Gloria Pedro, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes Arkansas manager of public policy and organizing, recounts her experience during her first session as a Planned Parenthood lobbyist in Arkansas.
The 92nd Arkansas general assembly 2019 session was ROUGH, but we made it through. Here are four things I learned from my first year lobbying for Planned Parenthood in Arkansas:
1. Politicians don’t care about how their laws impact Arkansans’ lives.
During the 2019 session, we saw an extreme assault on sexual and reproductive health care rights. From the bill sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin that requires doctors to give inaccurate information about medication abortion “reversal” to patients, to Sen. Jason Rapert’s total abortion ban, the attacks on reproductive health care just kept coming.
Altogether, nine bills have become new state laws that directly restrict abortion access.
These restrictions provide no health benefit and are blatant attempts to restrict abortion access across the state, denying health care to thousands of Arkansans.
2. You’ve got to talk fast, and be creative, if you want to set the record straight.
My time at the state capitol saw many ups and downs. While attempting to give testimony against SB278 (the bill that increases the medically unnecessary, state-mandated waiting period from 48 hours to 72), I was cut off. After waiting almost 12 hours to testify, I made it a whopping 42 seconds before I was told by Rep.John Payton that my testimony was not going to change any minds and was unnecessary. These are our elected officials, and they should want to hear from all of us.
Luckily, they couldn’t silence the Twitterverse. Our voice may not have been heard during testimony, but that wasn’t going to stop us from getting our message out.
3. Our supporters aren’t afraid of a fight.
Through everything, our supporters’ efforts to protect access to safe, legal abortion never wavered. You showed up in major ways, including our 2019 lobby day. Over 30 supporters showed up to make their voices heard at the capitol to discuss women’s health care legislation face to face. Throughout the legislative session, you sent over 20,000 emails. Our supporters on social media grew — in number and volume — to advocate against harmful policies and stand up for the rights of all Arkansans. You got the attention of lawmakers across the state and made sure that your voices were heard.
4. We’ve got a lot more work to do.
Now that the legislature has adjourned, it’s time to be thinking about next steps. Since Arkansas won't have another legislative session until 2021, over the next year and a half, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes will be focusing on our community organizing and electoral strategies to ensure that our supporters have the best possible representation under the dome. By building people power within communities across our state, we can continue to fight to keep personal decisions about reproductive health care just that –– personal, and not made by politicians.
Your continued support is crucial right now. There is still much work to do in Arkansas, and we need you every step of the way. We hope you’ll recommit your support to Planned Parenthood in one (or more!) of the following ways: