A Pro-Choice Activist’s Guide to Surviving State Legislative Season

28 Mar

This time of year, my life is cluttered with dispatches de la surreal. This email reports that a fetus is testifying in a committee in Ohio’s state legislature. That tweet says Mississippi is going to prosecute women for miscarrying and this next one is asking me to speak out against making it legal to kill abortion providers (??!!!). And, to borrow from the great Nina Simone, everybody knows about South Dakota, goddam!

Besides drinking barrels of whiskey, what’s a pro-choice activist to do while the extremists do their springtime waltz? I don’t claim to have all the answers – and would love your suggestions in the comments – but here are a couple ideas to keep up the fight and keep it together until the elected misfits slink back to their small town law firms:

Bowl for Choice. We, and the anti-choice factions, know all too well that a legal right to abortion is meaningless unless all women can access abortion care. Enter National Network of Abortion Funds, which works with organizations across the country to provide money to women who need abortions but would otherwise not be able to afford them. The Second Annual National Abortion Access Bowl-athon is rules the month of April when pro-choice activists in 25 cities will be hitting the lanes for reproductive justice. Start your own team or give to an individual bowler – like me or our blog mistress Steph or our friend @ClinicEscort, who has vowed to tattoo #prochoice (the Twitter hashtag for abortion rights news and activism) on her body if she raises $3000 for the Women’s Medical Fund.

Take the fight to the Feds. Sometimes I feel like my home state of Texas is in a battle with other states to see who can hurt women more  – and is winning because of the huge conservative majority there. That’s when I turn my activism back to the federal level where we have an extremely hostile, anti-choice Congress but some hope because of the (theoretically) pro-choice Senate and White House. Turns out the GOP is making redefining rape, allowing hospitals to let women die, and auditing women who’ve had abortions, a top priority this session. This can only mean it’s time for us to take up the banner on the national level. Sign this petition to stop the IRS from forcing women who’ve had abortions to recount their reasons to IRS agents and, if you can make it to DC, join NARAL for a national lobby day on April 7th.

Stop fake clinics in their tracks. Austin, Baltimore, and New York City have all passed groundbreaking legislation that requires crisis pregnancy centers – ideologically driven establishments that pose as health clinics to lie and shame women out of having abortions – to post notice that they do not have medical personnel on staff and do not provide abortion services or referrals to clinics that provide these services. Start a petition on Change.org to lobby your city council to introduce this legislation in your city. If you’re in college, join the Feminist Majority campaign to expose fake clinics and get them and their advertisements off campus.

Become a clinic escort. On any given day in the United States, women and men go to reproductive health clinics to get birth control, get tested for sexually transmitted infections and, yes, have abortions. And on any given day there are people who stand outside to scream threats at these people for making the choices that are best for them at the time. Clinic escorts bravely stand between the patients and the screamers, using their bodies to shield the patients and their voices to let them know someone is on their side. Go here to find out how to get training to become one of these pro-choice heroes.

Start a freakin’ riot. 1 in 3 US women will have an abortion. And despite what you may have heard, more than half the country supports abortion rights. So let’s be LOUD and PROUD about being pro-choice. Planned Parenthood has launched a bus Truth Tour to rally support in communities across the country – check here to see if the big pink bus is rolling into your town.

Prepare to run. For office, of course! EMILY’s List, an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice people to all levels of government, is training candidates to run and supporting them with the funds to win. If you can’t attend one of their trainings, try The White House Project, which prepares women to take the elective reigns. Remember, change starts at the local level and some city council elections are won by under a hundred votes. If you don’t think you’re a candidate, look at some of the buffoons who are serving right now!

Here’s a toast to the pro-choice majority out there fighting the good fight all year round. Sling one back in “honor” of all the extremist cocks puffing their feathers in state capitals across the country and then let’s get back to work!

 

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