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