only way we as individuals can make a difference is to sign an online petition or to call or write our elected officials. I think one of the big reasons the filibuster of SB5 in Texas has been so inspirational to people is that it really showed that we do have collective power, if we only use it. I'm sure many people are wondering what they can do now to keep the momentum. Here are some suggestions:
  1. Remain vigilant and keep the pressure on. We won an important battle (like the voters in Mississippi, like the women in Virginia), but the war continues (in Texas, Ohio, North Carolina and many other states). In short, we must make it politically untenable for anti-choice politicians to continue to legislate our bodies, and we must make it possible for pro-choice folks to be bold and uncompromising. It was really incredible for me to watch the pro-choice senators (and the representatives who filed into chambers as midnight neared) take in the 10+ minute clap-in. Let Dewhurst and the others call us a mob; it reveals that they are scared of us. In response, we must take on Dr. David Gunn's (first abortion provider to be murdered in 1994) favorite song as our own: "Won't Back Down!"
  2. Give to your local abortion fund. (Or start one if there's not one in your area). Abortion funds quite simply make the right to abortion a reality. It's ok if you don't have much money: $15 can mean transportation funding, or child care, that helps a woman get to the clinic. I'm partial to the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, which I co-founded, and the Texas Equal Access Fund, which covers the northern half of Texas, where I now live. But they're all doing great work, and all can use your help.
  3. Support your local abortion provider. ABORTION PROVIDERS SAVE WOMEN'S LIVES. It's just that simple. And for that, their lives are too often at risk. Become a clinic escort. Send a note of support. Let them know they are not alone. Find out what they need and organize a way to provide it. 
Share your story and support others to tell their stories. One of the most amazing things about Wendy Davis' filibuster was that she used the time to share women's (and men's) experiences with abortion, leading to an unprecedented public airing of stories that are normally never told. My friend, abortion provider Dr. Susan Wicklund wrote a book about abortion called This Common Secret. 1 in 3 women in the United States will have an abortion in her lifetime, but most of those women have been shamed by our culture into keeping silent about their experiences. Imagine the difference if every woman who had an abortion could say so, confidently, honestly. If we could hear how she always or never wanted to be a mother, how she doesn't regret it at all or is often sad about the life that could have been, how the pregnancy was so wanted or put her life at risk. We need to hear all these things to understand and insist on the crucial role of abortion in women's lives. So tell your story. Tell it to a friend, or contact Exhale the After Abortion Talkline, or get connected with a local group organizing testimony to your state legislature, or submit to the 1 in 3 Campaign. Organize an abortion speakout. Write it down. Dance it out. Share it.

The People's Filibuster

As I type this on my phone, it's 3:30am and we are somewhere between Austin and Denton, TX, returning from the filibuster of the anti-abortion SB5 spearheaded by Senator Wendy Davis. This is not going to be my most eloquent (or best spellchecked) blog, but it may be my most urgent. This was simply one of the most incredible days of my political life, and I've had some pretty amazing ones. There are three points of particular significance that I want to highlight from today's filibuster.

  1. Senator Wendy Davis read countless stories into the official record - and on live stream -  from women who were not allowed to testify in the House, or who sent their stories in specifically for the filibuster. This is an unprecedented airing of women's experiences with abortion, and I cannot emphasize enough how crucial it is that these stories are shared widely. 
  2. The night, and the session, already extraordinary, culminated in what I can only describe as the people's filibuster. With just over 10 minutes left in the special session, and with efforts to derail Sen. Davis' filibuster in full desperate swing, the packed gallery erupted in applause and then a standing O when Senator van de Putte exasperatedly asked if a female legislator needed to raise her hand to be heard over her male colleagues. Then collectively, the people realized their power and simply DID NOT STOP CLAPPING. It's as if we realized together, all at once, that we could disrupt business as usual, and that we could keep it up until the clock ran out. AND WE DID. This is the kind of collective and mass action that has been missing from American politics. It's crucial that we realize that WE did this. Yes, Wendy Davis is amazing and inspiring. But so are we. 
  3. This brings me to my final point. The TX senate tried to cheat their way into passing the bill illegally after the session had officially ended. But the thousands of people in the Capitol, and the hundreds of thousands following via the Internet made it impossible for them to get away with it. They clearly were pushed to the point of having to decide how scared they were of the people. Despite the deafening crowds, they thought they could still pull it off. They were wrong and within a few hours they had to concede that their illegal passage was indeed defeat. Again, WE did that. And we have to continue to do that. Sen. Davis was indeed phenomenal today. But we need to understand that we have the power; we can't hand it over to legislators, no matter how cool. Don't relax with this victory. It's not over. Far from it. Let this buoy you into more action. . 
View from the gallery as the people carried the filibuster.

Update: Governor Rick Perry has, as predicted, called another special session to try and ram this legislation through. Perry called what we did "the breakdown of decorum and decency." Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst called us an "angry mob."  I call it people power disrupting business as usual. Their power has been shaken and they are scared. Can't stop, won't stop!


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