I’m borrowing Rachel Maddow’s words from her Wednesday night broadcast here, but I hope you’ll forgive me. As I watched her broadcast from Lawrence, Kansas, I couldn’t help a swelling of pride at what I saw on the screen. Kansans, like myself, who wanted every woman to have access to their full reproductive rights (among other “liberal” ideas) were gathered around Ms. Maddow in the Free State Brewery. Maddow showed the good side of Kansas, the side of Kansas I love–not the radical, ultra-conservative side that was shown around the death of Dr. Tiller.
The next day I called my grandmother to tell her about the broadcast.
“I already knew about it,” she replied.
“How?” I asked her. She never stayed up late enough to view it.
“Sister Rose told me about it,” she said.
Some background here–my grandmother is the manager of an apartment complex for retired folks in western Kansas. Everyone who lives there is over 65, though many are around 80. Sister Rose, age 80, is a retired nun who entered her convent at the age of 14.
“Sister Rose?” I asked. “How did Sister Rose know?”
Sister Rose watches the Rachel Maddow Show every night, my grandmother told me. That morning after coffee with the other residents, Sister Rose made her way into my grandmother’s office, as she usually did. Only today, she had a more specific purpose.
She was angry, and she needed someone to talk to about it. Since she didn’t figure any of the other residents would lister to her or care, she decided she’d try things with my grandma. Between what she had seen on the Maddow show–the talk of Phil Kline’s trial, among other things–and the news that Planned Parenthood could lose funding, she had heard enough!
“Abortion is a moral issue! It’s a personal decision! The legislators need to leave it alone, they have no business dealing with what is moral and what isn’t!” she ranted. She agreed that while she herself probably would have never had an abortion (had she ever needed one), she didn’t feel that anyone else had the right to make those decisions for someone else, and certainly not politicians.
Sister Rose is a quiet, calm person, and a good Catholic who attends mass at least twice a week. When she gets angry, she rarely shows it. Her only outbursts occur when something deeply upsets her, like when the priest showed up drunk for Sunday mass. And yet, legislators messing with something so controversial in the Catholic church had Sister Rose near yelling.
When I hung up the phone, I realized something. I had an ally. An elderly, retired nun, from a city with less than 2,000 people, in the middle of the Midwest agreed with me on the matter of women’s reproductive rights. She had been incredibly brave to voice her opinion on the matter, given her former position in the church.
And so I realized, the people are NOT what’s the matter with Kansas, Rachel Maddow is right about that. The problem is that more people like myself and Sister Rose, who also believe legislators need to keep their morals out of women’s uteruses, aren’t brave enough to say so. That’s why on today, Saturday, February 26, I’m protesting to save funding for Planned Parenthood here in NYC, in honor of Sister Rose and the silent supporters back in my home state.