Councilor Kristen Strezo responds to Texas abortion ban
My Dear Somerville,
I wouldn’t have envisioned myself taping a wire hanger to my front door a week ago.
Last week, the Supreme Court declined to stop a Texas law that bans abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy. The new law also implicates anyone in Texas who supports or assists a pregnant person pursuing an abortion — by driving them, providing financial assistance, counseling them, or staffing the procedure — and subjects them to a $10,000 fine.
I’ve been fighting for our reproductive rights for decades — as an activist, as a pregnant woman, as an advocate in D.C. Congress offices, and as the lead singer in a feminist punk band in rock clubs all over the nation. Now, I have the privilege to fight for reproductive justice as an elected official.
I’ve witnessed choice being whittled down over the years, diluted by anti-choice zealots. Their strategy is clear: they can chip at Roe vs. Wade bit-by-bit by continuously introducing more restrictive laws state by state. Roe stays the same. But depending on what state you live in, your rights as a woman may vary.
A majority of these restrictive anti-choice assaults against pregnant people are based in misogyny. Often their proponents show a clear ignorance of women, sometimes of basic female anatomy. But there is also a unique hatred against women at the root of these measures. This is clear because if it was ever really about supporting a pregnant woman and preserving life– not control of women — there would be an expansion of SNAP benefits, WIC benefits, childcare services, and other forms of support to welcome this potential life into this world.
I hear the aching of so many women and non-binary pregnant folks who’ve experienced insufferable things along their paths, from the agony of having to abort a welcomed pregnancy that was not viable late into term, to having to be escorted to abortion clinics because their lives were threatened, to being harassed and shamed by judgmental opinions about their lives; judgemental opinions that never mattered to begin with.
So, I’ve sung about it. Lobbied for it. Shouted about it. Wrote about it. Traveled for it. Protested for it. Entered into politics for it. And it’s still not enough to rile anger to defend our turf and spell out the clear hypocrisy; for American women to rally in the streets until the anti-choice zealots are shamed for their cowardice.
But we are not out of options. Hanging a wire coat hanger on my door in solidarity is my small move preceding much larger action. So, what’s it going to take?
Somerville, I’m asking for you to join me. For some of you who wish to do something, there are options.
Somerville, hang your own wire coat hanger from your front door. It’s a jarring symbol with a real past. Some of your neighbors in Somerville remember a time when back-alley abortions were the only option. Some have endured them. I will see you soon at your doors while canvassing, and acknowledge with you that we are together in this fight.
Contact your federal Representatives and Senators. Insist the Senate and House pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). I’ve fought for the passing of WHPA for years, and we need more critical mass. It’s stunning that it’s taken this level of reproductive injustice to be considered. Whatever. Let’s just pass it.
As a Somerville City Councilor, I have supported reproductive justice by putting forth a resolution supporting the passage of the ROE Act — making Somerville the only municipality to do so. In my first month of office, I challenged the Somerville Police Department to better track and expedite rape kits, and the issue made it up to the District Attorney’s office.
Reach out to me, and join me to continue on this work in our local community.
Support American Women.
The United States is still a very dangerous place to give birth. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the current maternal death rate in the United States is 17 per 100,000 births. Women of Color die in childbirth three times the rate of their white peers, which is unacceptable; the maternal death rate for Black, non-Hispanic mothers is 36 per 100,000 births. For context, the maternal death rate in the Netherlands, Norway and New Zealand is 3 or fewer per 100,000. The American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC) concludes that two-thirds of these U.S. deaths were entirely preventable.
The maternal death rate is shocking for our technology, wealth and health care system. And there is no national database, research strategy, or tracking system like there is in other developed nations to determine the causes of why we lose so many mothers in childbirth.
But, friends, we have the power to change that reality. We can demand more from women’s healthcare. It’s far past time we did.
Expand safety nets like WIC and SNAP benefits. Invest in affordable and accessible childcare. Demand free public colleges. Welcome every child into this world with outstretched and nurturing arms.
In March, I introduced a post-pandemic economic recovery plan that highlighted how women were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown — as women are most predominantly employed in retail, food service, and hospitality and caregiving occupations. The plan calls to expand childcare services, support women- and minority-owned businesses, and implement new racial justice initiatives. I am committed to supporting women back to work and developing care infrastructure for them to thrive. And I’m just getting started.
Women’s experiences need to be heard. So do abortion providers and doctors. By doing so, you will hear the gutwrenching stories of those who had to choose abortion for the personal reasons they had to. Then, don’t judge them in any way.
The path to choosing abortion is grossly misrepresented by reproductive justice opponents. Furthermore, it’s morally bankrupt for anti-choice zealots to demean women who had to make the soul-crushing medical decision that sometimes concludes with ending a pregnancy.
Those on the frontlines need your help now. If you feel compelled to contribute, there are ways to help organizations that are fighting for many women throughout the nation.
The Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund helps women who live in or are traveling to, Eastern Massachusetts for an abortion: https://emafund.org/get-
Now more than ever, we need to elect progressive, pro-choice women in Texas. Annie’s List has been successfully working to do that since 2003: https://annieslist.com/donate/
I know many women–and allies–are furious about the Texas SB8 decision. So, my question to you is: what are you going to do about it?
Councilor Kristen Strezo (she/hers) is a Somerville City Councilor At-Large running for re-election in the upcoming municipal election on November 2, 2021. A single mother and lifelong activist, she is the only Somerville City Councilor who lives in affordable housing.