CENTRAL WEST END – Timing might sabotage ACLU Missouri in its attempt to put the state’s eight-week abortion ban to a public vote, but that’s not stopping St. Louisans from pitching in to the fight for reproductive rights.
As of last week, the Missouri Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case between Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and the ACLU. Though it had previously been determined that Ashcroft acted outside of his legal authority when he originally rejected the ACLU’s referendum for a petition to put the issue on the ballot, the ACLU now claims that Ashcroft is “continuing to obstruct the people’s vote by dragging his feet in his quest to deny the people a say on Missouri’s extreme 8-week abortion ban,” a July 12 press release states.
Had he acted with haste, the ACLU claimed, the organization would have had adequate time to collect the signatures needed. As it stands now, they may not be able to collect the signatures by the deadline, Aug. 28.
It is unclear what the ACLU will do if it is unable to collect the signatures.
But in St. Louis, people are still coming together not only to denounce the ban but also to raise money for organizations including Planned Parenthood and the Gateway Women’s Access Fund. Both were the recipients of donations at a fundraiser July 16. The fundraiser, called “Mean Girls Fundraiser for GWAF and Planned Parenthood STL,” was held at The Scottish Arms, 8 South Sarah Street.
S.J. Creek and Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, Ward 6, were two of the main planners of the fundraiser, which grew out of a desire to denounce nastiness on Twitter, Creek explained.
The main event of the night involved local politicians and celebrities reading out to the group some of the meanest tweets they’d received. The audience’s reaction was laughter – and the occasional gasp of incredulity.
Those who showed up to read tweets included Missouri Rep. Cora Faith Walker, D-Ferguson; St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones; Reproaction co-founder Pamela Merritt; and many city alderwomen.
“There’s something about reading them out loud that takes the sting out of them,” Creek said of the tweets. “It’s a sort of community experience where we come together to say, ‘Yeah that tweet is pretty much bullshit, and we’re here with you.’”
Creek said that the recent abortion ban and possibility of losing the state’s last abortion clinic prompted her to focus the event on raising money for Planned Parenthood and Gateway Women’s Access Fund.
“Seeing the loss of rights in Missouri, and living in a state that might be the first one to go dark, it’s not where I thought I would be,” she explained. “I moved to St. Louis thinking it was a fun, progressive place with a lot of opportunity, and it’s been really shocking to see the state go backwards in the last few years. So it’s hard not to be fired up.”
Michele Landeau, president of the board of Gateway Women’s Access Fund, stressed that in moving forward it was important to understand that the backlash against abortion rights had been a long time coming.
“This is a very planned and coordinated attack,” she said. “It didn’t just happen in a vacuum.”
That’s why, she said, it’s very important for those fighting for abortion rights to talk about abortion in an “upfront and forthcoming” way.
“We need to be willing to say the word ‘abortion,’” she said, “and we need to be willing to talk about reproductive issues and how they connect to economic justice and racial justice. Because it’s all connected, and we’re all in it together.”