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Ms. Wright Goes to Washington

By Sheryl Wright

Despite their pledge during the 2010 mid-term election campaign to focus on jobs,Republicans have used their majority in the House to push abortion to the front of the Congressional agenda. On January 7, 2011, Congressman Mike Pence introduced H.R. 217(the Pence Amendment).

 

Bachmann Spiking the Tea

By Karima E. Rustin

One of the many things I look forward to on a Saturday morning  is reading The New York Times. And who do I see prominently figuring at the beginning of the column but Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-MN)...damn, not Bachmann again!

 

The Politics of Union Envy 

By Sheryl Wright

Neither of my parents went to college, but both were union members—my father in the private sector and my mother in the public. In addition to their salaries, which allowed them to provide a comfortable life for our family, the benefits won by their respective unions

Read more...

Roundtable: Delegitimizing Obama–The Intersection of Gender, Power & Politics  

Sheryl: Almost 800 days in office and it seems every day is seen as an opportunity for renewed criticism of the President. The latest kerfuffle is around the claim that President Obama’s decision to involve the U.S. in the action in Libya

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Entries in activism (2)

Saturday
Apr162011

Ms. Wright Goes to Washington


By Sheryl Wright


Despite their pledge during the 2010 mid-term election campaign to focus on jobs, Republicans have used their majority in the House to push abortion to the front of the Congressional agenda. On January 7, 2011, Congressman Mike Pence introduced H.R. 217 (the Pence Amendment). The House passed the bill, which prohibits the awarding of federal family planning funds to any entity that performs abortions, on February 18th. According to the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, the legislation would effectively eliminate state health departments’ and other public and nonprofit organization administrators’ ability to maintain a public health safety net that provides family planning services to millions of women and men around the country. In response, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and more than twenty other organizations came together for a rally and lobby day to express support for women’s health/family planning programs and outrage at what many saw as Republican political gamesmanship.

It may not have been as dramatic as the Hollywood classic about Mr. Smith’s epic battle in Washington, D.C., but my visit last week to the nation’s capital was an exciting opportunity to participate in a true demonstration of democracy. Having attended the February Rally to Protect Womens Health in New York CityI saw the trip to D.C. as a chance to speak directly to my congressperson about the importance of Planned Parenthood.  

I know women without health insurance who have had to turn to Planned Parenthood for preventive care. I have heard stories from people who, as teenagers, relied on Planned Parenthood for sexual health information. As someone who is not insured through an employer and is responsible for paying the full health insurance premium, I want to do what I can to ensure that Planned Parenthood’s services will be available to me should I ever need them. Republican assertions that government funds are used for abortion are untrue. The abortion services, which are a small, yet vital component of  the  reproductive health services offered, should be readily available to women who want it—like it or not, Roe v. Wade is still the law.

The bus trip down was relatively quiet with the exception of a sprinkling of women chatting with each other; considering the 6:30 a.m. departure time, most people opted to take a nap. As we approached the city limits, the Planned Parenthood staffer assigned to the bus provided a brief overview of what to expect during the day. For the first stop on the agenda, we walked to the National Mall for the Rally for Women’s Health. It was exciting to stand in the midst of a crowd coming together for a common cause. It was equally exciting to see men in the crowd; from 2000 to 2009, Planned Parenthood services to men increased by 103 percent. The list of speakers included a host of federal elected officials and celebrities who pledged their continued support for women’s health programs and Planned Parenthood. I am a little embarrassed to admit that one of the celebrities, David EigenbergSteve Brady, Miranda’s husband in HBO series Sex and the City—was a big highlight for me. Aside from him being my favorite male character on the show, I was moved by his remarks as to why it was important for him to be at the rally.

The second part of the day consisted of lobby visits with our individual congresspersons. I have participated in rallies before, but this was my first lobbying trip. With my trusty lobby day map in hand, I left the rally and  headed over to the Rayburn House Office Building to meet with Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY). As I walked the halls, I took note of the doors to the offices of representatives whom I have watched on television—some whose positions on the issues I largely share and others whose positions I absolutely despise. I also noted the many name-tagged people in business attire walking in the halls alongside me and standing in front of the office doors of individual representatives. I started to wonder what right I had to be there; I don’t represent a large corporation or some other monied interest. I am not promising a large monetary contribution or any other form of largesse, except my vote. It’s just me…Sheryl Wright. The more I walked those halls, the more I felt I belonged; I have a constitutional right to petition the government on my own behalf and on behalf of the people I know who have relied on Planned Parenthood’s services. Why should monied and corporate interests have more influence in our government than people like me?

The meeting with Congressman Towns went very well—he has a Planned Parenthood 100-percent, pro-choice rating. In fact, all of the members of the New York City House delegation are rated 100  percent pro-choice with the exception of Republican Michael Grimm, Staten Island’s sole representative. My lobby visit with Congressman Towns was an opportunity to personally thank him, let him know I stand with him in his support of Planned Parenthood, and urge him to be even stronger in his advocacy for women’s health. At the close of the meeting, he thanked my group for coming and told us these kinds of meetings provided a wind beneath his wings. The cynic in me immediately questioned his sincerity, however, it didn’t take long for me to understand; no matter who you are, it is good to know that there are others standing with you.

 

Tuesday
Mar082011

Standing With Planned Parenthood

By Sheryl Wright

 Photography by Chris La Putt ©2011 at Brooklyn Vegan

“Keep your rosaries off my ovaries” is my favorite chant from the rally I attended on Saturday in support of Planned Parenthood. Walking to the Planned Parenthood rally with hundreds of fellow rally goers who had also come out in support of the ongoing Wisconsin labor protests, I felt an enormous release in having an opportunity to physically demonstrate what I believe in. Along with at least 5,000 other like-minded men and women, I stood in Foley Square in Manhattan to express my vehement opposition to the Congressional amendment passed on February 18th to cut off federal funding for organization. The Republican-controlled House agenda is to turn back the clock to a time of “back alley” abortions and seven day work weeks. The vote to defund Planned Parenthood is just another shot in their attempt to circumvent Roe V. Wade by eliminating women’s access to abortion services. Anti-abortioners claim to be concerned about the lives of the unborn, and whether that is true or not, state control of women’s’ reproductive choices strips women of their ability to control their own lives. I tend to believe that leaving women to their own devices causes great anxiety for many right-wing conservatives.

I strongly believe in a woman’s right to choose, but Planned Parenthood provides much more than abortions. It is the nation’s leading provider of women’s health services. Millions of middle- and low-income women turn to Planned Parenthood for their STD, HIV and cancer screenings as well as for their contraceptives, pregnancy tests, and counseling. One speaker spoke of how she went to Planned Parenthood for a Pap smear when she did not have health insurance,

As I was leaving the rally and putting away my NOW “Stop the war on women” placard, I passed four anti-abortioners being led by a man. Each held on to a banner. I can’t recall what it said, but I immediately turned to face them with my sign in front of me and thought, What idiots! The effort to defund Planned Parenthood is outrageous, and I am ready to get out in the streets as many times as it takes to ensure that it is stopped.