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They Laughed When We Warned A Ban On Abortion Was Coming. Now It's Here

Protesters hold up signs at a protest outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021 in Austin, Texas.  (Sergio Flores/Getty Images)
Protesters hold up signs at a protest outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

A dozen or so years ago I had a meeting with a member of the leadership team in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. I was the vice president for external affairs at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. He was a powerful committee chairman. I told him that our legislative priorities were especially important because in just a few short years the United States Supreme Court could ban abortion. He literally laughed at me.

Late last night the Supreme Court effectively banned abortion in the state of Texas. Abortions performed after six weeks of pregnancy — a window within which very few people even know they’re pregnant — are now illegal, and vigilante anti-abortion crusaders can cash in on a $10,000 reward for reporting suspected offenders and anyone who assists them in securing abortion care. That is now the law.

In the hours since the clock struck midnight in Texas, my Twitter feed — and my phone — have been blowing up with the screams of activists, medical professionals and legal experts whose stories mirrored mine.

We have been loudly and forcefully saying this day was coming. And we have been ignored. Dismissed as being hysterical or dramatic. Laughed at. We sounded the alarm when state after state chipped away at abortion rights (including nearly 500 state-level restrictions passed in the past decade). We ran around with our hair on fire when Senate Republicans blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Court, effectively stealing the seat once held by Justice Antonin Scalia. We sent up flares when Justice Anthony Kennedy retired, and when the incomparable Justice Ginsburg succumbed to cancer. We shouted from the mountaintops when the Court agreed to hear Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization last May, a case from Mississippi that could (officially) overturn Roe v. Wade. At every turn, BIPOC leaders in the movement have been trumpeting the risks to reproductive justice.

But by and large, we were met with the sound of crickets chirping.

I can assure you that not one person who has been a part of the chorus of warnings woke up this morning and took any joy in realizing “we told you so.” Being wrong would have felt so much better.

If you are accustomed to fighting for justice in any of its forms, you know that the work always continues. Even on a dark day like the one we are facing, there is work to do:

*If you are able, donate to the abortion access funds in Texas, so that people seeking abortion care in the Lone Star State have the support they need.

*Make a contribution to the Repro Legal Defense Fund, to help protect those who are investigated, arrested, or prosecuted under this draconian new law.

*Share trusted information about abortion care in Texas for those who may need access to resources.

*Here in the Massachusetts, engage with leading organizations such as NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts as they mobilize to fight back and plan for the future at home and around the country.

*Get involved in state and local elections, in Massachusetts and in states like Texas, with anti-abortion leadership. Laws like the one taking in effect in Texas today, and the Mississippi legislation being considered by the Supreme Court, are the products of state houses, not of Capitol Hill. Local elections matter.

If yours are the deaf ears on which these many warnings have been falling, start listening and act accordingly.

But perhaps the biggest call to action is for leaders who are shocked by today’s turn of events, or fail to understand its significance.

If yours are the deaf ears on which these many warnings have been falling, start listening and act accordingly. Meet this crisis with the urgency it requires. Codify Roe in federal law. Repeal the Hyde Amendment. Stand up to dangerous and deceptive crisis pregnancy centers. Organize support for access and legal defense funds. Center BIPOC and low-income people seeking abortion care as you build coalitions and legislate.

In the early days of the #MeToo movement a dear friend gave me a button sporting the now familiar phrase “Believe Women.” For women, transgender people, and all those in need of abortion care not being believed when we speak our truths and fears is nothing new. The meeting I had with the laughing committee chairman way back when was hardly the first time a person in a position of authority had scoffed at the idea that protecting abortion rights needed to be a top priority. But we know better now. It’s time for our leaders to act like it.

Follow Cognoscenti on Facebook and Twitter.

Related:

Jesse Mermell Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Jesse Mermell is the former president of the Alliance for Business Leadership and a former candidate for Congress in Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District.

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