Parked in front of a house was a car with a bumper sticker that read, “As a former fetus, I oppose abortion.” I decided to skip that house. Earlier that night someone had told me that “I’m pro-choice, I think that a woman makes the choice when she spreads her legs.” I could have gone into how consenting to sex doesn’t mean you are consenting to pregnancy but instead I decided to disengage. I had doors to knock on, people to talk to! Even though I was canvassing in Yakima, where the constituents voted for anti-choice politicians, I was finding some very excited pro-choice folks.
At one house a woman in her thirties answered the door. I told her I was with NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, working for reproductive rights. She looked shocked. I handed her my clipboard that had the signatures of NARAL members I had just signed up. She listened to what I had to say. We were working on the issue of the fake, anti-choice pregnancy centers in Washington. There was one located in Yakima.
She read my clipboard and asked, “Wait, all these people are pro-choice?”
“Yes,” I said.“But these are my neighbors! I thought I was the only one here who was pro-choice!”
In Seattle, no one is surprised that they have pro-choice neighbors. In Yakima, and other conservative areas of the state, many people are convinced they are the lone pro-choicer in the neighborhood. I love letting them know that they have fabulous neighbors who share their support for reproductive rights. That is where the community building aspect of a community organizers job really comes in — letting people know that they are not alone and that if we join forces we can protect our rights and the rights of others.
While talking to people about the “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (CPC) people started to offer up their own experiences going to one and they were often angry. Women would talk about going because they wanted to get a free pregnancy test to find out that the real cost was watching an anti-abortion video. Someone had been told that she wouldn’t make a good mother because she wasn’t in a committed relationship. This was ridiculous. We had randomly selected about 60 houses for each organizer to knock on and we were finding people who had actually gone to CPC.
Our trip to Yakima inspired us to head out to areas that had CPCS and collect their stories. It also allowed us to inform the communities which clinics were anti-choice. We ended up going to Vancouver, Tacoma, Bellingham, and back to Yakima .
It was in Vancouver that someone invited me in and we sat on her couch and I almost started crying. The woman was in her early twenties and living with her mom. She was worried that she was pregnant so she called Options 360 and asked if they performed abortions. They told her to come in. The staff of Options 360 told her that abortions after seven weeks of pregnancy are unsafe and that she would not be able to find a doctor to perform one. She was angry and upset because she did not want to become a parent at such a young age and that the people who were supposed to be helping her were not listening to her. They gave her a phone number to call if she wanted to come back later.
“It’s just so messed up that they can do stuff like that. And then you go to Planned Parenthood and there are people protesting outside,” she said.
The next day we knocked on doors near the location of Options 360. There have been few times in my canvassing career that I have felt such delight in giving people pro-choice stickers.