We Won’t Go Back!

Transcript of the Feminist Women’s Health Center Press Statement:

I’d like to welcome you all to “Walk in My Shoes, Hear Our Voice.” My name is Kwajelyn Jackson and I am the Community Engagement Coordinator at Feminist Women’s Health Center. This event illustrates the collective strength of more than 35 local organizations that recognize the grassroots power of a unified voice for justice. We would like to thank you for standing with us today.

In the Georgia communities we serve, we are seeing the effects of severe disparities: Income inequality, poverty, racial injustice, gender discrimination, homophobia, and health disparities. And in the face of all this, Georgia lawmakers continue to attack our basic rights and freedoms. Even efforts to provide wider access and improve the health and lives of Georgians, by the Affordable Care Act and attempts to expand Medicaid, are being obstructed and denied from those who need it most. All in the name of some desperate attempt to take us back to a time when we had no voice. We are here today to say that we won’t go back! We won’t sit idly by and watch our rights continue to erode away.

  • We won’t go back to a time where we weren’t allowed in establishments because of the color of our skin, when queer voices were closeted, and immigrant voices ignored.
  • We won’t go back to a time where people died from treatable and preventable illness while the impoverished were judged and punished for their circumstances rather than offered help.
  • We won’t go back to a time where we were without full access to contraception, safe abortion. And we won’t go back to time when our reproductive decisions were not ours to make.

We must recognize the intersection of these issues. As a coalition we believe, as Martin Luther King Jr., did that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” All of you out there, all of the people these shoes are meant to represent, have complex and complicated circumstances, all of the unique and beautiful and multi-layered parts that define our humanity. We will not let Georgia lawmakers legislate away our autonomy and our ability to thrive.

We are tired of defending off these attacks. We have a comprehensive agenda that links reproductive rights to broader social justice issues, which we call reproductive justice, and works to improve the lives of all Georgians. As the Regional Coordinator for the national initiative Raising Women’s Voices, we have been working to tell women about the important gains that the Affordable Care Act can make in their lives by expanding access to affordable health care, including preventive care and birth control without co-pays.  At the same time, we recognize that these advances are not complete for many more Georgians–  since Georgia is not required to accept federal funds already set aside to expand Medicaid coverage, an opportunity to invest in health care for entire families in our state.

We want a safer, stronger, more socially just Georgia that:

  • Provides access to affordable, comprehensive health care for all who need it.
  • Protects unfettered access to contraception and safe abortion care.
  • Puts an end to racial injustice and systematic oppression.
  • Creates fully exercised equality for the gay, lesbian, trans, and queer communities.
  • Provides a clear pathway for legal immigration and citizenship.
  • Remove the obstacles that keep people in perpetual state of poverty.
  • Preserves an authentic ideal of religious freedom for all faiths that is not used to discriminate.

We will not go back! We must propel Georgia forward! In the words coined by Moral Monday NC, “Forward together, not one step back!!!” Thank you.

MEDIA ADVISORY: Stop Playing Politics with our Health & Rights – We Must Stop the Extremist Attacks!


“Walk in My Shoes, Hear Our Voice”

Stop Playing Politics with our Health & Rights – We Must Stop the Extremist Attacks!  

Media contact: Jaime Chandra, Marketing & Communications Manager, Feminist Women’s Health Center, [email protected]  – 404-248-5458

ATLANTA, GA – Tuesday, February 25, 2014 – Today over 35 organizations and hundreds of Georgians rallied together at the State Capitol. The event, “Walk in My Shoes, Hear Our Voice,” protests proposed bills that are discriminatory, restrictive, and dangerous.

“It’s unconscionable that Georgia lawmakers are focusing on measures that would eliminate health insurance benefits for women instead of focusing on the economy, job creation, and preventive health benefits,” said  Janelle Yamarick, Advocacy Director at the Feminist Women’s Health Center

“The extremist attacks on the rights of Georgians must stop.  The string of legislation attempting to control and discriminate under the guise of religious freedom is offensive. We won’t go back to a time of inequality. It is time for Georgia to move forward,” says Jaime Chandra, Marketing & Communications Manager at the Feminist Women’s Health Center.

The Georgia General Assembly has advanced numerous bills that would inevitably reverse essential rights or deny access to vital health care.  The following are examples of such legislation:

SB 377 & HB 1023 as introduced use broad definitions that significantly expand the legal ability to refuse and discriminate based on religious belief systems. These bills define ‘burden’ as any application of law or policy and ‘person’ includes corporations and other entities. The impact of these bills would allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions and businesses to refuse service based on religious objection. These bills could also limit a person’s ability to acquire prescriptions or referrals from their doctor, or receive emergency reproductive health care. These legislation proposals could even impact employment based on gender, sexual orientation, marital status, marital history, pregnancy status, contraception, or hormone use. See more information from the ACLU about using Religion to discriminate: https://www.aclu.org/using-religion-discriminate

SB 98 would limit coverage Georgians purchase with their own money through the ACA exchange that provides comprehensive reproductive health care benefits, including abortion. State employees would also be denied this coverage in law. This bill changes the insurance coverage that Georgians have right now; most insurance plans cover abortion, but this bill removes those benefits with dangerously narrow medical emergency exceptions.

HB 772 would require applicants to be tested for controlled substance at their own expense, those who fail would be deemed ineligible for food stamps, The language is an exact replica of that for drug testing TANF recipients.  Recently Florida law was struck down by Judge Mary S. Scriven of the US District Court in Orlando on December 31, 2013. (Source: goo.gl/eYizTe) Georgia has not implemented drug testing on TANF recipients because of the Federal Court’s decision that such a procedure would violate illegal search provisions of the US Constitution. Senator Nan Orrock said HB 772, if enacted, would violate the Fourth Amendment prohibitions against warrantless searches. She also said it would cost more money than it would save. (Source: goo.gl/p2gb5a)

SR 1031 would amend the Georgia State Constitution to declare English as the official language.  This resolution would remove multi-lingual driving tests and the ability of elected officials to speak a language other than English while performing official actions of the state.

SB 334 & HB 707, “The Georgia Health Care Freedom and ACA Noncompliance Act,” would do exactly as the title suggests. It aims to prohibit any local or state government entity from engaging in activity that aids in the implementation of or education regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. State employees would be prohibited from referring people to the ACA exchange website or phone number, creating barriers to accessing affordable healthcare.

HB 990 would require Legislative approval to expand Medicaid, prohibiting Georgia’s Governor from executive authority. Medicaid has already proven to lower infant mortality, increase access to preventative care, and ensure women preventive healthcare throughout all life stages. Since many pregnant women go into labor with chronic health problems, preventative health care access is crucial to reducing pregnancy-related deaths.  This bill would delay the critical decision Georgia’s Governor is already empowered to make with one stroke of his pen.

Organizational speakers provided specifics into current legislation and how it is eroding the rights and freedoms of Georgia citizens.

  • Kwajelyn Jackson – Community Engagement Coordinator, Feminist Women’s Health Center
  • Jeff Graham – Executive Director, Georgia Equality
  • Malika Redmond – Executive Director, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW
  • La’Die Mansfield – Founder of Hello Racism, Representative of Moral Monday GA

The organizations listed below have come together to support “Walk in My Shoes, Hear Our Voice.” Our organizing principle is as follows:  We are here to reclaim our voice.  We reject bills that do not comply and support bills that do comply with the following principles* for all Georgians:

  • to determine when and whether to have children,
  • to have a healthy pregnancy and birth;
  • to become a parent and parent with dignity; and
  • to have safe and healthy relationships and families.

*These principles are the four guidelines from Center for American Progress in their paper “More than a Choice,” informed by SisterSong’s extensive body of work.

Co-sponsoring organization as of 2/25/14: ACLU of Georgia; Atlanta Jobs with Justice; American Friends Service Committee; Atlanta Feminist Women’s Health Center; Atlanta Women’s Center; Clarkston Community Center; Emory Reproductive Health Association; Georgia Equality; Georgia NOW; Georgia Reproductive Justice Access Network; Georgia Rural Urban Summit; Georgia WAND; Georgia Women for a Change; Georgia Working Group;  Health Organization for Latin America; International Action Center; League of Women Voters of Dekalb County, Georgia; League of Women Voters of Georgia; Men Stopping Violence; Metropolitan Atlanta Local Democratic Socialists of America; Moral Monday GA; NAACP Georgia: W.I.N. (Women in NAACP Working Group); National Association of Social Workers – Georgia Chapter; National Council of Jewish Women – Atlanta Section; ONE BILLION RISING; Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates; Raising Women’s Voices; Raksha; Refugee Women’s Network; Secular Woman; SisterSong; SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!; Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta Reproductive Justice Advocacy Group; WonderRoot; Women of W.O.R.T.H; Young Women’s Task Force.

For more information about the event, visit: www.HearOurVoice.org