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Saturday, September 02, 2006

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so volunteering at the "no on 43" table was not as horrible as i feared. i was really scared to do this, in part because i hate being accosted in public places by petitioners, and in part because i wasn't sure i could talk about this issue in a cogent manner, so i might actually convince someone to vote yes, which would horrify me. but as it turned out, most people, even when they didn't agree with you, were fairly polite about it, and after the first couple of times, i didn't come off sounding like a complete idiot.

the booth was tucked in an odd corner which meant most of the traffic swooped around it instead of past it, and i had trouble finding it at first because the neighboring "ANKLETS" sign obscured the "no on 43" banner. also, there was no signage for planned parenthood or naral, the two groups who staffed this booth.

of course, you know something's up when -i'm- the most gregarious person there. i was certainly the youngest person there by at least 20 years. i had hoped to be able to observe a couple of seasoned professionals who had spoken about no on 43 before so i could get a feel for it before trying it myself. but only one of us had ever tabled before, and he hadn't done it for this measure, so we were all starting from scratch. after a brief self-orientation to the materials, i realized nobody else was going to start talking to people, so i took a deep breath and began.

it was always surpising to discover who was willing to oppose parental notification. in the course of my 4-hour shift, i spoke to:
* a man who said, " if a girl is pregnant that young, then something's already wrong with the relationship with the parents."
* a burly guy who immediately signed almost without comment, until i asked him afterwards what his story was. he said he didn't really have a story, "but i have a problem with parents believing their kids are THEIR kids."
* a thoughtful man w/ a teenage son who thought he was signing FOR parental notification, but then proceeded to have a compassionate discussion with me and left wanting to "think about it." he even thanked me for talking to him! he said, "when you believe in something, this is what you should be doing, going to places and talking to people about it."
* a woman with 4 children who was about ready to argue with us until she realized we were NO on 43, at which point she immediately grabbed a clipboard and emphatically said, "i think i can be pro-choice and pro-family at the same time. i don't see that as a contradiction." she said she was an RN who sees the effects firsthand, and she desperately wants to see this measure fail.
* a young woman who was there with her boyfriend, and while the boyfriend talked to a another booth worker, she hung back until i talked to her. turns out she wants to volunteer!
* a woman who is very much in favour of parental notification, even though her husband had molested her children.
a group of younger teens came to ask if we knew where the palm reader was, and after discovering what our goal was, left loudly exclaiming, "oh, no, we are SO against abortion!" some of the booth workers dismissed anyone under 18 because "they can't vote anyway" -- whereas i think that they may be 18 by november AND probably have friends that are 18 and 19, the age that is most likely to vote for the rights of their peers. and of course, they're the target of this legislation and they can't even vote against it, so they should at least have the opportunity to talk about it and talk to others about it.

the package i received prior to the state fair gave us a sample script which included grabbing people by asking, "are you pro choice? support a woman's right to choose?" which i just didn't think i could say without feeling like i was immediately placing them in a defensive position. by the end of our shift, each of us ended up developing our own form of outreach. mine was something like this:

"are you familiar with measure 43? measure 43 will require parental notification when a young woman needs an abortion. though it seems simple, it is a dangerous bill that does more harm than good. it doesn't allow for exceptions in cases of rape or incest and it doesn't protect young women in violent homes."

the funny thing is that the other side has a similar slogan: protect our teen daughters. i want to protect the teens that might be further abused or even killed, the teens that might try to induce miscarriage, the teens that might run away, the teens that might commit suicide, the teens that might carry to term only to commit infanticide or abandonment. i guess they want to protect... parents who might be disappointed? teens who might feel regretful?

i don't want to trivialize it, but i really am having trouble understanding what problem we're trying to solve in a state where the medical age of consent is 15 (which means nobody has to be notified if a doctor treats a teen for an ectopic pregnancy or drug addiction). most young women know better than their parents whether they want to be a mother. and if a teen isn't old enough to make her own medical decisions, what does that say about entrusting her to the care of a new baby & those medical decisions? why does the state have an interest in requiring notice for abortions but not for births?

i'm not usually big on "slippery slope" arguments, but don't fool yourself: a "yes" on 43 will mean we have to fight later about parental consent. and then about all abortions. and later still about all contraception. (find me a pro-life group that supports the use of contraception.) if you think this measure sounds reasonable because -you- are a good parent and -you- would want to know, please, please, please, i beg you, vote not for yourself; vote instead for the safety & value of all women, now and in the future, by voting AGAINST 43.

Thanks Gretchin, I was hoping to know more of your point of view on this subject. It helps me to better understand where you are coming from.
Dear Gretchin,

It's nice to hear about people volunteering to forward and/or explain their position, rather than just being armchair pundits.

I have some mixed feelings on this subject (largely due to unfamiliarity with some of the issues involved, no doubt), but never the less I appreciate your activism...especially an activism that frowns on the idea of immediately putting people on the defensive.

Cheeseburger Brown
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