On August 3, 2017, I was roasting like a turkey perched in the way-too-hot roost of the Rhode Island State House Senate Gallery, above Senate President Ruggerio. A few hours earlier, I and some members of The Woman Project had talked with elected officials about why the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA), a bill designed to codify Roe v. Wade into RI State law, hadn’t passed in June – and what it would take to pass it in 2018. Our group then displayed, or Senators and visitors alike, the two halves of the massive, Woman-Project-created, signed petition begging the General Assembly to pass that very same RHCA in RI. But it hadn’t passed. It hadn’t even made it onto the floor for a vote. Which to me meant: we need to do more.
Up there in the free Gallery Sauna, I lost five pounds while I soaked in the advice we’d received. I thought on what I could do to get RHCA passed — and what the consequences to Rhode Island women and girls could be if I failed. (I kid around a lot, but seriously, we do need RHCA passed into Rhode Island law.) There and then I resolved to form a Committee, and to set that decision in stone, I posted a selfie to Facebook with the caption, “OK! I’m forming a committee to pass the Reproductive Health Care Act in RI. Weekly meetings, action items, the whole thing. Tell me who you are, and what you’re good at, and how you want to help!”
Friends from RI, Washington state, Canada, and literally Australia posted immediately, volunteering the gamut: everything from emotional support through skilled labor. A week later we had rhcari.com online. And now we’re on Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram, whatever the heck that is.
The mission of the Committee to Pass RHCA in RI is, in 2018, to see the Governor of Rhode Island sign the Reproductive Health Care Act into law. And then have a party.
- In the next legislative session, what is the top thing the Committee to Pass RHCA in RI can do to get this legislation enacted?
We need every available pro-choice Rhode Islander to come out in person and testify, on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday to be determined, sometime between January and July, sometime after 5 PM. Twice. (Once for the House Committee, and once for the Senate.)
If you can’t bear the thought of doing two minutes of public speaking, you can submit your testimony in writing. If you want help with public speaking, I’ll train you. If you have a personal abortion story you can share, we need you. If you’re a doctor, we need you. If you’re a social worker, a case worker, a lawyer, an obstetrician, a gynecologist, a therapist, a psychologist, an economist, a sex-ed teacher, a feminist, a religious leader or practitioner, a humanist, a mother, a father, an activist, we need you. If you’re a human who wants women and girls to have access to safe and legal abortion, the women and girls of Rhode Island need YOU to testify in support of the Reproductive Health Care Act.
- Our readers may not have seen the ad, but hopefully they will tomorrow when it comes out in print, so don’t provide any spoilers. With that in mind, can you tell us what inspired you to create this ad and the impact you expect it to make on reproductive rights in Rhode Island?
Running an ad for women’s rights, on the day before a bunch of women stereotypically prepare feasts for a bunch of men, appealed to my sense of fairness.
My hope is that 70,600 Rhode Islanders see the ad, that it activates their own sense of fairness, and that it removes some obstacles to action for them. In my mind’s eye, I see 7,000 Rhode Islanders showing up at the State House in March to sign up and testify and rally in favor of the 2018 Reproductive Health Care Act. I think that’s the second-best possible outcome. The best possible outcomes are the House and Senate passing the Act and the Governor signing it into law. And us having a party. Maybe with food trucks.
- If our readers see that ad and love it, how can they support it?
I’m so broke. If anyone wants to help me cover the cost of the ad, they can donate at https://www.plumfund.com/crowdfunding/run-a-thanksgiving-pro-choice-ad. If you can’t donate, I understand. Please sign up at https://www.rhcari.com/ and we’ll help you identify who your State Rep and Senator are, get ready to testify, write postcards to them, write letters to the editor, write emails, make phone calls, make signs… Showing up and speaking out aren’t easy, but we’ll remove every obstacle we can so your pro-choice voice is heard, and together we pass RHCA in 2018. (Oh, and make sure you and your friends register to vote!)