Speaking of Women's Rights...: Raising Our Voices in Olympia

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Raising Our Voices in Olympia

by Evangeline Simmons

It takes energy to get off your couch, or away from your desk, to get directly involved in the legislative process. On Monday, January 24th, I did just that—I lobbied. One of the many important bills supported by Legal Voice this legislative session is the Limited Service Pregnancy Center Accountability Act. And on Monday afternoon the Washington House of Representatives held a hearing on the bill (HB 1366), to solicit feedback and testimony from supporters and opponents alike.

I wasn’t In Olympia last session when a similar bill died, but apparently we were completely outnumbered by opponents of the bill. These opponents do not agree that such Centers need or should be regulated in any way, let alone be required to provide accurate information and protect the privacy of the women who use the Centers.

Opponents of the bill had begun arriving earlier in the day (you could tell by the “I heart pregnancy resource center” buttons they were sporting). And honestly, it was a bit intimidating. Whether I like to admit it or not, I felt uncomfortable at first—they seemed to be everywhere. Where did they all come from? How were they organized?

But then, a wonderful thing happened. I wasn’t the only one who got my lobby on that day in support of the LSPC bill. In addition to our Raise Your Voice committee members, other supporters of Legal Voice, Planned Parenthood and NARAL supporters, and those without affiliation who simply wanted to protect women’s health started showing up in droves. (Did I mention we had even bigger orange stickers to wear proudly in support of the bill?)

Although the hearing did not begin until 1:30pm, the hallway outside the hearing room was entirely packed before noon. The waiting area was so chaotic, that even signing in to register our presence and whether we supported or opposed the bill was a feat. Eventually, House staff made a decision to allow in an equal number of constituents from each side (about 60 each, including those giving testimony). Overall, I believe the hearing went well. And I know that this year at least, our legislators can point to the number of supporters of the LSPC bill who attended the hearing—in addition to the number of constituents who directly contacted and met with representatives—to bolster their votes in favor of this important legislation.

For those of you out there who ever wanted to go to Olympia to lobby and just haven’t—do it! Taking that first step can be difficult, especially on your own. That’s why it’s so important to get involved with groups of like-minded folks who can be supportive and provide the opportunities you need to finally get involved in the way you know you always wanted to. Lobby on!

Evangeline Simmons is a graduate of William Mitchell College of Law, as well as a former intern and current volunteer at Legal Voice.