Guest post by Rebecca Mann.
This time last year, North Carolinians were gearing up for the Independence Day holiday. Certain members of the North Carolina Senate took that preparation a step further and sent their morals on vacation, as they hastily attempted to secretly add anti-choice provisions into an existing bill on Sharia Law, then vote on that bill just hours before the break. Apparently they thought we would be too busy packing our sunscreen or prepping our outdoor grills to notice. They were wrong. Although we all know the result of their actions over those two days now (not good), the reason I can look back on that time and smile is because of the outstanding organizing done by pro-choice activists across the state to show legislators that we were and are watching them.
Here’s a look back at how it all unfolded.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
5:20pm Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, announces a recess and said the Judiciary 1 Committee would meet at 5:30 p.m. The meeting was to discuss SB 695, which—up until that point—was written to prohibit North Carolina from recognizing “foreign law” in court.
5:30pm: Judiciary I Committee Meeting Begins
From WRAL.com: “Lobbyists with nonprofits that have religious or moral purposes, including the Family Policy Council, Christian Action League and North Carolina Values Coalition, were in the room for the committee debate and the subsequent Senate floor debate. Senators noted that those lobbyists were given notice of the bill and its contents ahead of time.” NARAL Pro-Choice NC’s Executive Director and other lobbyists for pro-choice groups were given none. You can read more here.
6:00-7:00pm: Word begins to leak out about the anti-choice amendments .
7:00pm: NARAL Pro-Choice NC Speaks Out Against the Bill
“In the final minutes of marking up an unrelated piece of legislation, the Senate Judiciary committee swiftly tacked on every anti-choice piece of legislation introduced since January to this bill and sent the bill to the floor with no warning in a rare evening session,” stated Suzanne Buckley, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. … This is a cowardly move intended to silence pro-choice voices because they know that if they show their extreme agenda in the light of day, they’ll hear from us.”
7:12pm: I send my senator a strongly worded email. (It didn’t work.)
8:12pm: National news outlets pick up the story
“It seems to me that they’re trying to pass under cover of darkness legislation that would not otherwise be passed,” NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina executive director Suzanne Buckley said. “They’re trying to pull a Texas.”
For the rest of the evening, NARAL Pro-Choice NC and its coalition partners sound the alarm and spread the word to gather at the General Assembly the following day at 9am. Over 85,000 people across the country heard NARAL Pro-Choice NC’s call to action through social media in less than 12 hours.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
7:00am: I meet friends at a parking lot in Greensboro and we pile into my car to head to the NCGA.
8:30am: We arrive in Raleigh as the pro-choice crowd is gathering. The Senate chamber is already packed, and the rotunda is filling with pro-choice North Carolinans of all ages, races, and hometowns. There are babies in strollers and seniors in wheelchairs, ladies who lunch and students subsisting on ramen. It’s exciting to be with all of these people intent on holding legislators accountable for their actions. Several older women, a college student and I crowd around my iPhone while I use it to stream the sound from the floor debate. Although there are impassioned speeches from pro-choice legislators, they are sadly outnumbered.
Votes are cast and decades of anti-choicers’ legislative fantasies win. NCGA security warn us to be quiet, but a chant of “SHAME SHAME SHAME” begins and quickly moves throughout the building as legislators leave. We see several pro-choice legislators outside, some in tears, hugging constituents and vowing to continue the fight. News and Observer photographers did a good job capturing the morning.
A year later, I still get emotional thinking about that twelve-hour span of time. But my strongest emotion is pride—in NARAL Pro-Choice NC and its leadership, and in the entire pro-choice movement in our state. That day, we vowed to not forget the anti-choice legislators who put aside decency to push through measures intended to take basic, personal rights away from North Carolinians.
I remember what happened last summer, and I take those memories with me into the voting booth in November.