Women’s health is on the line this year in elections that will determine our next President, control of Congress, and the balance of power in state legislatures nationwide! RWV is making sure women voters are well-informed about what’s at stake, the issues, important election dates, and their rights as voters.
For the first time, we’ve embarked on a non-partisan Integrated Voter Engagement (IVE) program, thanks to generous support from the Alki Fund. RCs in Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, West Virginia, and Wisconsin are spearheading IVE campaigns that are educating women voters about key health care issues and driving turnout in the states. We’ve tested the best methods to engage specific constituencies, including door-to-door canvassing, phone calls, text messaging, digital organizing, and on-line relationships. We hope to apply this learning to an expanded IVE program later this year.
Abortion Access is on the Line at SCOTUS!
The Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) recently heard oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo, which concerns a Louisiana law that requires all physicians who provide abortion care to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their facility. Anti-choice supporters of the law claim it protects women’s health, but there is no evidence that having admitting privileges enhances the safety of this already very safe procedure. The law’s true intent is to close abortion clinics. If it is enforced, two of Louisiana’s three clinics would be forced to close, leaving one clinic to serve more than one million women of reproductive age in the state.
That day, hundreds of supporters of abortion access rallied in front of the Court. Among the speakers were RCs Lakeesha Harris and Kwajelyn Jackson. These RCs warned of the devastating consequences for people if the Court upheld the law. Harris is the Reproductive Justice Program Manager for Women with a Vision, our RC in New Orleans. She told the crowd that we: “know this case is important for Louisiana. We also know it is only one of many battles for reproductive justice. We have a long way to go, but we are still in the fight.”
Jackson, the first Black Executive Director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center, our Atlanta RC, talked about how she feels watching Georgia attempt to ban nearly all abortions, saying:
Standing behind podiums, in front of stately buildings, built by the hands of my ancestors, where the rules that dictate how the people I love get to exist in the world are being decided inside, without their input or their consent, is not my favorite place to be… Frankly, I’m tired. We all are. This work, the protection of our dignity and humanity, the proof of our worthiness, is debilitating, and yet, time and time again, we show up when it's cold, when it's early, when it’s unrelenting. We show up when the deck that has been stacked against us for centuries continues to push us down, and we get up, we dust ourselves off and put on our most banging matte lipstick and a fabulous coat, and we persevere. Because my mother taught me the words of Ella Baker, immortalized by Sweet Honey in the Rock in “Ella’s Song:” “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes!
The Louisiana law is almost identical to a Texas law the Supreme Court found unconstitutional in 2016: Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. The Justices rules that the Texas law created an unfair burden on people seeking abortion care without providing any medical benefit. Our fear is that SCOTUS agreed to hear June Medical Services not because medical facts have changed, but because the sitting Justices have. The ruling is expected in July.
Impact of COVID-19
In March, we hoped to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Celebration turned to crisis, however, as COVID-19 rapidly changed our lives. While we recognize that it would be significantly harder to confront the challenge without the ACA, there’s a lot more to be done to help women and families cope with the pandemic. Taking care of a family is not easy, but it is even more difficult during a global pandemic. Women are particularly stressed, as they try to juggle work, remote schooling, and child care during this time of isolation.
In response, in March, RWV hosted a “Women’s Health Hour of Action” Twitter chat where we shared action steps you can take and learned about local responses to the pandemic. We also created a social media Toolkit with graphics and captions. Our hashtag, #COVID19WomensHealthResponse, was viewed more than 3.9 million times, and reached more than 1 million Twitter users. We had great participation from our RCs, as well as national groups like the Guttmacher Institute, Ms. Foundation, and Young Invincibles.
In May, RWV observed National Women’s Health Week by hosting a Twitter chat on “Mothering Through the Crisis: Getting the Health Care You and Your Family Need Now.” We shared information that providers of mothering care need to help their families receive health care during these difficult times. We talked about, among other things, what to do if you think someone in your family has COVID-19; how to manage routine health care needs, like prescriptions; and health care options for families who don’t have health coverage.
As COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of our RCs and their communities, we are committed to providing timely updates through our weekly newsletters and listserv. Sign up for RWV’s weekly newsletter at http://raisingwomensvoices.net/. You can also get updates on our work and our issues via Facebook and Twitter (@RWV4HealthCare).
Kalena Murphy is a former Senior State Advocacy Manager for the NWHN’s Raising Women’s Voices initiative. Always focused on expanding health access for marginalized groups, Kalena previously served as chair of the Enroll West Michigan coalition, where she was personally recognized by the Obama Administration for Affordable Care Act outreach.