from Anita Rios
December 3, 2016 Recently I had a confrontation with a cop. I was with a group of abortion rights demonstrators at the Ohio Court of appeals, we were showing our support for Toledo’s last abortion clinic Capital Care. There were 7 of us standing on three corners of the intersection, and we were very well behaved. But a woman cop came by in a cruiser and told each group of protesters to get off the sidewalk and get up on the grass. In the process she made two u-turns without turn signals on a fairly busy street, and slowed traffic way down.
When she got to me and told me to get off the sidewalk I refused. She shouted that I had to get off the sidewalk and go stand in the grass.
I replied “no I don’t, this is a public sidewalk”.
She then said “you are not allowed to block the sidewalk so get up on the grass”.
I replied, “this is constitutionally protected activity, I’m allowed to be here as long as I don’t block the sidewalk…and I’m not blocking the sidewalk, I’m not that fat!”
She then told me again to get up on the grass and said, “mam, I’m not going to tell you again”.
I said, “Fine, if you want to arrest me for standing here go right ahead!” I was very relieved when she drove away and didn’t come back.
I shared this incident on facebook and got numerous comments, most thanking me for standing up for myself. One of my facebook friends, Twila, pointed out that I probably would have gotten a very different outcome if I was a “Black male”. My son also gave me a call and let me know that he was proud of me but as a “Brown man” he would never interact with a cop in the way that I did. He stated that he was pretty sure that if he did he would end up in jail or dead. I know they are both right. My son said that when cops are rude to him he just puts his head down and does what they say. He said “I don’t like doing that, but I know I have to”. I am glad that my son understands the dangers of interaction with cops but I am also profoundly sad and angry about this. Not just for my son and all the young people of color who are daily mistreated by the police but also for those men, women, and even children who have been murdered by police, (Tamir Rice was just twelve).
So I stick up for myself as a way of sticking up for everyone. And I hope that someone institutes an effort to better educate the police about the law…and makes it clear that they are not above it.
December 1, 2015 The attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs this past Friday (11/27/2015) was horrific but unfortunately not surprising. Not surprising for several reasons such as the increasingly vitriolic rhetoric being used by opponents of reproductive rights and the unrestrained fervor with which anti choice politicians create ever more ludicrous and restrictive regulations to diminish women’s access to abortions. Anti-choice politicians, pundits, and strident activists paint abortion providers as evildoers rather than the compassionate health care providers that they are. Unfortunately the climate this creates is one in which all too often fanatics with guns see abortion providers as targets.
Also unfortunate is the unwillingness by opponents of reproductive rights to accept responsibility for the climate of hate that they create and instead blame the victims or chalk it up to “fanatical lunatics”. Ignoring the reality of their complicity in creating a vision of abortion clinics and the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, and the patients as “baby killers”. Indeed one facebook comment that I read stated in reference to the Colorado Springs killings stated“A Killer about to be killed?! What goes around comes around”. While facebook comments must be taken with a grain of salt none the less it is a forum where people do say what is on their minds. This comment reflects the point of view that is fostered by anti-choice rhetoric.
The toxic atmosphere that the people who consider themselves “pro- life” have created around the genuine differences that Americans have about abortion is persistent, dangerous, and deliberate. Violence against abortion providers has persisted since abortion became legal and the people who lobby against abortion rights use language that dehumanizes and vilifies the doctors, nurses, other health care providers, and the patients. They do not even call the clinics clinics they refer to them as “abortion businesses, or abortion facilities”. Some groups have put out wanted posters with doctors pictures on them and some websites display lists of “the Killers among us”. While operation rescue very prominently states that they are a non-violent group their rhetoric makes it very clear that they view abortion providers as evildoers who must be stopped.
In considering what can be done to reduce clinic violence I hope that laws protecting clinics will be strengthened. I also hope that the vitriol surrounding this issue of abortion can be turned off and that we can simply agree to disagree. I do not expect anyone who is against abortion for any reason to change his or her mind and I respect each person’s right to decide for themselves. And I deserve the same respect for my opinions and my right to choose for myself. But I fear that unless the people who think that they are “pro-life” recognize the implicit abuse of their efforts to make women live by their values we will have to rely on stronger protections for the compassionate medical professionals who take care of women as they exercise their right to have an abortion. Ohio NOW stands with planned parenthood and we will continue to push for greater access to abortions here in Ohio and for increased protections for abortion providers.
November 21, 2015 Anita removed from Steinem event This past Wednesday, November 18th Gloria Steinem spoke in Toledo Ohio as part of the “Authors! Authors!” program. The Authors! Authors! program is a collaboration between the Toledo Lucas County Public Library and the local newspaper the Blade that seeks to inspire culture by bringing prominent speakers. The Steinem event took place at the Stranahan Theater a large venue that seats over two thousand people.The Steinem event sold out. This was the first time that an Authors! Authors! event sold out at such a large venue.
For the feminists of Toledo NOW it was uplifting to see so many Gloria Steinem fans who could be potential allies in our effort to push back against the unreasonable laws that are closing the abortion clinics in Ohio and particularly in Toledo. I had taken copies of the petition that is being circulated by NOW, NARAL, and URGE, asking that ProMedica hospital extend a transfer agreement to Capital Care, Toledo’s last remaining abortion clinic. It was my hope to make people aware of the petition and possibly get signatures.
As Ms. Steinem frequently does at speaking engagements she opened the event for questions and comments from the audience and three microphones were set up to accommodate that. She said we are going to do some community organizing now so that is what I did. I waited in line at one of the microphones and was very glad that the two women before me who spoke together were representatives of med students for choice. They mentioned the effort to get ProMedica to give Capital Care a transfer agreement. When it was my turn I stressed the very dire situation we are in with respect to reproductive rights here in Toledo and shared that I am unemployed due to the closure of The Center For Choice. I further mentioned that I had copies of the petition to ProMedica. As I walked back to my seat I was stopped by people in line to speak who wanted to sign the petition. I got several signatures and to avoid disrupting the event that was still going on I let people know I would have the petition in the lobby.
In the lobby several more people signed the petition before one of the ushers very brusquely told me “you can’t do that in here, you have to step outside”. I had every intention of stepping outside but someone was in the process of filling out the petition and several more who were in line to get their books signed let me know they wanted to sign also. So I told people that I was asked to step out and would get signatures outside. This wasn’t fast enough for the usher and he called over the guard to whom he said “she has an abortion petition”. It was my impression that he found this offensive. The guard was far more courteous but he also told me to leave, which I was in the process of doing. As I walked towards the door the usher followed me and scolded people who he thought were trying to talk to me although they were just talking to each other.
Outside it was raining but I got one more signature from someone who had seen what had happened and was appalled. I have done quite a bit of petitioning and while it is constitutionally protected activity it is restricted on private property, which the theater is, so I was not surprised that I was asked to leave. Ms Steinem invited community organizing at this event but clearly the theater management wasn’t on the same page.
If you want to sign the infamous petition, which is actually just an open letter to the CEO of ProMedica you can do that online at: www.prochoiceohio.org. There are no residency or age restrictions. Signing the petition will put you on a list to get more information so if you don’t want that just write DNC (for do not contact) after your name, and you can leave off any information that you are not comfortable providing.
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