I woke up Thursday morning convinced that I had to act. Missouri was about to be the first state to not have a clinic that provided abortion services. This is not what the Show Me State should be known for.
Across the river, in Illinois, the legislature and Governor were working to protect the rights of women to have full access to healthcare, including abortion services. But Missouri Governor Parson was instead focused on weaponizing the health department by revoking Planned Parenthood’s license and signing into law a ban on abortion after eight weeks, including for women who are raped or the victims of incest.
As a labor leader, I could have sat on the sidelines. This fight is not a workplace fight. This fight doesn’t involve the mistreatment of the healthcare workers that I represent in our union, SEIU Healthcare. In fact, I might risk alienating the members of my union by taking a stand on abortion rights.
Instead, I chose to risk arrest by blocking the entrance to the Governor’s office at the Wainright Building. I thought about the women in my family, and their support of the rights of all women to choose what is best for them. I thought about my oldest daughter who learned so much about her body and her rights through Planned Parenthood’s Teen Advocates for Sexual Health (TASH). I thought about what she taught my son about how to be a responsible man. I thought about my youngest daughter whose rights were being taken away from her before adulthood.
And I thought about the hundreds of powerful women in my union who join together to fight injustice. We fight injustice in workplaces, including supporting workers at a nursing home in Ferguson who went on strike for 104 days. We fight for fast food workers who deal with sexual harassment at work, poverty wages, and no voice on the job. We fight to redirect funds in the St Louis City budget away from incarceration and towards housing and healthcare. Fighting for access to quality, affordable, safe healthcare, including abortion, is just as important.
I am proud to stand with all the incredible women in my life and will stand with them until women are respected everywhere: on the job, in the home, in the community, and in the doctor’s office!
Director & Vice President, SEIU Healthcare Missouri