This article hitting Feministing regarding Governor Greitens' Emergency Session against reproductive rights to the tune of $20,000/a day of taxpayer money has prompted people to ask what they can do to help, which absolutely thrills me. I shared our story with the hopes it would raise awareness and prompt activism from people, and there are tons of opportunities out there. So without further adieu:
What you can do RIGHT NOW
Call and email your state senator and tell them to gavel out of this expensive, unnecessary, and politically motivated special session. Thank them for working hard on a compromise, and say what the House did is inexcusable. Ask them to please not allow the governor's dark money and political ambitions get in the way of democracy.
More action items will come when the senate reconvenes.
What you can do NEXT WEEK (but buy your tickets right now - it will sell out!)
Lizz Winstead, co creator of the Daily Show, is coming to The Blueberry Hill Duck Room in St. Louis next Thursday (June 29) with her Lady Parts Justice League Vagical Mystery Tour. You can find St. Louis event information here (and a list of all shows here). I highly encourage you to go for 2 reasons:
1) Lizz and her fellow comedians are SERIOUSLY funny. I got to see Lizz with Sarah Silverman a year ago and she knocked my socks off.
2) The show also features discussions with local providers and advocates, and provides ideas for ways you can get involved and make a difference looking at the skills you already have.
I interviewed Lizz to learn more about the show, what they are trying to achieve, her perspective on reproductive rights, and the one thing that everyone can do to make a difference right now. (This content has been modified to be condensed and for clarity):
Tell me about one of the best things about the Vagical Mystery Tour
Lizz: The comedy show brings in a group of people (150-500 people) to have a great time and also have a meaningful talk back about opportunities available to them. We want people to be able to say this was a great experience, and then you’re giving me opportunity to do what I can, also with the time that I have, to make a difference. Some of these things take 20 minutes, an hour, etc.
I have a whole team of people who are excellent comedians, and they talk about life from these different lenses. We have black, brown, trans, white and gay comedians, and people can come to this comedy show and hear about their own lives.
At the end of each show we have a conversation with someone from a clinic and from an activist group that supports reproductive rights and justice so people can sign up right then and there and learn what they need. We’ve been able to access handymen, painters, designers, landscapers, etc.
These are little things, and the providers are buried with work and care that sometimes they can’t even tell what they need. We have been able to go in, take a tour of the clinic and ask questions and then help.
What is your best advice for someone that wants to make a difference in the arena of reproductive rights?
Lizz: (laughing) Aside from not making your zoo the anti-abortion zoo… First and foremost, when you connect with your local clinic and activists, you can really get information on what’s going on in your state. You want to ask yourself "who is my go to person for information"? Get connected with them.
While we all talk about all these laws encroaching on reproductive rights, people still need to get care and provide care, and so we need to ask how are we as citizens making sure that the caregivers and those that need abortion are being supported, and not being stigmatized?
So for example some of the things you can do are escorting patients. Sign up for escort service where you are committing to helping patients get into care without judgment. A bonus is this also means being part of the community that stands with the clinics. You are showing politicians and your community that you are a face and a voice that thinks that clinics are important and are doing a great job.
Another thing you can do is getting together with your like minded friends who are also going "what can we do?" over and over and panicking, and meeting with them so you can open a bottle of wine and send postcards to share your love and support. These organizations and clinics always get so much hate mail, so getting your love and support really matters.
Think about what can you do to lengthen the life of your clinic. Can you throw a fundraiser? Have a mixer at your house where people can get to know your provider or your abortion fund. Treat them like the treasures that they are.
Finding out what the clinics and advocates' needs are. Get together with friends, let a clinic vet you so they know you’re a trusted source, and find out what they need. Often people don’t look at their own lives and skill sets and see how they can help out. If you’re a great graphic designer, or if you’re good at landscaping, you can help! If you’re a good baker, you could bring cupcakes to the clinic 4 times a year to show your appreciation. Maybe help an advocate with their website that needs a new logo. Offer to paint a clinic's fence or do some gardening to maintain the clinic so when patients come in they feel like it’s a nice space and feel welcome, and the people that work there walk in and feel great that their community supports them. Translators especially are needed for refugee cities where Arabic or Spanish are helpful for a patient care advocate. It's nice to have someone on call that can help. These all kinds of things that might be in your personal wheelhouse.
Finally, get on an email list to work with your local advocates and clinics so they can reach out to you whenever you need something and then you can network. The thing is that a lot of times, a clinic that provides abortion services in a community... lawn services or gutter cleaning services won’t come because the clinic provides abortion care. Simple things other business can get just by looking in the yellow pages aren't available to clinics that provide abortions because the providers don’t believe in what the clinic does, or they’ll be targeted by anti-choice people at their business.
I am loving this because it has an avenue for everyone. If there was ONE thing everyone could do, what would it be?
If you’re too busy, and care about this issue, I ask every single person to stop using the term pro-life. They are anti-abortion. I have seen clinics that have been firebombed and vandalized. I have friends who are targeted. Patients who have gotten death threats for having abortions*. We cannot cede the term pro-life because they aren’t pro-life. Physicians that are friends of mine - their best friends have been murdered. This is being done by anti-abortion activists. It’s only fair to call them that. Language matters.
*Robin Note: This is a HUGE reason more women don't share their stories. Trust me. I know a lot of women who have been in my shoes but they don't share publicly.
Has your approach to LPJL and the Vagical Mystery Tour changed since Trump took office and there has been a bigger proliferation of falsehoods?
The interesting thing about it is I’m glad we started this organization long before Trump took office. So many people in so many state legislatures were already passing these laws before Trump was in the picture. Oregon is the only state that hasn’t proposed crappy legislation. Really. it's every other state: red states, blue states, purple states. But in the wake of Donald Trump, it’s just gotten worse because the federal legislation and the Supreme Court are very scary.
We need people to understand and pay attention to state legislatures and demand their birth control and abortion care because we are owed them. We must demand from men and women both that they recognize reproductive rights are part of our human rights.
I know you were raised Catholic, which believes abortion is a sin and murder. How was that transition to where you are now?
I definitely was. The bottom line is I realized I can’t believe in a God that is cruel and retaliatory. I know when I wake up every day that I am doing my best to be a good person. And there is not one word about abortion in the bible. Science says something else different from Catholicism too.
And the real fact is Catholics have abortions at very high rates, and they use birth control.