It was a bit of an anti-climax, actually.
It’s not like I didn’t have time, transportation, and belief in the cause, so I couldn’t think of one good reason not to attend the Planned Parenthood rally on the steps of the capitol of South Carolina.
The purpose of the rally was in protest of House Bill 3114, which would make illegal all abortions after 20 weeks with no exception for cases of incest or rape. Thus, a twelve-year old raped by her father would be forced to carry the fruit of that unholy union to term. And I just can’t believe we are still talking about this stuff in 2016 America.
At first I was afraid I’d never make it there, as a horrendous car accident had the freeway shut down. I texted my daughter while parked in the jam. This is an abridged version of the conversation:
“So I’m on my way to my first political rally, joining Planned Parenthood protesting HB 3114, which would ban all abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases of rape or incest. Paul asked me to try to not get arrested.”
“OMG church lady in pink getting hauled away in handcuffs! That would be newsworthy!” I think she was a little too entertained by the idea of her mother’s mugshot.
It’s not like I’m “pro-abortion”. Is anyone? But given the Constitution, given my alleged status as an equal citizen of the United States, given that this is settled law, and especially given the sick way we think about and treat sex in our country, I am very pro-stay-out-of-my-uterus. From useless abstinence-only sex-education in schools, to TRAP laws eliminating access to affordable womens health services (so much more than abortion), to the abandonment of mother and child once the babies are born (you can’t buy diapers with SNAP), there exists a terribly noisy minority seeking to control women through their reproductive organs. And again, in the year 2016, I just can’t believe we’re talking about this.
There were around 100 of us; many had clearly done this before and had made posters and signs. It was heartening to see a few men there supporting the cause.
There were an equal number of male and female legislators speaking out against the Bill, the men in particular calling on women to run for office and increase the number of women making law.
But my favorite was Representative Mia McLeod, who introduced HB 4544 requiring men seeking a prescription for Viagra to submit to a waiting period, provide a notarized affidavit from a recent sexual partner attesting to his inability to get and maintain an erection, and undergo counseling and stress tests “to ensure the health of the patient”.
“It was never about erectile dysfunction,” Ms. McLeod explained, in the same way that HB 3114 and TRAP laws have nothing to do with the health and safety of women.
It’s about power and control and a gross, willful misinterpretation of constitutional law, explained State Senator Brad Hutto.
Interestingly enough, on the way to the rally I was listening to NPR (of course) and Gloria Steinem was being interviewed, promoting her new eight-part documentary Woman on cable channel Viceland. She stated the most violent societies are those where a premium is placed on controlling women/women’s reproduction and a cursory glance around the globe makes me dead curious about exploring the data behind this statement, because along with the radical Mideast, the United States appears to be, for my money, a terribly violent place and particularly for women, three of whom die daily at the hands of a domestic partner. Ms. Steinem went on to state that the safest societies, both past and present, were those where parity exists between the sexes.
This is why I recoil from measures such as HB 3114, bills that implicity, if not explicitly state, Oh sure, we’re all equal except for 50 % of the population. So we’re going to “protect” you by imposing our religious values upon you, using discredited science and the First Amendment to do so. That is not religious liberty; that is religious tyranny, and if Sharia law repulses you, please understand that willfully using the freedom of religious liberty guaranteed you by the First Amendment to impose your religious values on your fellow citizens amounts to the exact same thing.
So off I went, and standing in the brilliant hot sun of a Southern spring afternoon I chanted along with the rest, having only one moment of terror when four buses emblazoned, “Christian Tours” rolled by, afraid they would disgorge hundreds of angry zealots who would then shout down common sense. But they were headed elsewhere and the only protesters were a lovely young woman who pointedly rolled adorable twins past us, asking, “Aren’t they beautiful!? Their momma chose LIFE!” to which our organizer, Alyssa Miller, sweetly responded, “At least she had a choice!”
The second naysayer was an old man carrying a life-sized cross over his shoulder and wheeling along a portable PA system. He mounted the steps and tried to erect his cross in front of the speaking legislators but was gently escorted back down the steps by one of the police officers on duty. Re-shouldering the cross, he wheeled about 30 yards away, took to his mic and tried to talk over the legislators, but again the police officer politely dissuaded him. Finally he rolled down to the curb, picked up his mic and exhorted us all to repent lest we burn in hell eternal.
And then it was done. The news crews snatched up their mics and packed away heavy cameras in lightening speed and were gone. I walked back to the parking garage a couple blocks away and went home. Did my presence make a difference? I don’t know. Probably not. But my voice and my vote are all I have, and I have no patience for those who bemoan the state of affairs yet do nothing to change it. So I raised my voice. It’s what I can do for my sisters who might not have the advantages I do, such as access to healthcare and the support of a loving spouse. For them, for my daughter, I raised my voice.