Every freshman legislator eventually takes that long, dreaded walk to the microphone on the House or Senate floor to speak for the first time to the entire body. For me, it happened early in my first session, when a male colleague presented a bill to restrict an over-the-counter birth-control option for women.
I remember sitting glued to my seat, praying someone else would speak against the bill. When nobody did, I knew I had to take the walk. I was in disbelief I had to even consider such a dictate from the government on such a private decision in 2001!
Little did I know that controlling women's and families' reproductive rights was on a path to the May 2, 2022, leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft decision to reverse Roe v. Wade.
Here in Arkansas, we tend to be reasonable people. Along with the rest of the country, most of us believe that women and families should be able to make their own health-care decisions. Arkansans are also compassionate people; most of us believe that (God forbid) when someone rapes a child, the child should not be forced into pregnancy. For any number of reasons, women should not be compelled to continue a pregnancy. It's cruel, it's irrational, and it's a policy that conveys the opposite of who we are as Arkansans.
Let's be clear: The Supreme Court's apparent intention to overturn Roe v. Wade is about power and control, which will ultimately fall to state legislators. If overturning Roe were about reason and compassion, our state leaders would fight for affordable child care, expanded health care, world-class education, and policies that keep folks out of poverty. Comprehensive reproductive education and expanded access to birth control have been proven to dramatically reduce abortions.
But what will our state Legislature do? With history as our guide, we know they will not lead with practicality or with empathy. They will grab for more power and control, assuring additional harm to Arkansans along the way.
If you are feeling despair or agony about the future, know that you are not alone. We will come together and fight for reasonable, compassionate policies that help Arkansans build healthy, whole lives. Yes, there are politicians who want to take control from you and hold on to their power. Do not let them.
You, the voter, have the ultimate power at the ballot box. Get loud, go vote, and demand a return to compassionate, reasonable democracy in Arkansas.
State Sen. Joyce Elliott is executive director of Get Loud Arkansas. Email her at email@example.com