Special thanks to our intern, Amber, for her recount of yesterday’s events:
Yesterday we were part of an amazing day of action and lobbying! We headed into DC with people from 24 states. They came with advocates of choice, feminist groups, religious organizations, minority rights groups, medical and legal associations, and more. They came on their own, taking days off or coming by on lunch breaks. We had more than 1,000 people who had flown, bused, driven, metroed or walked to the Capitol to lobby their representatives.
We started the day off with a Lobby Training, where we heard from such notables as Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Deidre Henry Spires who works for Senator Baucus, Byllye Avery, founder of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. They spoke to us of why their organizations were involved, what Stupak was, and how to speak to our Repsentatives.
One of the most important things were learned from this was not to let anyone tell us that the House Health Care Bill was maintaining the status quo. “Stupak is a stark departure from the status quo,” said Laurie Rubiner of Planned Parenthood. It goes far beyond the 1977 Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds on abortions except in the case of rape, incest, and woman’s life. Hyde only hurts women who are on Medicare or who are employees of the federal government; the Stupak ban (also known as the Stupak-Pitts amendment) would restrict coverage by private health insurance companies when women are using their own money to pay for these plans.
We want–we need–health insurance reform. The House Bill, though, is not an appropriate solution; it takes away coverage that millions of American women already have. That is why went went to Washington yesterday, and what we expressed in our meetings with Virginia representatives and their staff.
We met first with the staff of Senator Mark Warner. With more that 56 people in the conference room, we had a great showing of constituents! Two women very bravely shared their stories; one of her illegal abortion before Roe, and the fact that if we do not keep abortion safe, legal, and accessible, women will find another way. The other woman shared her family’s tragedy when her very-wanted baby was diagnosed with severe abnormalities; her insurance covered part of the termination, which was very expensive, but without insurance the cost would have devastated her family. Although they were careful not to show their hand, we are optimistic that Senator Warner does see how important this is to his constituents, and to the women on America. We hope that any Stupak-like amendment in the Senate will be voted down by Warner and our other friends in the Senate.
Our next stop was a meeting with Representative Tom Perriello. He met with us himself, which we appreciated, although we had too many people to fit into his office! We expressed our concern with Stupak and with his decision to vote for it in the House. Representative Perriello told us that he though the Health Care Bill should include exceptions for severe abnormalities and women’s life because the reason we have insurance is for the tragic things we never expect to happen to us. We agree, but think unintended pregnancy is just as unexpected. He told us that his primary concern was being able to separate the funding sources, and said he would be willing to pass a final health care bill that separated the funding to his satisfaction, but did not include Stupak!
We attempted to head to the rally after that, but the auditorium was too full for us to fit! Surprised, since we knew it could fit over 700 people, we were headed to the overflow room. Imagine our delight that the overflow room already had more than 200 people!
The rally was great, with cheering crowds, a bunch of signs, and some wonderful speakers. Some of our favorite quotes are below:
- “Health care is a human right. What price can be put on a woman’s human rights?”- Loretta Ross, Sistersong.
- “There’s no other amendment that singles out a medical procedure. They’re picking on women. We won’t stand for it!” – Senator Boxer
- “No more gender rating! Domestic violence and C-sections are not a pre-existing condition!” -Representative DeLauro
Sadly, we had to leave the rally early to go to our meeting with Senator Jim Webb’s staffer. Although we were in a conference room, we didn’t have enough chairs for everyone! After we spoke to Webb’s staff member about our concerns, we had another woman share her story. Having quit her job and joined her husband’s insurance plan, they were devastated to find out that their child had not developed a brain, and that they needed to obtain a late-term abortion. Unfortunately for them, her husband was an employee of the federal government and, because of Hyde, his insurance would not cover the procedure. Her words were powerful. “We would have done anything,” she said, “paid anything, gone anywhere. We were that desperate.” She was lucky in that she was able to get back on her job’s insurance plan. She was lucky that she and her husband had the money and the ability to travel to Kansas and that the late-Dr. George Tiller had not yet been assassinated. She still had to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket.
We left Webb’s office hoping that he understood just how vital health insurance is to women, and just how important the coverage of abortion can be, and moved on to the office of Representative Rick Boucher. He had voted against Stupak but also against the House Health Care Bill. Representative Boucher told us that he is 100% Pro-Choice and appreciates what we do and plans to continue to be a Choice supporter, for which we are very grateful!
Although it wasn’t scheduled, we dropped by the office of Representative Jim Moran, a wonderful Choice ally who voted against Stupak! We spoke to a staffer and conveyed our gratefulness for his support, and talked with her about our hopes for a final Health Care Bill.
One thing we heard yesterday was that your representatives need you to contact them in SUPPORT of Health Care Reform and in OPPOSITION to any further abortion restrictions. They keep tallies of all the calls they receive and right now, these calls are 90% against Health Care Reform! Please call today, tomorrow, and every day until we have the reform we need! Make sure to have your friends and family do the same! Tell your representatives to support healthcare reform without any abortion coverage ban!
- Senator Webb: 202-224-4024
- Senator Warner: 202-224-2023
- Representative Rick Boucher: 202-225-3861
- Representative Tom Perriello: 202-225-4711
- Representative Rob Wittman: 202-225-4261
- Representative Glenn Nye: 202-225-4215
- Representative Bobby Scott: 202-225-8351
- Representative J. Randy Forbes: 202-225-6365
- Representative Bob Goodlatte: 202-225-5431
- Representative Eric Cantor: 202-225-2815
- Representative Jim Moran: 202-225-4376
- Representative Frank R. Wolf: 202-225-5136
- Representative Gerald E. (Gerry) Connolly: 202-225-1492
We had a long but amazing day lobbying on the Hill! If you couldn’t make it yesterday but are in town in the future, stop by and tell you representatives what you need–they want to hear from you and each voice does make a difference!