Saturday, February 19, 2005

Getting our activism on

Today Mrs. Diddie and I attended a training for Planned Parenthood's Lobby Day, which is happening Tuesday, March 1st in Austin.

Planned Parenthood of South Texas' location is about five minutes from my house. It is ground zero for the anti-choice faction here in Bushwanaland, and sure enough, the freaks were out in force on a Saturday: shouting their slogans, running into the street at cars, having their children holding up signs, etc.

PP has volunteer escorts; brave men and women who walk the gauntlet alongside those arriving for the clinic's various services. But it is disconcerting to say the least to see in your face --almost -- what has only been previously seen on television. I can't really imagine what a woman with an unintended pregnancy, and one who may be ambivalent about her choice, must feel being faced with a scene like this.

Once we passed through the center's metal detector we were screened again --basically eyeballed and queried as to purpose -- by security (it's just like trying to board a plane, except for the shoes part) and then we gathered in the conference room with fifty or so other volunteer lobbyists for our training.

There are so far 130 people signed up for this effort from Houston; over 700 statewide.

We'll be swarming the Capitol offices in teams of four to twelve -- and more -- on appointments with every single Senator and Representative. The ones brave enough to keep them, anyway. Rep. Martha Wong, R-Houston, will have forty of her constituents on hand (it's probably going to get crowded in her office, not to mention warm, even though we'll be in and out in ten minutes on every visit).

But this isn't about changing anyone's mind or being confrontational. Rather it's about finding that elusive common ground between progressives and conservatives: how to make end-of-pregnancy options rarer. (Note the reframing; I've just finished George Lakoff's "Don't Think of An Elephant".) The mission of this effort is "prevention first". Specifically:

  • Maintaining current funding levels for family planning in the appropriations bill;
  • Encouraging the state of Texas apply for a Medicaid waiver expanding eligibility for family planning and reproductive health services to 185% of the federal poverty level (which would be an annual income of $34872.50 for a family of four) ;
  • Promote legislation -- as it happens, HB 676 sponsored by Rep. Senfronia Thompson -- that would require emergency conception education and medication in hospital emergency rooms for survivors of sexual assault;
  • And support measures that would require health insurance companies providing prescription drug coverage to include in that benefit all FDA-approved methods of contraception.
(A certain Austin Republican named Jack Stick, formerly a member of the House of Representatives, last session voted for coverage for ED medication -- yes, that would be Viagra and the like -- and against birth control. His constituents recognized the obvious moronic irony and selected new representation.)

I'll be filing a first-hand account of my maiden voyage into Lobbyworld shortly after the cruise.


Traveller said...

Aha! I have been an environmental lobbyist in Trenton, NJ, and wish you well. Wear knee braces, take water and sustenance!

Anonymous said...

"PP has volunteer escorts; brave men and women who walk the gauntlet alongside those arriving for the clinic's various services."

Ah yes, you have to be really brave to kill babies or support the killing of babies. Do you have to have extensive training to be brave like that?


Anonymous said...

Angela Davia long ago encouraged a framework of "reproductive rights" rather than "abortion rights." The courage in this case is not to support abortion but to defend a woman's right to control her own reproductive capacities. Still, I see lefties writing about "abortion" as if Davis never existed. Too bad when we ignore the great philosophers of our day.

Second, if the topic does turn to abortion, I think there is a distinction between one's moral judgment and the legal framework. For instance, it would be possible to have moral qualms about abortion yet oppose criminalization and state intervention. What would these opponents of reproductive rights install? State appointed officials that would arrest and imprison pregnant women until they give birth? Or arrest and imprison women and doctors who choose to terminate pregnancies?

To me, it is a chilling picture of state power that the anti-rights vigilantes encourage.


PDiddie said...

Thanks for the comments, all:

pw: I'm only concerned about the sustenance options being healthy ones...

Brad: The bravery is demonstrated by enduring the somewhat hysterical behavior of protestors for hours on end, not to mention the weather and the possibility of something happening that goes beyond mere taunts. Glad you came in anyway.

gw: Thanks for your thought-provoking post. Don't be a stranger.