Jackie Speier, a women’s rights warrior, leaves office but does not quit the fight | Local News

An abortion saved the life of U.S. Representative Jackie Speier, enabling a decades-long career advocating for women’s rights, but she will leave office in an America where women have fewer reproductive freedoms than when she arrived. She said she intended to continue fighting outside of political office.

“I’m not going to lose my voice. As long as someone puts a microphone in my face, I’ll talk,” said Speier, D-San Mateo.

Since beginning her political career as San Mateo County Supervisor in 1979, Speier has fought for a number of issues, but two are close to her heart given their personal impact on her life: reform firearms and women’s rights.

As a congressional intern for Congressman Leo Ryan, Speier, among a team of delegates and media personnel, was ambushed while visiting the grounds of Jim Jones’ People Temple in Jonestown, Pennsylvania. Guyana. She survived and joined the fight for gun reform, which has always been contentious with financially stacked lobby groups like the National Rifle Association maintaining solid ground.

By the time Speier took office, progress had already been made in securing abortion rights through the landmark Roe v. Wade from the High Court in 1973. Decades after that ruling, Speier found herself in need of her protections.

She was serving in the California Legislature at 17 weeks pregnant and was excited to grow her family when she learned that the fetus had slipped through the cervix and become non-viable. After consulting her husband and a doctor and trying everything they could to save the baby and herself, they decided their only option was to have an abortion.

The decision to do so was devastating for Speier, who had already suffered two miscarriages, including one at 10 weeks pregnant, and experienced the fear of carrying their own dead creation inside themselves.

“The thought of having a dead fetus in my body was horrible, and people don’t appreciate the trauma associated with miscarriages and abortions,” Speier said. “Women are the vessels through which life is created, but it is also important to stress that this should be a decision taken recognizing all the responsibilities that come with it.”

About a decade ago, Speier told this story in the House in response to comments by U.S. Representative Christopher Smith, R-Hamilton, NJ. She had intended to speak on a different topic that day, when government spending was supposed to be at the heart of the discussion, but felt compelled to speak out after Smith graphically detailed a type of abortion procedures, insinuated that women cavalierly undergo abortions, and lambasted Planned Parenthood, the states’ largest reproductive health clinic, as “incorporated child abuse.”

“When I told my story on the floor of the House, it was in response to this blatant description from a colleague who knew nothing about the process,” Speier said.

Stigma, support and contradictions

Because various groups have long worked to reverse the Roe decision in the years since its publication, Speier said she expected vitriol after exposing her experience so publicly. Instead, she received an outpouring of support from women who had lived in shame after having an abortion. Some of those words of support came from friends and peers Speier had known for years.

Speier said she hopes speaking out will help reduce the stigma around abortion and reproductive care; However, just a decade after she told her story, anti-abortion activists have won a big victory. Last month, a majority of Supreme Court justices signed an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito quashing Roe v. Wade, making Dobbs v. Jackson the case to end federal abortion protections.

The decision gives state officials the power to determine the legality and parameters of access to abortion. More than a dozen triggering laws restricting or outright banning abortions have since occurred and legal challenges have been spurred, creating a quilt landscape of abortion policies from state to state.

Speier criticized the decision, calling it an outright attack on American freedoms and pointing to hints of rampant misogyny, she said, Alito laced throughout the document. It’s the one she said she didn’t really expect to come. Instead, she believed judges would take the narrower approach proposed by Chief Justice John Roberts, which would limit abortions to 15 weeks, a decision Speier said would still be wrong.

“It’s a travesty. It’s the biggest setback for women and women’s rights in the history of our country,” Speier said. “It’s a government-imposed pregnancy. .

The decision also does not match others published this session that have worked to limit government surveillance, not expand it, she said. In a blow to Speier’s other passion, the High Court struck down a century-old New York law requiring gun owners to prove they were carrying a concealed weapon.

The court’s final ruling this session also limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, seen as a blow to federal efforts to reduce the effects of greenhouse gases. greenhouse effect on the environment.

“In the space of just two weeks they have made our communities less safe by allowing people to carry guns in an open environment without regulations and they have taken away a woman’s right to determine what to do with her own body and …told the government that you can’t regulate companies that put CO2 into the atmosphere,” Speier said. “It’s an original activist tribunal like we’ve never seen.”

Consolidate solutions

As a solution around the court’s Dobbs ruling, Speier argued for the removal of the filibuster, a political procedure intended to block the proposed Senate bill that lacks at least 60 votes to end debate and approve the measurement. The procedure is not in the Constitution, has undergone a number of changes since it was put into practice, and will likely be removed if Republicans regain political power from Democrats who currently control all three branches of government, Speier said.

But acknowledging the reluctance to end the filibuster among some centrist Democrats on Capitol Hill, Speier said an exception could be included in the process to codify abortion rights with the support of 50 senators and a decisive vote by Vice President Kamala Harris.

As for the fate of a red wave in November, Speier said she also thinks the recent decisions have lit a fire among Democrats who risk losing political control. A recent poll showed an increase in support for “pro-abortion Democrats,” Speier said.

“I think there’s a feeling of wanting to go back to a time when women were barefoot and pregnant,” Speier said. “There’s so much at stake that I think people are starting to realize that.”

Speier will not stay in power long to fight within the political system. She announced her retirement in a video last year and has since backed pro Tem Assembly Speaker Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, in the race for her seat. He will face San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa in November, but both candidates have been strong supporters of women’s reproductive rights, making the race unlikely to have much impact on the issue.

His departure from Congress does not mean that the fight is not over for Speier. She has spent her career fighting for gun legislation and women’s rights and intends to continue her work wherever she goes, noting that she seeks opportunities and does not cancel. a future return to elective office.

“I think my voice carries weight on these issues, but now is not the right time to leave,” Speier said. “We will see what the future holds for us. I’ve never been a big believer in plans because my plans have always been upended by life experiences.

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