Linda Rallo, a pro-choice Republican alderwoman and I set out in the pouring rain for Jefferson City Wednesday morning. Here’s a look at our day …
10:00 am We meet a donor and Planned Parenthood board member and a fellow board member and marketing professional who I know from school. Linda is wearing power red, Joan is wearing pink, Michelle has a Planned Parenthood rally t-shirt on and I am wearing a purple jacket. Another woman from Columbia joins us. She is wearing teal. Supporters of the extended waiting period are in red today. Ha. Maybe Linda’s suit will get her across the threshold at least? I put a red R sticker on my lapel to show I am a pro-choice Republican. We are a rainbow of hues. The kind that makes you smile after a storm. Although, I’m not sure if we’re coming in from the storm or heading straight into it.
10:30 a.m. A lobbyist for Planned Parenthood comes up to say, “Hello.” She tells us to avoid confrontation and to let her know if we hear of any developments.
I am conflicted. I often see a middle ground and believe we have to allow for religious exemptions. But, this bill, passed in an 11th hour deal over paycheck protection, is an attack on what limited options still exist for women in Missouri. And while we can agree to disagree, we cannot allow our rights on social issues to be dialed back.
11:00 a.m. Good News. We were told the bills have been flipped and that the House will take up the budget first. Our goal is to slow ’em down.
In 2010, I helped fundraise for some of these bright young guns in the Republican Senate. They are not bad guys. I like that they are fiscal conservatives who have lobbied against socking a new highway project to the poor, who have championed tax cuts and who have shown compassion by fighting for funding for Alzheimer’s and Autism projects. I could support them because I don’t think you will ever get people to agree on abortion. It’s too personal. But, I can’t ignore what was an unholy deal for women, to say the least.
11:30 a.m. t0 1:30 p.m. Why, we ask, do they feel they have to go along with a bad law that doesn’t even allow for exceptions on rape and incest? A law that catapults Missouri into the ranks of the top two most restrictive states in the country when it comes to access? Will they consider abstaining or even better, walking?
We make the following arguments:
1) The future of our economy lies with the next generation. We have raised them not to discriminate and they don’t. We want a strong economy for our kids and we want to woo young entrepreneurs here.
2) This law was the result of a last minute deal that pitted Planned Parenthood against the unions. It has always bothered me that Planned Parenthood gets trotted out for a public lashing when things get tight on economic issues. 90% of Planned Parenthood’s work is around prevention and education.
3) If Republican candidates believe they have to be Pro-Life to win higher offices, they’re wrong. Obama got more Catholic votes than Romney. Same for McCain.
4) Missouri cannot afford to align itself against women when we are still dealing with the aftermath of Ferguson.
Rumors are flying around the Capitol. Is it true that Rep. Rick Stream, a staunch pro-life candidate for County Executive, is considering abstaining or taking a walk on the bill? He’s leaving his perch as budget chair in the House and gunning for a role that has no impact on reproductive legislation. What a brilliant move in a campaign where the opposition has disingenuously sought endorsements from pro-gay and pro-choice groups to appeal to women when the issue isn’t a factor in that race.
Michelle posts a picture of a poster that reads, “If my uterus had bullets, you wouldn’t regulate it.” We laugh.
I say to a legislator, as he is moving into the chambers, “Give me a hug … and a filibuster!” He smiles.
There are rumors that two State Senators will be leaving by day’s end for personal reasons. Maybe things will drag on so long with the budget, they won’t get to the waiting period and Nixon’s veto will stand?
The mood in the State Capitol is like a scene out of the movie, “Lincoln.” Legislative aides scurry in and out of the chambers, a steady stream of lobbyists, journalists and legislators are in and out of leadership’s offices, protestors’ hoots and cheers ricochet off the rotunda creating an echo that could be heard behind closed doors. Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal from University City, a key figure in the Ferguson riots, gives an emotional speech about how she cried in her shower after being tear gassed. And once again, she hurls vitriol at the Governor, accusing him of “not caring about black kids.” While she is railing against him, the Republicans are gearing up to eclipse Nixon’s record number of vetoes. It is tit for tat politics in full swing.
We hear rumors and are given hints in hushed tones that there may be surprises in store.
Wednesday evening: Senate Minority Leader Jolie Justus, a Democrat from Kansas City, attempts to filibuster the waiting period. But after two hours of discussion, the Senate invokes a rarely used procedural move to cut off debate. Justus, the only openly gay member of the Senate, is effectively muzzled. The procedure has only been used once, back in 2007, to halt debate on an abortion law and another bill to make English the state’s official language. The Senators’ argument is that the bill was debated when it was initially brought up for consideration.
11:30 p.m. At day’s end, the only surprise is that there were no surprises. No change of heart. No abstaining or no votes. The power of a primary system that forces moderates to bank to the extremes weighs heavily on our minds as we ride home.
Am I dismayed? Hardly. I don’t think anyone realizes the influence that the right candidate will have and that history will show that candidate was on the right side of this issue.