November 7, 2006
Today I learned how big of an impact one person's activism can have on another. Until today, I spent my time here in Sioux Falls organizing the large number of people outraged by South Dakota's abortion ban who are volunteering with the Campaign for Healthy Families (www.sdhealthyfamilies.org
). In February, the state legislature passed a law that banned virtually all abortions, but before it could go into effect, 38,000 South Dakotans had a repeal of this extreme legislation put on tomorrow's ballot. My organizing work has been incredible -- I've met very passionate and generous people who give all of their spare time to fight the extreme and dangerous ban -- but it has kept me in an office and away from the action.
Today I joined my fellow activists and became a volunteer. First on the agenda was knocking on doors in one Sioux Falls neighborhood to remind people that tomorrow is Election Day and how important it is to reject the ban on virtually all abortions. At first, I was very nervous, but I was fortunate enough to be with Dahlia, an experienced canvasser, who assured me that this was all part of the political process. We did the first few doors together, and within minutes, I realized how right she was. Folks were all very polite and generally interested in the information I provided. This is clearly an issue that everyone feels quite strongly about, and has both pitted neighbor against neighbor and brought people together. A knock on one door introduced me to a woman who told me that her neighborhood card group had discussed the ban, identified the many ways it could harm women, and decided as a block to vote as a bloc against the ban. One man playing with his kids in his front yard worried about government intrusion into personal and private decisionmaking. Not everyone felt comfortable discussing the ban, and some peered out of their doorways to see if their neighbors were watching. "It takes a lot of guts to do what you're doing," a man in one of my last houses said. But by the end of the afternoon, we had knocked on 94 doors, spoke to 28 people, and left 66 door hangers reminding folks to vote tomorrow, and the only thing I was scared of were the dogs that bark at you as you approach the house!
After canvassing, Dahlia and I quickly headed over to phone bank at the Planned Parenthood clinic, the only clinic left in South Dakota. I felt so proud to walk through the doors of this clinic, which continues to provide abortion care in this hostile climate. Understandably, no doctor in the state will compromise their own personal safety by providing abortions, and a doctor flies in once a week (or less!) to provide this important reproductive health service. The employees are truly heroes, and I was so honored to stand in their clinic and contribute to the fight against the abortion ban. Dahlia and I each made over 100 calls tonight, urging people to reject the abortion ban at the polls tomorrow.
I lost count of the number of times that I was thanked today -- some of them very quietly -- for working against the ban. You could really tell that people drew strength from seeing others take a public stand against the legislature's disregard of women and families. And that's why tomorrow morning at 7:15 a.m. I will be standing on the corner of a major intersection asking people to honk against referred law #6. This support is truly some of the most beautiful music you will ever hear. Some folks will honk and others only feel comfortable enough to give a thumbs up or smile, but in this explosive and highly personal election, our presence will give folks the strength to know that they are not alone.