“Why We Do This Work”

I’ve been thinking over the last few days, particularly since Anthony Kennedy’s announcement, about all the different reasons there are that activists for women’s rights take the journey that leads them to a conference like this.  You have your own story, just like the person sitting next to you has her story.

My path to activism began in  November 1989, when the Supreme Court’s Webster decision limited the protections afforded to women by Roe v. Wade by handing authority over abortion policy back to the states. Florida’s then Republican Governor, Bob Martinez, declared that our state would be the first in the nation to limit women’s right to abortion.

I knew how important safe and legal abortion was. I didn’t want other women to suffer the way my mother had….the way my aunts had…., the way my friends had….the way I had. So I decided to join NOW.

My very first NOW action was helping to organize 10,000 women to march on Tallahassee. Florida NOW planned to make Bob Martinez, a one-term governor and we did. We won! We took action and we won!

Today, as President of NOW, I am working with activists like each of you to win more overdue victories.  If we don’t stand up for our rights, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and right-wing billionaires will turn back the clock on reproductive rights, access to healthcare,  strengthening Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, stopping violence against women, and protections for women of color, trans women and other marginalized members of our diverse society. And as importantly, stopping the carnage of mass murder by deranged, privileged men who hate women. Men don’t kill because they are mentally ill or criminals in the common understanding. They don’t use weapons they obtained illegally. They kill because they hate women. In every single case traced back to their motivation, it is about power and control over women. And when they feel they don’t have it, they go on a killing rampage. We must not allow our culture at large to continue to aid and abet in the degradation and the demand for submission of women.

We have to respond forcefully to Donald Trump’s hate speech and to the dangerous priorities of his administration.  

Remember, seventy percent of this country voted for an out feminist and the feminist values that our mentor and leader, Hillary espoused!

For the first time in this country, the overwhelming majority of American citizens support our humanist and feminists values and rights. Trump only has 30 percent of the deplorables driven by fear and hate as supporters.

Only thirty percent…..we are winning with the work that we do.

Our day-to-day challenge is to find the time to organize and take action. This is the most important work we can do and we have the courage, strength, and bravery in our DNA.

Donald Trump has surrendered health care policy to the most ideologically extreme, religiously intolerant wings of the Republican Party.  Valerie Huber, Trump’s hand-picked choice to direct the Health and Human Services Department’s family planning programs, once advocated for a  curriculum called “Choosing the Best.” The Huffington Post got hold of a teaching guide, which tells the story of a knight who gets upset after the princess he is trying to save instructs him on the best way to save her. It reads and this is a quote:

“He never returned to the princess. Instead, he lived happily ever after in the village, and eventually married the maiden. Moral of the story: Occasional assistance may be all right, but too much will lessen a man’s confidence or even turn him away from his princess.”

 

These are the people who are running our country.  This is the nonsense they believe and teach our youngsters.

This is the doctrine that might determine the next Supreme Court Justice.  We have seen the guiding legal principles of the Trump Administration, and they are chilling.

The Trump Administration has given a blank check to the religious right to enact a fundamentalist vision of government that is straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale.  Led by a President who openly brags about sexually assaulting women and girls, they give support to a culture that degrades, harms and shames women.

They are also creating serious, entirely preventable threats to women’s health.  

The United States has the highest maternal death rates among developed countries, and they continue to rise.  This is a direct result of the religious right’s success in restricting access to health care. If a woman doesn’t have access to a complete range of affordable health care services, the maternal death rate goes up and infant death rate also rises especially among women of color.

Donald Trump has filled his Administration with the most extreme religious conservatives to ever reach the highest levels of government.  First, he picked Mike Pence as Vice President—a man who introduces himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”

Trump says he’s going to name his Supreme Court pick on July 9, but we already know a lot about his choice.  Trump will name a judge like the one he put on the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, John K. Bush.

Bush gave a talk to a private Louisville club in which, stunningly, he chose, according to his written notes, to recite an anti-gay slur:

“I come here every year, and let me tell you one thing I’ve learned—this is no town to be giving people the impression you’re some kind of faggot.”

Bush also has likened a woman’s right to decide whether to have an abortion to slavery, peddled discredited conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama, called for Nancy Pelosi to be “gagged” when she made comments he disagreed with, and decried a change to passport forms that accounted for same-sex parents.

Or maybe he’ll leapfrog Wendy Vitter up to the Supreme Court, soon after putting her on the bench in the Eastern District of Louisiana.  

Wendy Vitter, you’ll recall, promoted the junk science theory that abortion is linked to breast cancer and oral contraceptives can cause women to be assaulted and murdered.  Vitter once spoke at an anti-Planned Parenthood rally and accused the group of “killing over 150,000 females a year.”

Donald Trump has stacked his administration with anti-abortion activists.  

His Deputy General Counsel at the Department of Health and Human Services, Matthew Bowman, once wrote that employers who provide contraception coverage “kill embryos and bow to the altar of fruitless intercourse.” He subscribed to the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a radical fundamentalist Christian group that sought “to recover the robust Christendomic theocracy of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.”

Now, Matthew Bourne is the architect of Trump’s health-care policy, including the rule last year that overturned the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.  

When Donald Trump makes his announcement, we have to be ready. Trump and McConnell think that they’ve just crafted a clever plan to keep control of the Senate.  They’ll try and scare voters into fearing a Democratic Senate with the ability to block judges intent on ending abortion rights.

But our voters are going to get more and more energized, the harder the other side pushes the fear card.  

I think it’s Trump and his support network of white supremacists and Wall Street insiders who have every reason to be scared in this election.  

Just ask the voters of Virginia, who showed the country that the blue wave begins with women candidates.  Ask voters who are inspired by the movement begun by the Parkland students.

Ask the voters of New York’s  14th Congressional District, where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just beat the fourth-highest member of the House Democratic leadership.

The level of energy being expressed by voters in primaries this year is inspiring and totally necessary.  Enthusiasm among feminist voters is off the charts—and we need to make sure it stays that way until the November elections.  

There’s only one way we can effectively stand up to Donald Trump, and that is to win back the House and Senate from the Republicans this November.

Instead of a Senate where Mitch McConnell lets lobbyists and special interests dictate policy, we’ll have investigative hearings chaired by Elizabeth Warren and Dianne Feinstein.

By standing together as grassroots, get-out-the-vote activists, we are united in a common purpose and kinship. We believe in grassroots actions, in speaking truth to power and in taking action for women’s rights and as importantly, women’s happiness.

A NOW conference is a good time to get anchored in our herstory.  I’m reminded of how many times the sky really did seem to be falling.  And how many times the sun rose again, and we were even stronger than before.

Every time we’ve faced setbacks, throughout every event in NOW’s long herstory, we’ve prevailed by remaining true to our core values and beliefs.  We are facing the most serious political upheaval since the rise of totalitarianism. If we are to prevail, we must remain true to those principles.

We are one of the most iconic and successful grassroots advocacy organizations in this country’s herstory.

I believe we have a special opportunity to help lead the coming national debate over our political choices.

Will you help us?  Will you act in your community, at your state capitol, to defend  NOW’s agenda? I am totally committed to building up our state and local chapters and empowering our grassroots.  

That means you!

In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be standing here today.  And if you didn’t believe it, I don’t think you’d be here either.  

NOW’s proven ability to change the culture and defend women’s rights is a fact of herstory. Now, we must answer that call again.

Three of the most important calls to action we have are:

One, working to stall the appointment and approval of the new Supreme Court Justice. We need to wait until the people have spoken after the 2018 elections, where we WILL elect feminists from across the country.

Secondly, we must hold informational pickets and press conferences at detention centers around the country to educate and call out the evil inhumane practices against our immigrants and asylum seekers.

And third, as importantly, we need to understand what is happening in the government-funded fake crisis pregnancy centers. I highly recommend your chapter watch the John Oliver show on CPC’s to learn of the damage they are doing to women. We must stop them!

Remember when we take action we win!

Going forward from this conference, we recommit ourselves to our feminism goals and prepare to fully engage in the political debates ahead.

Change is coming. History is evolving.  We ARE the wave.

Remember when we take action, we win.

We shall persist and resist, we will Speak Truth to Power NOW and we will prevail.