On North Carolina's Moral Mondays, Motorcycle Vaginas, and How a Red State Goes Decidedly Bl

On North Carolina's Moral Mondays, Motorcycle Vaginas, and How a Red State Goes Decidedly Blue

As much as North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory wanted to rebrand the state, I assume he didn’t mean to have us known as the state of the #Motorcyclevagina.  This fascinating hashtag was born of a bill that was originally written to improve motorcycle safety -- but with added legislation in the eleventh hour that would effectively close all but one Planned Parenthood in the state. 

Maybe you’ve heard of it.

I have lived in North Carolina for most of my life, and have been attending Moral Monday protest rallies since June 3.  Reverend William Barber, the President of the North Carolina NAACP, is the man behind this movement. The first time I saw him speak, he was in front of a group of about seventeen people gathered who had agreed to go with him to Raleigh to practice civil disobedience that first Monday, April 29, 2013.  Regarding an onslaught of ALEC-sponsored legislation, like cuts in funding that would affect the poorest and most vulnerable in the state, legislation to do away with early and Saturday voting as well as requiring voter ID cards (which ultimately affect minority voting rights in this state above all others), and the imminent repeal of the Racial Justice Act, he said "I never thought I would have to fight for the things my parents already won.”

I will tell you that I was changed after hearing that speech.  I knew I had to get involved, to make my way to Raleigh as often as possible to support this cause.

Fighting for what was already won. 

And now suddenly the women of North Carolina are fighting once again for the right to maintain our individual reproductive freedom.  SB353, the now infamous legislation also known as The Motorcycle Vagina Bill will effectively close all but one Planned Parenthood in the state.  Governor McCrory -- who, while campaigning for the job he’s holding now, promised to do nothing to infringe upon a woman’s right to choose – has already said he will sign it into law.

I daresay that no one wants to have an abortion.  Should a woman have to make that painful and personal choice, the decisions surrounding that choice are hers alone to make in consultation with her physician.  They are no one else's business.  Not mine, not yours, and certainly not of a handful of politicians over in Raleigh.

For while they are very concerned with legislating whether or not a woman has the baby, it has become very clear that once the child is born, the Republican party is not interested in any legislation to enhance the child's quality of life.  The GOP has made cuts in food assistance, early childhood education, public education (don’t even get me started), and limited Medicaid expansion and healthcare.  

Separate and apart from abortion, Planned Parenthood offers a myriad of health services to women across the state, and closing them is harmful to a woman's health, not protective and the Republican party as the bill proclaims. 

"I voted for SB353 because I truly felt that it would help to protect the safety of women who choose to have an abortion. If abortion is legal (which it is), then I believe we should try to make it as safe as possible. Due to the fact that abortion is a serious (and sometimes dangerous) medical procedure, I believe it is sensible to require abortion clinics to adhere to certain operational standards (similar to those of ambulatory clinics). Also, because abortion often involves surgery with significant medical risks, I believe it is prudent to require a doctor to be present during the procedure. Instituting these requirements is simply a way to help keep women safe during abortion procedures, and I think that is a worthy cause."  -- Representative Jon Hardister 

Here are some facts that render this argument without merit.  
"Abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures for women in the United States. Fewer than 0.5% of women obtaining abortions experience a complication, and the risk of death associated with abortion is about one-tenth that associated with childbirth."  
And the state's abortion rate is lower than the national rate --- both of which are already on the decline.

Lots of really good information at the source.  

The women of this state are not taking any of this lying down.  E-mails and social media have alerted and rallied women across the state.  Thousands of women AND men braved sweltering heat for last week’s tenth wave of Moral Monday, the theme of which was Women's Issues.  It was a record crowd for Moral Monday.  

After seeing the size of the turnout, I mused to a friend (only half-jokingly) that if the Republicans in Raleigh could repeal a woman's right to vote, they probably would.  Her response was completely serious:  that with the swiftly-moving proposed legislation to end early and Saturday voting, limiting the vote is exactly what they are trying to do.

I am often asked why I go – why, when nothing seems to be changing, when the state’s Republicans dismiss us and call us names at every turn, and keep right on pushing their immoral agenda through. 

The simple answer is, it is the right thing to do.  I’m in this for the long haul. 

It’s not always easy to get there.  The weather can be brutal.  Conflicts and schedules don’t always cooperate.  But I make it every week that I can.  One thing that always strikes me is that there is no racism on Halifax Mall.  There is no sexism, no misogyny, and no homophobia either.  There is only compassion and respect and love for everyone.  This is the right side to be on. 

The next steps for me are to get involved volunteering to help register voters, and drive them to the polls on Election Day.

Governor McCrory continues to brush off Moral Mondays, while his approval rating has dropped 15 points in a single month.  The entire party is starting to feel it, too:  "Unhappiness over the abortion bill seems to be driving a lot of the increased unhappiness with the Republicans in state government this month. Only 34% of voters support the proposal to 47% who are opposed. They're even more unhappy with the process- 80% think it's inappropriate to combine abortion legislation with bills about motorcycle safety or Sharia Law."

On Wednesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released their report that put McCrory on the list of the country’s worst governors.

So thank you, Pat McCrory, Thom Tillis, and all of the Republicans down in Raleigh who proudly declare they are not listening.   The rest of the state, and the country, can hear us just fine.   And you have galvanized the citizens of this state in a way we haven't been in a long time.  

Thank you for this movement that brings us together for the greater good.  

Thank you for reminding us that we have to keep fighting for our rights, for what we want and want to hold on to, and be tireless in working to keep it.  For reminding us that there are those who will always want to take it away again.

We will see you at the polls.

Melissa Hassard is a writer currently living in Greensboro, NC.  Visit her website or e-mail her at melissa@melissahassard.com.