This is Hard But…

THIS IS HARD BUT HEY, THE ECLIPSE HAPPENED

Events in Charlottesville and since November are causing us angst. Difficult to stomach. Difficult to know what to do next.

I understand our fears, frustration, desperation & difficulties – even with each other – over what to do.

Attacks continue towards Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics, immigrants, LGBTQ community, women – the list seems to be endless.  We don’t understand the hate but it seems to be growing.

I am sickened by the display of bigotry, white supremacy and anti-semitism. Afraid for our friends and communities.  Afraid for ourselves.

WHAT DO WE DO?  WHAT CAN WE DO?

As a four term state legislator, I am asked this every single day.  I also ask myself every single day.

Every week a new pop-up issue or injustice to fight.  An unbalanced President.  A Governor who seems to be Trump’s twin.

I don’t have immediate answers.

BUT I KNOW THIS

Those elected last November are in office until 2018 & 2020.  Not enough of us showed up.  Those elected are in charge.  For now.

In St. Louis County (the largest county in the state), only 73% of registered voters showed up to vote, down from 78% in 2008.  In St. Louis City only 67% of registered voters showed up, down from 83% in 2008.  Not enough voters bothered to show up. Not enough cared.

The majority of us in the legislature are in partisan districts and were elected in the August primary.  Voter turnout then in St. Louis County = 26.36%.

Hardly any voters bothered to show up August 2016 to choose their legislators.

Most people STILL don’t know who represents them in the legislature or know the difference between those in Congress and those in Jefferson City.

Start with those of us in office right now – legislators, mayors, local councilpeople.  Learn our names, contact us.  Hold us accountable. Run against us or vote us out if you don’t like our policies.  

PROGRESSWOMEN PETITION DELIVERED TO MISSOURI DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR

From our press statement:

Thursday August 17th we delivered a petition to Missouri Democratic Party (MDP) Chair Stephen Webber demanding that he only recruit legislative candidates who will advocate for constitutionally protected reproductive rights.

After several public statements from the MDP Chair and national Democratic leaders regarding recruitment and support of “pro-life candidates”, Democrats, women AND men in 146 zip codes in numerous counties in all parts of the state, are insistent that reproductive justice remain a hallmark issue in recruitment of future candidates and the MDP state party platform.

We remind MDP Chair Webber that in the last century, strides by women academically, in the workforce and in government is due to reproductive freedom – deciding if, when and how to raise a family, no matter what kind or color of family we are.

Women having autonomy over their own body is not just a moral, religious or social issue but a basic human right. Read more of the Statement HERE. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on our efforts:  “Should Democrats Recruit Pro-Life Candidates? No Way, Says One Group

Lady Parts Justice, headed by Lizz Winstead (co-creator of the Daily Show), applauded and helped promote our efforts.

I couldn’t agree more with Ilyse Hogue, president of Naral Pro-choice America on Twitter:

ProgressWomen will not stop protecting reproductive rights.

LAST WEEK I SHADOWED DR. COLLEEN MCNICHOLAS, TRAVELING WITH HER TO OKLAHOMA CITY AND WICHITA ABORTION CLINICS

I can’t stop thinking about my journey with Dr. McNicholas last week.  It changed me at my core.

I’ve documented part of my incredible experience on ProgressWomen.combeginning with my post the night we left.

Stay tuned as I write more of the humanity of women -who are just like you and me – who allowed me to be part of their trust.

Petition to MO Dem Party Re Reproductive Rights Candidates

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – AUGUST 17, 2017

PETITION TO MISSOURI DEMOCRATIC PARTY DEMANDING REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS CANDIDATES

(St. Louis, MO) – Today ProgressWomen is delivering a petition to Missouri Democratic Party (MDP) Chair Stephen Webber demanding that he only recruit legislative candidates who will advocate for constitutionally protected reproductive rights.

After several public statements from the MDP Chair and national Democratic leaders regarding recruitment and support of “pro-life candidates”, Democrats from all corners of the state, women AND men in 146 zip codes in numerous counties, are insistent that reproductive justice remain a hallmark issue in recruitment of future candidates and the MDP state party platform.

We remind MDP Chair Webber that in the last century, strides by women academically, in the workforce and in government is due to reproductive freedom – deciding if, when and how to raise a family, no matter what kind or color of family we are. Women having autonomy over their own body is not just a moral, religious or social issue but a basic human right.

Most significantly after the extreme 48 day Extraordinary Special session on abortion called by Governor Greitens, the protection of reproductive rights for all women in Missouri is vital. The GOP-controlled legislature spent over $20,000 a day to attack the St. Louis City reproductive anti-discrimination ordination and advance new unconstitutional restrictions on Missouri physicians and hospitals re SB5. Besides the expected costly state litigation to defend the new law, the consequences will be drastic and punitive of women living in rural, suburban and urban areas.

Several House Democrats voted with the GOP majority in advancing SB5 as they do in regular sessions, siding with the anti-medicine, anti-science, anti-women lobby. Recruiting even more Democrats to vote against women’s legal access to reproductive care and interfering with established medical practice is plain wrong.

Access to abortion and the whole gamut of reproductive healthcare is an issue of economic justice, racial justice and human rights. Every woman’s choice when and if to have children is not a decision which belongs to anyone else, particularly legislators.

Recruiting “pro-life” candidates who ,when elected, will legislate their personal morality and vote against repeated U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the medical community and particularly women’s access to basic healthcare in every part of the Missouri is unacceptable.

Reproductive justice cannot and must not be bartered for in exchange for conservative candidates to be elected as Democrats.

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“Trust Women”. It’s That Simple.

by Missouri  State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 16, 2017

Sunday I had the opportunity of taking an insider tour of Dr. George Tiller’s former clinic, now the Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita. Kansas has only 2 abortion clinics, the other is the Planned Parenthood Comprehensive Health Center in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City.

It was a “no patient day” so Julie Burkhart, Trust Women CEO walked me through every room as she paused here & there to tidy up, add supplies to the shopping list, etc. Seeing Dr. Tiller’s former office was emotional, knowing that his clinic survived bombings, shootings and chilling threats before he was murdered at his Sunday morning church service in 2009. His photo hangs in his former office, memorialized with 3 other dedicated providers who are still practicing in New Mexico and Maryland.

 

Friends & abortion providers: Dr. George Tiller, Dr. Shelley Sella, Dr. Susan Robinson and Dr. LeRoy Carhart.

Dr. Tiller’s father was an abortion provider before him, one of the very few in the country. While Dr. Tiller was serving as a flight surgeon in the Navy, his parents, sister & brother-in-law were all killed in an airplane accident. Originally planning to become a dermatologist, he went back to Wichita to raise his sister’s one year old son and take over his father’s practice. After hearing stories of women dying from illegal abortions, he was soon committed to reproductive care.

Julie worked closely with Dr. Tiller and had little hesitation about continuing his work after his assassination. Trust Women just bought their 3rd clinic in Seattle, keeping abortion care available to women in a blue state too.

I was struck by the similar mandated notice hanging in the clinic, as instructed by Kansas law. It was also fascinating that Kansas requires the counseling staff to be certified in ministry (easily done online so you can marry people too).

However in both KS & OK clinics this is posted throughout: “The mission of Trust Women Foundation: To open clinics that provide abortion care in underserved communities so that all woman can make their own decisions about their health care.”

The Wichita clinic has 4 rotating abortion providers, all OB-GYNS’s who regularly fly in from out of state. What struck me is that the clinic must be divided with the health clinic on one side and the abortion clinic on the other. Women and their partners must be escorted outside through a patio on the other side with security video cameras everywhere and a tall wooden fence with secure parking surrounds the building. At least 15 protestors are out front every day, often with a van as a mobile sign.

Right next door, visible over the fence —you guessed it —-is the fake pregnancy care clinic, all fancy and inviting, named “Choices Medical Clinic, pregnancy care & perinatal hospice services”.

Most interesting were regular comments from patients at both clinics: “The clinic isn’t dirty?” Abortion is legal?” Do you take small bills?” Not surprising is that women come from all income levels, all professions, many having to drive several hours just to get to the clinic – even from another state, take off work, arrange child care, find a supportive partner. 70% have at least one child already. Every kind of woman.

I cannot emphasize the extraordinary compassionate care the staff give women every day. Their warmth and caring extends beyond normal office hours.

Often they are dispatched to pick up a patient even hours away who has no transportation for her 2nd day procedure or needs to be seen at one clinic faster than the other. Often women, because of Kansas and Oklahoma punitive laws, have to be driven from one clinic to the other three hours away. The staff & doctor doesn’t blink if the doctor becomes ill or the clock is ticking with counseling mandates. Every single staffer goes the extra mile —for women. Kansas has a 24 hour waiting period after counseling while Oklahoma has a 72 hour waiting period. Both have a 22 gestational week ban which does not allow for critical genetic or fetal anomalies routinely discovered between 18-24 weeks. Staff is very concerned about routine followup visits which some women are unable to make, due to work, families and distance and the treating physician remains on 24 hour call for any questions or followup.

Trying to describe my 3.5 day journey to my husband when I returned was almost impossible. But the word “humanity” kept popping up.

Humanity at it’s core vulnerability with basic compassionate love.

The thank you notes that women leave for each other makes you want to cry for days.

Trust Women, it’s that simple.

What’s the Matter With Kansas? They are Trusting Women!

by Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 14, 2017

Immediately after all patients were seen Saturday afternoon, Dr. Colleen McNicholas and I jumped in a car and drove 2.5 hours to Wichita with Julie Burkhart, Trust Women Foundation CEO.

The “Brain of the Clinic”, the patient board, is finally empty after a busy Saturday.

Trust Women was founded after the 2009 assassination of Dr. George Tiller, the nationally known abortion provider for over three decades, to honor his commitment to women and continue his work.

Currently Trust Women operates three abortion clinics – in Oklahoma City, Seattle and in Dr. Tiller’s former Wichita clinic, the South Wind Women’s Center. All three clinics provide comprehensive reproductive care including medication and surgical abortions, adoption referral, early prenatal care, miscarriage management, contraceptive counseling, well-woman exams and LGBTQIA services.

Currently there are only two abortion clinics in all of Kansas, including the Planned Parenthood Comprehensive Health Center in Overland Park, a southern Kansas City suburb. 97% of Kansas counties do not have an abortion clinic and 56% of Kansas women live in those counties.

Sunday morning Trust Women Foundation hosted a reproductive health strategy session brunch with Kansas legislators, Dr. McNicholas and me, the Missouri interloper.

With Dr. McNicholas at the legislative brunch, after a bit more sleep.

State Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, State Sen. Lynn Rogers, House Minority Leader Jim Ward, Rep. John Carmichael and Rep Gail Finney, all of Wichita, attended along with one other in his first term from Salina, State Sen. Randall Hardy.

The eye opener? Sen. Hardy is a Republican. A moderate. From the middle of Kansas. A legislator who believes that women don’t need government interfering in private medical decisions. In Kansas!

Sen. Hardy is not alone. My good friend, Sen. Dr. Barbara Bollier from Mission Hills is also a moderate KS Republican who champions women’s health and there were even more moderate GOP Kansans elected in 2016.

In fact, I almost fell out of my seat when Sen. Hardy laughingly agreed that he was never ever going to become pregnant so he had no business telling women what they should do!

I left the brunch with my new friends having hope for the future in our crazy legislative world of punishing women and their doctors.

All Women with Hate Among Them

By Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 14, 2017

Hate towards Muslims, Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Women, Gays & Transgender… ugly, exposed, all around us.

I’m with all kinds of women – patients, staff and doctor – as a male sat in the clinic waiting room with his KKK, Nazi anti-Semitic tattoos and a very loud voice.

I couldn’t be at a rally or faith service but I am here. I have a loud voice too.

The Real-life World of Real-life Women

by Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 13, 2017
The real world is all around us if we would just see it.

A Board for Love Notes to Each Other, donated by LadyPartsJusticeLeague.com last month.

 
As I continue my journey shadowing Dr. Colleen McNicholas in an Oklahoma City abortion clinic, I’m face to face with real-life women while real-life hatred rages in Virginia. Clinic staff and I try to share every bit of news from Charlottesville, the best we can between procedures, huddled briefly in hallways on our phones.
 
My journey is challenging everything I thought I knew – from my working class upbringing through my life decisions to becoming a mother and now as a legislator who deals with real-life policy consequences.
 
I’m with real women of every age, race, nationality, faith, income level, family unit and political view. Real women trying to hang on to their personal hopes and dreams from childhood.
 
Real women reduced to their core in a sterile room with bare feet in examining table stirrups and a flimsy paper drape over their legs. Real women putting on their most brave face making that ultimate choice to trust in themselves & everything they know.
 
Friday between 8:45am and 7pm, 21 patients had abortion procedures, Saturday – 18 procedures by 2:25pm. I was with most of them, from their initial counseling to the doctor consultation in the examining room all the way through their surgical procedure until they were released to the recovery room. All kinds of women with all kinds of reasons – a very wanted pregnancy gone horribly wrong, a serious genetic issue, mothers who could not chance another life threatening pregnancy, contraceptive failures, personal drug issues and much more. A woman who needed a Mandarin translator, most who had young children at home, many who had suffered miscarriages and one concerned about potential boyfriend abuse.
 
I saw each of their faces, their hands, their feet. Our eyes met as each woman consented to allow me to be in the rooms with them. We instantly connected through our sisterhood as I witnessed their attempts to be stoic during numbing injections, the shock of uncomfortable vaginal sensations and the raw vulnerability of the experience.
 
Each woman was sure of her decision.
 
I wanted badly to hug each one as hard as I could.
 
“In the course three minutes, the path of a woman’s life is totally changed”, said a clinic nurse staffer after a long day.
 
Hopes and dreams and possibilities of a future they want for themselves. A chance to put back on their shoes and sandals and go in the direction they alone choose. A chance to write their story their way.
 
One woman wrote on her clinic evaluation form, “Thank you for still seeing me as a person”.
 
This is the real world.

The Silent Observer Among the Sisterhood

by Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 12, 2017

Most of yesterday – from 8:30am to 7pm, I was the silent observer at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City, the one standing in the corner silently watching. I tried to blend as inconspicuously as I could in patient consultation and surgical operating rooms as Dr. Colleen McNicholas and staff went about their routine.

Dr. McNicholas entering records between patients.

After a mandatory counseling session, patients progressed to an initial consultation with Dr. Colleen after choosing either a medical or surgical procedure.

Medical abortions are a 2 day process with the 1st dose of mifepristone right then and a 2nd dose of misoprostol taken safely 24-48 hours later at home. Medical abortions are best effective up to 10 weeks of gestational age. If a woman chooses a surgical procedure before 17 weeks she can opt for same day surgery. If she is beyond 17 weeks, she needs to return the following day after a cervix expanding treatment.

Oklahoma state law bans abortions at 22 weeks or later so the clock is ticking for both the patient and provider.

Each physician consultation differs, depending on the woman’s age, her choice of procedure, medical history and circumstance. Many women had traveled several hours with friends, partners or mothers as their support – a few came alone. Dr. Colleen made them feel at ease before doing an ultrasound (at 6 weeks or under a vaginal ultrasound is usually necessary to be able to see the pregnancy). She asked each if they would like to see the ultrasound or have a photo and many said yes. She asked when there were tears, if they were okay to proceed, always making sure they were comfortable with their decision.

I was struck by the sense of calm in the clinic along with the camaraderie and instant warm compassion by the all female staff. Every patient was treated with the exact same kindness and the exact same tenderness.

The hardest part for me was stifling the urge to be a caretaker too. I wanted to hold their hands during surgery and give a compassionate hug afterwards but that was not my role.

We were all sisters in the clinic, with an immediate understanding of each other. Any of us could be wearing any of our shoes. A sisterhood with an instant bond of strength and hope of the future.