In the Senate Lounge at the Rhode Island State House, allies joined together to celebrate the growing power of the reproductive freedom movement in Rhode Island, and shared the legislative priorities for 2018. Here is the speech Jordan Hevenor gave on behalf of The Woman Project:
Conventional wisdom is that the world woke up on November 9, 2016 to find our rights under attack, but the reality is reproductive freedom was already under attack. Today The Woman Project is one year old and lucky to be apart of the Rhode Island Reproductive Freedom Coalition and the 2018 launch.
This coalition has a long history of fighting for reproductive freedom in Rhode Island. We owe this coalition great thanks for pushing back against so many attempts to take away rights, and for pushing for the passage of the Reproductive Health Care Act since the early 1990s.
After the election we were surprised to realize that despite all the hard work that had been happening, our state was rated as hostile to reproductive rights and got an “F” from NARAL. Through research and conversations, we learned that many of our friends and neighbors were concerned about losing reproductive health care, and yet Rhode Islanders support safe and legal abortion access by a two to one margin. As we had these conversations, they kept coming back to this idea that in the 45 years since Roe v. Wade, Rhode Island had not passed legislation protecting access to safe and legal abortion.
In response, we founded The Woman Project with the vision of working on one issue at a time using education, art, and activism to sustain the engagement that we saw at the women’s march. From what we learned about the state, we thought the long push for reproductive freedom in Rhode Island could use a boost and we began working to educate people about the Reproductive Health Care Act while offering Rhode Islanders ways to have their voices heard and to make activism a part of their life.
We organized a Dinner Strike on International Women’s Day. To our surprise 300 people walked 1.3 miles in solidarity with International Women’s Day and signed artist made postcards supporting the Reproductive Health Care Act. Postcards where a great start, but we needed to do more.
The time to be at the State House is Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday between 3 and 5 pm. To be here at this time requires people to take time off from work and/or find childcare in order to have their voices heard.
Coupling the power of art with activism, The Woman Project’s solution was a 53-foot long petition. This petition was displayed in the State House last May until the end of session and traveled around the state gathering signatures at meetings, house parties, play dates, and pop-up signings.
While this 53-foot petition was not enough to get the Reproductive Health Care Act a floor vote, Representative Langevin may have been moved by it when he voted no the 20-week abortion ban, which would have undermined Roe v. Wade. Knowing that Petition 1.0 had an impact, we launched Petition 2.0 at Scarborough Beach on Governor’s Beach Day.
Petition 2.0 is a patchwork quilt comprised of 7 inch by 7-inch squares, each signed by one person. Every square signed has a personal connection to the signer. We have learned through this process that there is enormous support for the Reproductive Health Care Act in our State and to date over 1,000 Rhode Islanders have signed.
This petition is just one piece of the activism that is going on across this country. Last year Delaware, Oregon, and Illinois passed legislation to protect Roe v. Wade. And last month the Massachusetts State Senate passed a bill to repeal their unconstitutional abortion laws. Now is the time to take action in Rhode Island – the country is watching and waiting for us to act.