By Leah Block, Spring 2016 Campus Leader at North Carolina State University
This Women’s History Month was quite eventful in terms of social justice-related happenings in North Carolina and around the country. This month, North Carolina saw the controversial House Bill 2 get signed into law; the biggest birth control case in 40 years hit the Supreme Court; and NC citizens demanded the expansion of medicaid. Needless to say, I have been busy here at NC State keeping students in the know on how these issues may affect them.
In 1996, March 10 was declared National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day to celebrate those who put their lives on the line to provide reproductive health services and abortion care. As this day falls nicely in Women’s History Month, I decided to organize an event surrounding the history of anti-choice violence and provider appreciation. I advertised this event as an opportunity for NC State students to show their appreciation for local abortion providers and meet other social justice-oriented students. The event started out with a presentation on the risks associated with being an abortion provider and why we ought to thank them as often as possible. Abortion providers around the country have been subject to over 300 acts of violence between 1973 and 2003 alone.
Since then, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) reported more than 176,000 instances of picketing at clinics (and nearly 34,000 arrests). NAF has documented more than 16,000 reported cases of hate mail or harassing phone calls, over 1,500 acts of vandalism and 400 death threats. The United States has witnessed assassinations, bombings, and mass murders carried out at abortion clinics and on abortion providers. (This makes me wonder, who here is really “pro-life?”) This March, about 30 NC State students came together to let providers know that we will defend, love, and support them in any way possible. The students made a sizable pile of “thank you” cards, which will soon be sent off to local abortion providers. Overall, this event was fun and successful. I am so excited to send off these creative and genuine cards to local abortion providers!
Unfortunately, this Women’s History Month saw some less progressive policies fall into place in North Carolina. For one, House Bill 2, which effectively eliminated all LGBTQ+ non-discrimination ordinances in the state and forces transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to the sex noted on their birth certificate, was signed into law 3 weeks ago. Not only does HB2 roll back years of civil rights activism, it also is a direct blow to women’s rights. Now businesses in North Carolina can legally discriminate based on gender identity or sexual orientation, which will affect women across the state. Furthermore, As Representative Insko stated during this bill’s debate on the House floor, “This bill is ‘supposed to protect’ girls and women. This bill does NOT protect transgender girls or women.” HB2 increases the chances of bathroom harassment against trans individuals and demonizes trans women by deeming them perverts and predators.
Since HB2 was passed, rallies and protests have been popping up all over the state. Along with many members of Students Advocating for Gender Equality (SAGE) at NC State, I took to the streets to protest this outrageous bill.
House Bill 2, being the regressive bill that it is, is a reproductive justice issue. Furthermore, if North Carolina legislators have no problem passing HB2, it’s likely they would have no problem introducing more anti-choice legislation during the upcoming legislative session. We must stop dangerous bills before they are signed into law and we must repeal HB2 before North Carolina legislators get any more “great ideas.”
This month, North Carolina policymakers have also been busy with plans of Medicaid reform. However, there has been little mention of Medicaid expansion. Medicaid is essential for women, notably women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as it provides critical family planning care, birth control, and even cancer screenings. In fact, half of Planned Parenthood patients are covered by Medicaid, and 1 in 10 women rely on Medicaid to receive life-saving healthcare.
It is crucial to expand Medicaid to the 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians who may be in dire need of health care services. Fortunately, the folks working on Medicaid reform have been traveling the state, seeking input from the citizens of North Carolina. When they came to Raleigh, other students and I accompanied Planned Parenthood volunteers to show our support for Medicaid expansion. Many of us shared our personal Medicaid stories, while also applauding those who spoke up in defense of Medicaid expansion.
While it’s been a busy month here in North Carolina, I am constantly inspired by the persistent and powerful young activists fighting for change every day. I am confident that North Carolina will continue to grow and move in the right direction, so as long as we are unrelenting in our activism. In the end, it is the power of the people that will prevail over bigotry and hatred.