I can’t keep up with the overwhelming effort and pace of right-wing, anti-choice attacks on women’s access to abortion and reproductive health care this year. The scope of it is simply too much to absorb – the failed “Heartbeat” law in Ohio, parental notification laws, national and state efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and Nebraska copycat laws (which ban abortion after 20 weeks and were enacted in five states in 2011). And let’s not forget about Kansas’ unnecessary stringent regulations that would have shut down the state’s three abortion providers if a judge hadn’t issued a temporary restraining order keeping the regulations from going into effect last week.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 56% of bills introduced in state legislatures in the first three months of 2011 seek to restrict abortion access, compared to 38% in the previous year. Insurance coverage of abortion, restriction of abortion after a certain point of gestation and ultrasound requirements are at the top of many states’ agendas.
On the national level, our Representatives and Senators compromised and restricted abortion access for women in the District of Columbia and trampled on the city’s autonomy in order to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government for the rest of 2011 and avoid a debilitating shut-down. D.C. is now restricted from using its own locally raised funds to help more than 60,000 non-elderly Medicaid-enrolled women receive abortion services when necessary to preserve their health.
In response to these new anti-choice mandates, people from across the country donated tens of thousands of dollars to D.C. Abortion Fund (DCAF), an all-volunteer non-profit that makes grants and gives no-interest loans to D.C.-area women and girls who can’t afford the full cost of an abortion. So, I joined DCAF volunteers on June 28 to sign and fold thank-you letters that we stuffed into stamped envelopes addressed to donors from California, Ohio, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York.
There’s a familiar feeling of excitement and exhilaration when I’m engaged in feminist activism whether it’s folding thank-you letters, handing out flyers at a rally or marching in the street. It’s a feeling that I’m doing something productive with others who are as passionate as I am about the issues and that can be electrifying. It’s a feeling that I first experienced as a 19 year-old college student sitting in a circle of feminists and discussing issues of sexual assault and safety on our SUNY New Paltz campus. Small, simple acts go a long way to helping you feel connected to the feminist movement and empowered and energized to change the status quo.
I digress slightly, but here’s my point – the Summer Celebration of Choice is another opportunity for local feminists and reproductive rights activists to become actively involved in supporting choice in a peaceful manner. This new, week-long event will be held from July 31 to Aug. 6 in Germantown, Maryland, where Dr. LeRoy Carhart works part-time at Reproductive Health Services. (Operation Rescue has made Carhart the target of its “Summer of Mercy 2.0,” a repeat of its 1991 “Summer of Mercy” that shut down Dr. George Tiller’s clinic in Witchita, Kansas, for six weeks and resulted in 3,400 arrests. Operation Rescue will hold Summer of Mercy 2.0 from July 30 to Aug. 7 in Germantown, Md.)
The Summer Celebration of Choice will start with a kick-off walk/fundraiser for Abortion Access Fund on July 31. According to its Web site, organizers intend for Summer Celebration of Choice to be a show of support for Carhart and his staff and a peaceful pro-choice presence.
Count me in!