When I lived and worked in DC, federal legislation was everything. All the big gains and losses for the progressive movement were being made at the federal level. Federal legislation – probably thanks in large part to Aaron Sorkin – is sexy. Federal legislation draws attention and big headlines. And over the past decade, while progressives have been winning some battles in DC, the groundwork for the reproductive rights armegeddon of the last few years was being laid at the state level by the anti-choice movement. It has been backed by re-districting pushes that may give more seats at the state level to conservatives, and new voter ID measures that will most certainly make it harder for young people, poor people, and people of color to vote. Frankly, it’s been brilliantly conceived and executed, in the same way that Pearl Harbor was brilliantly conceived and executed.
What this means is that reproductive rights activists, those with female reproductive organs, and anyone who ever wants to be able to access birth control for themselves or their partner need to get organized at the state level. Pay attention to the way yourstate representatives vote. Call their offices. Feel free to stop by, if you have a way to get to your state capitol. Write letters. Prepare to get out the vote in November. Find out if legislators who voted in favor of anti-choice bills in your state have any challengers. If they don’t, run against them.
Seriously, do it. You think you can’t do their job? Have you seen John Boehner?
Here’s a quick run-down of some of the Current “State” of Affairs:
Kansas: Kansas has gotten itself into a bit of a bind. The state has been passing wild anti-choice laws left and right for two years, and was one of the pioneering forces in TRAP laws, Targeted Regulations against Abortion Providers. TRAP laws, which are nit-picky laws that do such helpful things as dictate what temperature a clinic waiting room needs to be at all times, almost closed down every provider in the state overnight. Now the House has approved a budget amendment that would, among other things, prohibit state employees from providing abortion care. Since medical students at the University of Kansas are considered state employees, they would not be able to study abortion as part of their training. However, the medical board has warned the school that it must offer the training as part obstetrics and gynecology to remain accredited in those fields. Students can opt out for religious reasons, and the abortions are not performed at the school. So… good luck with all that, Kansas.
Virginia: Now that Virginia has passed a mandatory ultrasound law, Democrats in the state legislature are just wondering who is going to pay for it.
Idaho: Idaho would really like to join Virginia, and several other states, in requiring that women seeking abortions be forced to undergo an unnecessary ultrasound because the state says so. Soon they, too, can wonder who is going to pay for all of these bright ideas!
Tennessee: I try to maintain a sense of humor about the “state” of things, when I can; it keeps the drinking to a minimum. But there is nothing funny about the law being proposed in Tennessee right now. Nothing. The law would require the state to put detailed information about every abortion performed in the state online. The name of the doctor who performed the abortion, and where they performed it, as well as detailed information about the patient, certainly detailed enough that it might make identifying the patient possible in rural Tennessee. This is incitement. This is absolutely an invitation for an angry and abusive spouse to figure out that a woman had an abortion and hurt or kill her or the doctor. I am absolutely not exaggerating. I would be shocked if that were never the outcome of this bill, if it passes. To understand why that might be, reference my post on domestic violence and abortion and pregnancy here.
Mississippi: Heartbeat Bill (Heartbeat Bills would ban an abortion after the fetus develops a heartbeat, which is not a sign of health, and can occur as early as 18 days into the pregnancy).
Wisconsin: Wisconsin just passed an under-the-wire, last-minute assault on reproductive rights to go before embattled Gov. Scott Walker, who is sure to sign. The wide-ranging bill requires a 24 hr waiting period. Before the 24 hr waiting period, a physician must “determine” if a woman is being coerced into having the abortion – by interrogating her privately (seriously, you can read the bill here). The bill threatens any doctor who doesn’t properly invade their patient’s privacy with a heavy fine. If abortion is drug-induced, the woman must return for a follow-up visit, which will require more time off from work and more childcare for any children she already has, in a state where services are difficult to get to to begin with. If doctors are too busy to offer the follow-up, women may have to have unnecessary surgical procedures. The far-reaching implications of this bill really suck. Remember when I said Gov. Walker was “embattled”? I mean he’s fighting a recall. Go get him recalled. Get out the vote. If you live in Wisconsin or have a couch to crash on there, make getting this jackass recalled and a pro-reproductive rights candidate to replace him your mission.
Oh, yeah – and run for office.
New Hampshire: Live Free or Die now meaning “live the way we tell you to,” NH has proposed some new restrictions on abortion and rolled back some old access to birth control. The latest law would require that a woman seeking an abortion hear a “detailed” description of the fetal development, and then undergo one of those popular 24 hr waiting periods (Are we noticing some themes here? There’s a reason for that.) Non-compliance would be a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
All told, Guttmacher just declared that more than half of women live in states that are “hostile” to reproductive rights. Do you? Do you know someone who does? The answer to at least one of those questions is yes. GET ORGANIZED. Organizing at the state level has an impact. It is sexy and very bad-ass, and it terrifies state legislators who want to hold on to their jobs but are accustomed to an extremely compliant, lazy voter base that isn’t informed about state politics. Get informed. Make a sign. Put some glitter on it!
Oh yeah, and run for office.