“Much of politics deals with simply speaking up—provided you have the privilege to have a voice and be heard.” This, claims Jonathan Brown, a PPMNS Super Activist volunteer, is one of the many lessons he has learned over the course of the past few months. The role of activists in the defeat of GOP efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood has featured prominently across the pages of media outlets. It is impossible to overstate how essential activism was in this victory nor how important it will continue to be in the fights that will inevitably emerge throughout the next few years.
Volunteers across Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota came out to support Planned Parenthood in the fight against repeal and replace. Over the course of the battle, supporters signed 3,000 petitions urging Minnesota 2nd Congressional District Representative Jason Lewis to vote against the bill and 4,000 urging Minnesota 3rd Congressional District Representative Erik Paulsen to do the same. Volunteers dedicated 557.5 hours to 28 phone banks and 4 canvasses. Activists rallied at Planned Parenthood’s Vandalia location, stood up for Planned Parenthood at a town hall meeting, and protested at the offices of their representatives. This hard work paid off tremendously across the country and will continue to do so as the 2018 midterm elections approach and we work hard to get pro-choice candidates elected to our districts and states.
“Many people seem to feel that their responsibility as a citizen is limited to voting and that there is little they can do to impact the choices of their representatives. Personally, this type of volunteering has made me much more likely to call my senator or congressperson,” says Super Activist Jayne Discenza, who began volunteering with Planned Parenthood in the spring of 2016. Volunteers agree that getting involved has made them appreciate how much impact their words have. “I have realized how complex politics truly is, but that everyone can actually play a huge role in it. So many people have claimed that there is no point calling their legislators because it won't do any good, and then you see constituents rallying and helping their lawmakers make the right decision. I think that's really inspiring,” says Emily Mickelson, a Super Activist who found herself discouraged by November’s election until she found a way to channel her motivation into work with Planned Parenthood.
While we can celebrate this victory, we know there is a long road ahead. According to Super Activist Eline Lenne, “This is a long fight and right now is an opportunity to breathe, refuel, and get ready to keep resisting.” Discenza is “cautiously optimistic” but knows that there is hard work to be done in order to sustain this activism for the next three years. Meanwhile, Brown says, “I want to ensure that a sense of celebration does not entangle with complacency.”
There is a lot more work to be done in the coming days and months and years. Already, volunteers and activists are coming out to do it. On Tuesday, August 1st, Planned Parenthood supporters delivered a pink paper chain with 5,626 links (representing the patients in Congressional District 3 that use Planned Parenthood’s services and are on Medicaid) to Representative Paulsen’s office to hold him accountable for his vote on the American Health Care Act. With the health care vote still technically on the Senate calendar, we must continue to hold our representatives accountable and let them know that taking care away from their constituents is unacceptable. “See what just happened? See what prevailed?” Brown asks. “Now, see how it pushes forth to the next imperative challenge. The future is at stake.”