Death of a Bill, Birth of an Activist

Editor’s Note: Liza Love, an Arizona pro-choice activist, testified against House Bill 2838 at the Arizona House of Representatives on February 15, 2012. She shares her experience speaking out for reproductive rights.

I am one of millions. We all have some sort of story that reflects the positive impact of Planned Parenthood in our world. There are some of us who honor that role loudly, there are those who allow it to have a quiet sort of resonance, and there are even some who refuse to acknowledge it at all, but that makes it no less true.

We must get to a place where ridiculous ideology is unacceptable from our leaders, where science and facts are not vilified. That will happen when our voices are louder and more coherent.

I have wanted to give back to Planned Parenthood for a long time. Not having much monetarily to share, I have given what I could over the years, yet still felt a need to do more. When I read about HB2838, which would ban abortions at 20 weeks, even in the case of fetal anomalies, I was astonished! I had just moved and had a ton of unpacking to do, but I knew I would be at the hearing for HB2838 to make my voice heard. The plan was that I was going to show up at the Arizona House of Representatives early, meet with my fellow pro-choice activists outside, and get the story of someone who couldn’t be present so that I could share it on his or her behalf. It would allow me to support women and health and see the process of lawmaking all at the same time.

When I arrived at the Capitol, I ended up in this tiny room that was so full it would be an understatement to compare it to being packed like sardines! There were people everywhere!  Rep. Cecil P. Ash, the chairman, was reading some guidelines for the hearing, and then some proposed amendments from Rep. Matt Heinz were being explained to the panel, and ultimately, all but one was voted down. That alone was eye-opening. First of all, Dr. Heinz is a friend to women’s reproductive health and overall well-being, and his efforts to make sure his peers are informed with facts and details was refreshing.

Rather than stand in the back of the room with the other lookie-loos and later arrivals, I decided to step to the front of the room. Once I got up there, I realized there was an empty seat in the front row and excitedly took my place in (literally) the front and center of the seating area. Still without the story I was supposed to read during my testimony, I texted my Planned Parenthood contact to let her know my good fortune and settled in to be a fly on the wall and absorb all that I could.

You have to know a few things about me to make the impact of the rest of the morning clear. I am a total policy wonk. I watch C-SPAN regularly, and am one of the few people who actually know all of the names of our representatives both in the national arena and my district (this is right after moving!), as well as even municipal and local government representatives. I was selected to serve on a grand jury and you would have thought it was Christmas, and even took law classes and thought about that as a career. I am not unaware of “how the sausage is made.” It’s not a pretty process, lawmaking and “governing,” and I know it.

So here I am, sitting in the center of this room, listening to the people who have chosen to share their stories and information, I become aware that the representatives are leaving and re-entering the room, several at a time at one point. I am disheartened and sad and angry. The woman to my left is texting someone, “Will you pray with me later?” She is mumbling under her breath in response to a comment about the number of women who sought abortions before Roe v. Wade and were injured or died. In addition, I don’t have the story in my hands that I am supposed to be reading; I haven’t seen my Planned Parenthood contact and am starting to have no idea why any of us are even really here. How is this even possible today? This is 2012 for crying out loud! When did this ridiculousness become viable?

Then I hear my name. I didn’t think, just stood and went to the lectern. Oh, boy. Although the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kimberly Yee, wasn’t there to hear my testimony, I said something about how they had probably already made up their minds and none of our stories mattered. But I implored them to listen and really think about what they were considering. I mentioned that for all of their desire to be about “life,” they were not thinking about the living. In response to the lady next to me who inspired it, I said that if they wanted to pray, please pray for me, pray for us all. But pray to a god that knows the hearts of the women and doctors who would be impacted by this and knows that the choices we make are not callous or without regard …

I remember looking at one of the women on the panel who had the most open and sincere look of interest on her face — it was hard for me not to cry. I don’t even know who she was, but I am pretty sure she was not just listening, but heard me. I finished and quickly left the room — I couldn’t get to my car fast enough. I hit the seat of the car and just cried.

How difficult to be so exposed and sincere about something while the people in charge have such little regard for the people whom they claim to be representing. How frightening that we are in a place where such absurd legislation is actually proposed, let alone entertained. How lovely was the face of that glorious woman, letting me know she was hearing me and that she cared … The tears began to cease, and I felt something inside of me shift. We have to change things. We have to get back to a place where ridiculous ideology and judgmental irreverence are not acceptable from our leaders. We have to get to a place where science and facts are not vilified. We have to make things better, and that will only happen when our voices are the ones that are louder and more coherent.

I drove out of the parking lot, the sun on my face. As terrifying and devastating and taxing as the process of dealing with the machinery in the government was, I understand the importance of being there and making them accountable. As I was driving, I realized, they might have voted to pass it. I decided that regardless of the outcome, I need to help be a voice for the voiceless. I need to make sure that I have done all I can — and if some politicians want to be contrary to logic and reason, I want them to be on the record for having been so. I want the truth out there and the lies exposed, and I want to be a part of making that possible in any way I can.

The system is wounded and damaged, and many of us are too. We are tired of trying simply to survive, let alone take on something as big as changing the minds of legislators. Yet I wasn’t the only one in that room who was desperate for them to hear reason and truth. And for every one of us who was in that room, there were many more who would be, if they only knew the impact they could make.

When we stand together and let our voices reverberate, by whatever means and methods we have available, they listen. It wasn’t me who changed anything. It was the massive amount of emails that we all sent, and the threat of publicity and exposure of truth versus fiction — it was all of us together.

House Bill 2838 died officially on February 21 — though it was soon resurrected as HB2036. That’s a big deal, it really is. The even bigger deal for me is that I am awake. I am the cheerleader who will lose her voice for cheering so loudly. I am the person who will always stand to tell one of the many stories that show the tremendous importance of Planned Parenthood. I am a warrior in the battle for women’s reproductive rights and the importance that has for all of us. I am no longer capable of sleeping through inconceivable “They passed what!?” legislation moments; I will be front and center for it all.

House Bill 2838 died, and an activist was born.

11 thoughts on “Death of a Bill, Birth of an Activist

  1. Thank you. It takes people like you to make a difference and to reassure others they are not alone.

    • Thank YOU Valera~ It is so easy to get frightened and forget that though our experiences and even beliefs may differ, we can stand together and support one another. RIGHTS are funny that way! never alone. ♥

    • Just me, being me… and learning! ALL of our voices are SO IMPORTANT! (Thanks for adding yours!) ♥

  2. Thank you for your voice, your time, your effort and your dedication!!! We need you. We need more like you. We are thankful for you.

    • Thank YOU Jill. And thanks to Planned Parenthood, and all of the other organizations, volunteers, and people in general that are truly fighting to bring awareness and education of these (and so many other) issues that truly impact EVERYONE. I am grateful to have the opportunity and ability to stand in such fabulous company…

  3. I have stories for you to use. They aren’t earth shattering but sometimes I think because my stories aren’t shocking, they are better received by conservative Republicans.

    I am a married mother of two who is also an Engineer. I cook, bake cookies, garden, sew, can and make preserves, take my kids to the park, go camping, hunting, and can whip out the necessary tools for any crafty or science centered school project at a moments notice.

    I’ve never taken a birth control pill and I’ve never had an abortion. I still need them available to me as do all other women. I don’t need to see the procedure and I don’t need permission from anyone but my doctor. Society gave him\her a license to practice medicine AND gave them their own body of professionals called a board to govern. I didn’t need to see a c-section performed but one was medically necessary. Seeing one would have caused me serious trauma as would seeing ANY medical procedure right before having the procedure.

    My first pap smear was at Planned Parenthood. I was financially broke and I thought I had a problem. I had an infection (I think it was a yeast infection, I don’t remember as it was almost 20 years ago, it could have been a urinary tract infection). I was treated and sent on my way.

    I’ve also had high risk pregnancies and have been told that anymore pregnancies would be a serious cause for concern. It was a great comfort to be able to trust my OBGYN. When he looked me in the eye at the beginning of my first pregnancy and said, “I want you to know that whatever you decide, we are here to support you” it was a trusting relief. As far as my reproductive health is concerned, I felt like I could trust him with my life. Now with a law that allows a doctor to lie to you, that comfort is taken away. Can’t an OBGYN just be upfront and state in his or her introductory paperwork that he/she does not support abortion and that women who would consider one should see another OBGYN? I could respect that. No law needed. No objectors being asked to support abortion if they don’t want to. It’s called manning up, though it applies to women too. Don’t hide behind lies. Promoting and protecting liars is immoral. As a child, before you even know where babies come from you are taught not to lie. The bible, as far as my extensive checking can tell, does NOT mention abortion. I’ve looked at talks by scholars and I’ve used electronic versions to search it myself. I’ve racked my brain trying to think of some bible story that might apply. Nothing on abortion.

    It does say NOT to lie or be dishonest.

    As far a contraception is concerned, if you religiously object to it because you believe that life begins at conception then you need to show me how your religion deals with the 80% of fertilized eggs that are naturally aborted. I want to see death certificates, obituaries, burials, and absolute tracking records of the sexual activities of all members of your church so we can see that you are not missing a single fertilized egg. I want a tax break for every fertilized egg, and keep in mind that some women can have more than 12 in a year. If there aren’t doing this then they aren’t serious about their objections. They just want to control other people’s lives. I also I want to stop paying for everything that is against my religion.

    There are a lot of pissed off women who don’t fit into the liberal mold. We don’t want more laws or more government intervention in our lives and these bills do exactly that. We are as insulted and belittled by these bills as much as liberal women are.

    What we DO want is for the economy to recover. We DO want to go on with what we were doing and we DO want people to be able to get off unemployment. We don’t want them to find ways to cut existing benefits and programs. We want people to be economically raised to a level where they no longer qualify because they are working enough to meet their basic needs.

    A good economy is good for fetuses. I know of several people who would love to have more if they were doing better financially. Very high levels of stress is bad for fetuses too. These bills might actually introduce enough stress to cause a stressed out woman to miscarry because she’s afraid she’s being lied to. You can’t measure it, but the inability to measure something doesn’t seem to matter in passing these laws. Why should it matter in repealing them.

    • You’ve left me without words Dawn. This was beautifully put and holds so much truth. Thank you for sharing.

  4. **APPLAUSE** YES!! Thank you Dawn!! Your ability to so clearly articulate so many facets of what we are all currently dealing with is greatly welcomed and appreciated… I stand with you

  5. Thank you for sharing your story, Liza. I have heard so much Arizona-bashing over the past month or so, and it’s incredibly refreshing to be able to remind the world that there are amazing activists here who care about making this state a better place for EVERYONE to live! I hope the hundreds of people who read this today will be that much more inspired to make their own voices heard.

    • Anna, you are so thoughtful, and appreciated… Thank you! Some of us get to know some of the MANY amazing people that are standing in the ways that they can, and it is ALL so very important. Whether able to stand tomorrow at the rally, emailing our representatives, testifying in the next hearing or simply having an informative and fact based conversation with someone; there are lots of ways that we can make a difference. The biggest and most important difference that can be made (while still being able to remain private and personal, which is how most of this USED to be) is the choice in November for those that we choose to represent us in the local, state and national political arena. CHOICE is NOT a four letter word, and Voting matters.

Comments are closed.