S01 E04: My Body – My Choice

Pod for the Cause host Ashley Allison, Alabama Senator Vivian Figures, and Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE), discuss the recent Alabama abortion law and the nationwide attacks on abortion overall. The conversation included how these attacks will harm people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community in addition to how we can rise up in defense of a women’s right to choose.

Pod Squad

Pheng Thao Founder & Director Man Forward
Greisa Martinez Deputy Executive Director United We Dream
Sophia Kerby Deputy Director of Reproductive Rights State Innovation Exchange (SIX)

Interview Guests

Vivian Figures Senator Alabama State Senate
Kimberly Inez McGuire Executive Director Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equality (URGE)

Our Host

voting rights, human rights, civil rights Ashley Allison Executive Vice President of Campaigns and Programs The Leadership Conference

Contact the Team

For all inquiries related to Pod For The Cause, please contact Brittany Johnson at [email protected] and Kenny Yi at [email protected].

Episode Transcript

[Music 00:00 – 00:08]

Ashley: Welcome to Pod for the Cause – the official podcast of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, where we expand the conversation on the critical civil and human rights challenges of our day. I’m your host, Ashley Allison, coming to you from Washington, D.C. 

What’s up everybody? We have the Pod Squad in the building – one of the dopest ones we’ve had so far. Like we start off every show, our Pod Squad is gonna talk about what’s happening in the world, all the pop culture, all the political issues that are affecting everyday people. 

I have an amazing lineup for you today. Today I have Pheng Thao, founder and Director of Man Forward, Greisa Martinez, Deputy Executive Director of United We Dream, and Sophia Kerby, Deputy Director of Reproductive Rights at the State Innovation Exchange, also known as SIX. Welcome to the Pod Squad everybody!

Sophia: Yes, thanks for having us!

Pheng: Thank you. Hello.

Ashley: So much has been going on since our last episode, I don’t even know where to start, but I will say these crazy Republicans are trying to take away my rights.

Greisa: Story of our lives!

Ashley: They must be stopped. Pheng, let me actually come with you ‘cause everyone always wants to say abortion is a woman’s issue, but we need everyone to understand that it’s our body, our choice. Where are you falling on this? What are you thinking when you see all those white men in Alabama and all over the country trying to take away a woman’s right to choose? 

Pheng: I think it’s disastrous because I think part of it is they’re just trying to take back control of what is actually not theirs to be in control of and in charge of in the first place. I’m just like what the hell is going on? Something needs to stop. They also think that now because they have the court that’s leaning more conservative, or is gonna be more conservative, they think that they can go back and challenge Roe v. Wade.

Ashley: Absolutely. Sophia, you have been doing a lotta work on this. Greisa, we do work on protecting everyone’s body regardless of abortion, or immigration, criminal justice reform – what is happening?

Greisa: White men keep disappointing me. First it was the Game of Thrones finale. That was a whole thing. 

Ashley: It was so whack.

Greisa: Oh, totally whack. I want all my life back that I spent there.

Ashley: All eight years.

Greisa: Yes! These white men not only in Alabama, but I grew up in Texas. It feels like the story keeps repeating itself, and they’re getting stronger. I also saw a bunch of people whipping back and saying no, that’s not gonna happen. I was really excited when people started talking about transwomen and the conversation. I had never seen something as clear and direct as that before, but yeah, white men suck.

Ashley: What about you, Sophia?

Sophia: Yes, I’m always over white men. Don’t want them in office, don’t want them, but I think also what we’re forgetting is we often hear, “Our solution is to elect more women,” but a white woman actually wrote the abortion ban policy, and a white woman is the one who signed it into law. We can’t forget the fact that it’s not just electing women into office or electing folks who might look a little bit more like our communities, it’s actually electing people who are for the people, whose actual values align with ours.

Greisa: Yes.

Ashley: That’s right ‘cause this show is for millennials of color, but also their allies, and so we have to build a movement that’s inclusive. We can’t be like the other who don’t want us to have power, don’t want anyone to have power but themselves. We have to be inclusive. Pheng, what were you gonna say?

Pheng: It’s so important to make sure that the white women that are being put in office really understand gender and patriarchy really well. Just because they’re a woman doesn’t mean that they have that whole understanding as well, too because time and again we’ve seen white women align themselves with the Republican Party just because, and nothing else, even if it goes against their own humanity or their own choices that they wouldn’t make.

Sophia: Fifty-three percent of white women elected Trump. Let’s not forget that.

Ashley: I will never forget that. Ever. Ever, ever, ever. I wanna also talk about something that most recently happened that I was disappointed – okay, look. It’s not gonna kill people, but my girl Harriet got kicked off the $20 bill. I was all about the Tubmans!

Greisa: Us millennials are trying to get off cash, but I was waiting for those – what was it, 20s, right?

Ashley: It was the 20s!

Greisa: I was like, oh my god, I’m gonna be rolling in 20s, spending them, but it’s like, can they ruin one more thing.

Ashley: Exactly. 

Greisa: The cherry on top of all the things that they’ve ruined, and they’re like, oh, we’re not even gonna let you have that.

Ashley: That’s right. There also is some really devastating news most recently. We’ve seen more children who have been losing their lives in detention facilities because of family separation. We’ve been seeing black transwomen who are being killed at higher rates. 

Greisa, you started to mention when we were talking about the abortion conversation – it’s all connected, and we have to all respect each other’s identity. What do you want our listeners to know about how they can continue to do work, and how they can have their own identity, but also integrate it into others?

Greisa: Yeah, I was really struck by the transwoman that was killed in Dallas, and she was killed in a neighborhood that is mostly immigrant, where I grew up. At the same time that you’re seeing Guatemalan children being killed in detention centers – it’s the same people. They’re trying to make money off of our bodies, they’re trying to kill us, and so I think what people can do is just be able to ensure that every time that they separate us, and they say oh no – the immigrant kids go here, the transwomen go here. I think that that does us a disservice. 

Why I love this show and also the work that we’re trying to do together to say, actually, we all deserve autonomy, we should all be able to speak out our voices, live out the lives the way that we want them to, but also the attacks are coming at the same place. Again, my Game of Thrones reference, which is the black night is coming for all of us, and we just need to unite and fight back. 

Ashley: For people who don’t know Game of Thrones, let me just give you a five second tutorial so you’re like, “What are they talking about?” For eight years, we dedicated our lives and watched season after season, and the whackest season finale ever happened last week, and it just was like, “Wait, is it over?”

Greisa: Yeah!

Ashley: There’s nothing to be done, and maybe there’s a movie coming out. Sophia, what do you wanna say about this?

Sophia: I think that when we see these onset of restrictions getting introduced and advanced, whether it’s on abortion or anything else, we have to remember when we’re criminalizing – whether it’s services or behavior – the first people who are actually punished are our folks: black women, LGBTQ folx, poor families, gender non-conforming individuals. Our communities are the very, very first to be punished. 

When we’re talking about oh, a penalty for this is XYZ number of years, the first person to get locked up, I guarantee, will be a black woman, it’ll be a trans person, it’ll be a low-income person. We really need to be aware that it’s not simply just restricting our access and our bodily autonomy, but a coordinated, systematic approach to actually continuing locking us up. 

Ashley: Pheng, I wanna go to you because in the era of MeToo, when we’re talking about violence against black and brown bodies, when we talk about violence against transwomen, around the abortion ban – you do amazing work of bringing men into the conversation about gender violence. Can you talk a little bit about what you do, and if someone never gets to experience one of your workshops, what’s a top bullet point you would give them on how to show up in these spaces?

Pheng: I’d say to men all the time is, “Go and listen.” Listen deeply. One way is to listen to your privileges as they come up, and you’re feeling defensive as you hear the stories of women and girls, and really challenge those defenses and those privileges. I always tell men, you’ve got to show up listening, and then you’ve got to then follow the leadership of women and girls in your community because they’ve got the answers, and you don’t need to be coming up with the answers. Really just follow.

Ashley: If any of those men in Alabama or in any of the states had ever spoken to someone who had an abortion, and even just heard their story –

Sophia: I’d be shocked.

Ashley: I’d be shocked ‘cause that’s just not a part of how they interact in life. We have all these things going on in our social justice movement, but one thing that I’ve noticed, and I’ve seen it on Twitter and whatnot, is that people are starving for a way to get involved, and so one of the most recent responses by a celebrity – Alyssa Milano – and the response to some of these bans was a sex strike. 

Greisa: What?

Ashley: I’m just gonna drop that on the table and let’s keep this all PG-13 ‘cause my mama does listen. Sex strike. Somebody go. 

Sophia: I will start by saying I did love her show, Who’s the Boss?

Ashley: Me too!

Sophia: I’m sure her heart is in the right place. It was intended to be something comical and joking, but it did make the implication that women don’t enjoy sex or it’s not pleasurable. It did make the implication that queer folx don’t have sex. It really was this heteronormative narrative that she continued to uplift and push out, and overall I don’t think it was really helpful.

Ashley: Pheng – sex strike, thoughts, go.

Pheng: I think we should try every strategy. We don’t know which one is gonna get us there. I told you before –

Greisa: That’s real.

Pheng: I totally get what Sophia’s saying, so I agree with that.

Ashley: Greisa – sex strike, go.

Greisa: It did remind me of – strikes like this were talked about in the Latino community all the time. I would say it was not at the scale that Alyssa Milano is calling it for or connected to the issue, but people were like, girl, if you wanna get your man in line, you need to do the sex strike. I could see. 

Ashley: You could see how it could happen?

Greisa: Yeah, I could totally see it. 

Ashley: Spike Lee had that film come out recently, Chi-Raq, that was about a sex strike on the violence in black communities, so maybe this is the new form of resistance.

Sophia: New strategies, new tactics.

Ashley: Something also that came up a couple of weeks ago – when we talk about sexuality, and gender, and how we see each other, and people’s value is Ayesha Curry, wife of Steph Curry –

Greisa: Oh yeah, I saw it.

Ashley: – talked about how she wanted attention from – let’s not just make this about a heterosexual norm. Let’s just make this a broader conversation – but how individuals yearn for attention from people that they are attracted to, and she got dragged on social media. 

Greisa: Poor Ayesha.

Ashley: I know. Steph and her, they are so sweet. Their kids seem so sweet. Pheng, what you gotta say about that?

Pheng: I think what is healthy is for people to disclose their fantasies to each other, or even their infatuation with each other. Those are healthy things to do, and to share and then to have people support you to not enact those fantasies out. It’s actually okay for people to be disclosing that: oh, I’m attracted to you or whatnot, but how do I keep myself safe, and now that you know that, let’s build in good boundaries in that. 

Ashley: Yeah, that’s right. Just because you have a desire doesn’t mean you get to force yourself on someone. It goes back to the individual’s choice.

Greisa: I also thought that she was coming from a super vulnerable place of saying, hey, sometimes I don’t feel desired, and I want that in my life, and why does Steph get to get all of that all the time. I get the criticism, but I also feel like it’s important to honor a woman being able to be publicly honest about what she was feeling. I get that all of the nuances are weird, but I want to encourage women being able to be vulnerable about the things that they’re struggling with. 

Ashley: Yeah. What about you, Sophia?

Sophia: I felt really bad seeing her – I actually had to take a Twitter break that day for how bad she was getting dragged because to go off of what you were saying, she was being incredibly vulnerable. She was being really honest and sharing her lack of feeling desired, feeling wanted, and so many of young women and girls are sexualized at such a young age, you’re also taught that that’s validation, that that’s the sentiment of who you are as a value. We’re older, we have a better understanding of ourselves, and we know that not to be true, but there’s definitely times where I’ve felt very similarly, where you’re not in a relationship, you’re not going on as many dates, and that definitely can take a personal toll. I really felt bad.

Ashley: I feel like people were trying to do the Madonna/whore thing with her, where now she’s this wife, she must be this virgin Mary mother, she can’t have a sexual identity, and then you’re either that or you’re not. If you’re not, you’re this over-sexualized creature that can’t be respected in their own identity. 

Everyone, this is the Pod Squad on the Leadership Conference podcast, Pod for the Cause. I’m joined today with Pheng Thao, the founder and Director of Man Forward, Greisa Martinez, Deputy Executive Director of United We Dream, and Sophia Kerby, Deputy Director of Reproductive Rights at SIX. I’m so glad to have them on the show. 

We just were talking about women and sexuality, men and sexuality, non-gender conforming individuals and their sexuality. How does all of what we just talked about between Ayesha Curry, the sex strike, people having autonomy over their own bodies through not being sexually harassed because of MeToo, protecting black transwomen – how does that all connect back to the fight we see happening right now around abortion in these states?

Greisa: Wow, that’s a big question. The first thing that came into my mind is I think about my little niece and me, and I think about her being the recipient of all of this news, and all of this information, and I’m planning to be able to share with her that I’m queer soon – it feels like it’s putting everything in the right place in unfortunate ways, and also in really helpful ways to be able to say that women can talk about their sexuality. 

It’s important to be able to be up front about it, but I think that when I talk to her, or when her mom talks to her about her body, her choice, the things that she should or she should not accept for people – I feel like her mom is more armed to be able to have those conversations. For me, that is a game changer for young women because I don’t remember having these deep conversations with my mom. I don’t know, I think it’s encouraging. It’s also really, really awful. 

Ashley: Pheng, I’m gonna go to you and come then back to Sophia

Pheng: Yeah, I was thinking about when you were asking that – where it went to me was just the historical context of how the medical world really performed all these sterilizations on women and girls of color, and without their knowledge, and without them knowing. Part of that is “population control,” and to leave white people again in power. That’s what I was thinking about. This isn’t something new, but that’s where abortion came out of was really that. They just made it a moral argument, and we’re like, “No, we’re not gonna go there. We really know what the root of it is really” because it’s really about ensuring that white people still are going to be succeeding and in positions of power. It’s about keeping up white supremacy.

Ashley: Sophia, we’ll close out with you. What do you think about how all this intersects and to the fight we see happening now?

Sophia: Yeah, I agree that it definitely is shifting the conversation to a more open one. If you Google abortion now, I can only imagine the number of hits you’ll get on Google. It wasn’t too far long ago where you could not get a presidential candidate to say the word “abortion.” 

Ashley: You’re right about that.

Sophia: Now, between the 40,000 or so candidates we have, almost all of them – I think maybe two only have not publicly come out in saying they would support protecting Roe, and a handful of presidential candidates actually have concrete plans that they’ve laid out. I think it’s definitely a shift in moving towards being more of a policy priority for Democrats. 

Ashley: Pheng, Sophia, Greisa, thank you so much for joining me on the Pod Squad today. Look, we were supposed to talk about abortion, and we went all around the mulberry bush and then came back ‘cause that’s what we do on the Pod Squad. We talk critical civil and human rights issues for everyday people. Coming up, we have a great conversation with Senator Vivian Figures, a member of the Alabama Senate, and Kimberly Inez McGuire, Executive Director of Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, also known as URGE. Don’t go anywhere. 

[Music 16:08 – 16:40]

Ashley: Welcome back to Pod for the Cause. Today we are talking about a woman’s right to choose, and the abortion ban spreading across our country. We have two special guests today with us: Senator Vivian Figures, member of the Alabama Senate since January 1997, and Kimberly Inez McGuire, Executive Director of Unite For Reproductive & Gender Equity, also known as URGE. Welcome to the show, ladies.

Kimberly: Thank you. Thank you so much for having us.

Senator Figures: Great to be with you.

Ashley: We’re gonna jump right into it. I’m so thankful that both of you took talk to talk to our listeners. There’s a serious crisis happening in our country, and you both work on reproductive rights in various ways. Kimberly, I wanna start with you. Can you just give us a state of play of what is happening in our country around reproductive health?

Kimberly: Absolutely. First, a little context: while the abortion bans that have been spreading across the country are absolutely headline news today, it’s important to remember that actually since about 2010, there has been a rising tide of restrictions. We have seen more than 400 new state restrictions on abortion since 2010. 

It’s been getting worse and worse, and this year, they finally stopped pretending to even care about women, and they just took off their masks and exposed themselves for who they are, which is extremists who wanna ban abortion completely. We are now up to, I believe, eight states is the count, although Missouri literally just passed another one. We are seeing state after state pass total bans on abortion.

Ashley: Senator Figures, you are in the hotbed of the Confederacy, basically, in Alabama, and you are fighting as hard as possible to protect women’s rights. Can you tell me what is happening in your home state of Alabama?

Senator Figures: It’s amazing that you would say that this started – that they took the gloves off starting in 2010 because that is when we received a supermajority of Republicans in our state legislature in both the Senate and the House. It’s just been this surge. What they started with – they’ve been very strategic. They started with the judicial system in taking over the courts, and then they went through the legislature, and then even in other levels of government. They’re on a mission, they have a plan, and it’s a strategy. I tell you, if we don’t wake up, especially women around this country, we’re gonna find ourselves back in the ‘30s or maybe even the 1800s because I think that is where they’re trying to go. 

It’s so amazing, even as I sit in committee meetings – I’m the third senior ranking Senator in our body of 35 Senators now, the longest-serving female Senator in Alabama. This is my 23rd year, and it’s amazing how now it seems that they’re even trying to cut my voice off in committee, or cut me off, but they don’t cut the men off. Of course I call them out every time. It’s this amazing uproar of disrespect for women and taking away our rights in every way they can, while they’re also trying to kill public education as well. 

Ashley: Let us have to come down to Alabama if they trying to cut you off. We don’t take that on Pod for the Cause. 

Senator Figures: You know I’m handling it, Ashley. You know I’m handling it.

Ashley: I know you are, I know you are ‘cause you are a powerful woman. They’re passing all these bills across the country. You talked about how they have a supermajority. We’ve already talked about census on our show, and how when the count is off, the way districts are cut in a state is directly impacted. Oh, when was the last census? 2010. The new districts were cut. You talked about the state court, and how they’re taking on the judiciary. What happens if this goes to the Supreme Court? Could Roe really be overturned? Kimberly, what are we facing here?

Kimberly: Yeah, there is a real concern with the ascension of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, with basically the theft of a Supreme Court seat from Barack Obama. What we have seen is a court where the power has now tipped against legal abortion. Five of the justices do not believe that there is a right to legal abortion in this country, and so they’re absolutely – the entire reason why those who oppose abortion want these bans to go to the Supreme Court is because they think that those people are their friends, and they think that they have the votes to see Roe fall.

That is the most extreme outcome, the most extreme possible scenario. Even if that doesn’t happen, even if it’s severely undermined, or even if these abortion bans are struck down, which they may be – it’s a big question mark. A lotta folks are asking about Roberts. They’re not sure where he might land, but even if these laws are struck down, we still have the Hyde Amendment, that stops low-income people from getting abortions. We still have a whole regime of cruel, unnecessary restrictions on abortion. 

Today it’s hard to get an abortion in Alabama. They wanna make it worse, and it could get worse. Roe could fall, but even if we keep Roe, Roe hasn’t been working for folks of color and poor folks for a very long time.

Ashley: Senator Figures – this bill passes. What does that mean for your constituents? These bills are passing, what does that mean for the everyday folks across this country? We’ll start with you, Senator.

Senator Figures: The one that passed in Alabama a couple of weeks ago – it is so frightening because this bill is so ambiguous. It is left open for so many different interpretations that I am so afraid that when it goes into effect in mid-November, we’re going to have doctors who are going to hesitate giving certain care to certain women for certain problems for fear that they just may be causing an abortion while taking care of their patient. They’re going to hesitate because they don’t want to spend 99 years in jail. That is the penalty for the doctors for anyone giving an abortion – 99 years. 

The thing is, is that you put this woman’s health in jeopardy. It’s just bad all around, and what they have done – and especially for poor women. One of the amendments that I offered was for them to expand Medicaid, and as you know, they did not. In Alabama, they left. $1.3 billion on the table along with 30,000 jobs –

Ashley: Shameful.

Senator Figures: We all know it was because it was President Barack Obama’s initiative. They still have that hatred in their hearts where they’re not going to do it. I tell them they need it – the expansion of Medicaid – because this was going to affect poor women and low-income women for sure because people are still going to get abortions. I just don’t think that it’s going to stop. 

It’s been happening from the beginning of time, which is why and how Roe vs Wade came about, so that women would be able to get them safely and legally because the ones with means are definitely going to still get them. They are going to send theirs – and what’s so sad – a lotta the people who are for this, and some of them who are voting for it, will be able to send their own somewhere where they’re legal and safe.

Kimberly: Senator Figures, I just wanna thank you for bringing up what we know is true, which is: as long as people have experienced pregnancy, some people have wanted to end those pregnancies, and sought ways to do so. No, this bill will not “end” abortion in the state of Alabama. For people who need abortions, one of three things will happen. Some of those people won’t be able to get the care they need. We’re talking about people who are forced to be pregnant, who do not want to be pregnant. What a violation of their dignity. That’s one. 

The second thing is some people are going to turn their lives upside down to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to get care in a city that they’ve never been in, to fly across the country. We’re talking about people who don’t have paid sick time off work, who may not have childcare, and yet who are gonna have to make a cross-country trek to get an abortion.

Thirdly, some people will decide to end a pregnancy on their own, and they’ll seek ways to do so. There is the abortion pill. It is a safe method. Folks right now are finding ways to use the abortion pill, but the other problem that will happen is – we know ‘cause it’s already happening – some people will be arrested and put in jail for ending their own pregnancies. That’s already happening.

Ashley: And we know who would be the first one to get arrested and put in jail. It’s gonna be people of color. 

Senator Figures: What about the women who don’t know that they are pregnant? What if they did use protection and didn’t know that it broke or whatever? They didn’t know or have the thought to get that morning after pill or the abortion pill. Then they go on to get so far along by the time that they find that they’re pregnant, then they find out they’re pregnant. Then they can’t get the abortion. It’s going to cause all sorts of problems.

Ashley: Kimberly, I know you do a lotta organizing. You all have young people across the country. Can you talk a little bit about what people can do, how they can plug into your network, how they can support elected officials like Senator Figures in Alabama, who are fighting the hardest fight ever to stop these bans?

Kimberly: Absolutely. First and foremost, young people, folks of color, black women, queer and trans folx – we have been fighting these abortion bans since day one. In 2018, young people led the fight against the ballot initiative that in many ways started the slide in Alabama towards this newest law banning abortion. This past spring, young people were on the rope lines of the Georgia legislature. We crowded the halls of the Ohio House when they were passing their abortion ban. Literally all over the country, young people have been engaging in the Democratic process, and frankly, cheering for folks like Senator Figures, who are looking to do the right thing.

What I would ask for folks who are looking to getting involved – first, you can follow us at urge.org, follow us on social media, get connected to the organizations within your community. If you’re in Alabama, if you’re in Georgia, we’d love to work with you in URGE. If you’re in Louisiana, reach out to Women with a Vision. If you’re in Pennsylvania, reach out to New Voices. There are organizations across this country, many of the them led by black women, many of them led by queer and trans folx, who have been in these trenches for years trying to protect reproductive health, expand abortion access. These are the organizations we need to be supporting, and these are the organizations that mobilize to support good legislation and to fight bad legislation. 

Ashley: Everybody, you’re listening to Pod for the Cause today, and we are talking about a woman’s right to choose. It is our body, and it is our choice. I’m joined today with Senator Figures, a member of the Alabama Senate, and Kimberly Inez McGuire, the Executive Director of URGE. Senator Figures, this bill passed, and people elected you, but people also elected those jokers who passed this bill. 

Senator Figures: Amen.

Ashley: What has been the crying-out from the women, the men in this country? Have you heard from your constituents?

Senator Figures: Everything happens for a reason, and I try to find the silver lining in every dark cloud. The silver lining in this one, ladies, is that women are fed up, and they are ready to take to the streets, they’re ready to take to the polls, if you will. We have got to find people to run in these seats, and unfortunately, with the way we are with the 2010 census in terms of where our lines are right now – I don’t know what we will be able to do until those lines are actually changed so that we can have more representation. 

It’s not just Democratic women. This is not just a partisan effort, although it is the Republican Party that’s pushing it now, but you have both Republicans and Democrats who are outraged by this bill that just passed in Alabama. Not only that, it’s not just women. It’s men, but they know the only way to change these types of things from continuing to be done is to change the people who hold these seats. What I have noticed is that they’ve marched lock and step with whatever that Republican agenda is. You could see some of them, that they don’t want to go a certain way, but then they end up doing it. 

We only had four of them to vote for the exceptions, which is incest and rape. This is another bad part of that bill, is that it did not allow for the exceptions of incest and rape. We only had four Republican men to vote for that, but then they turned around and voted for the bill. Until we can galvanize people to run for these seats – and I don’t just say elect women to these seats. We have to elect the right kind of women to these seats, and they’re probably gonna be Democratic women, if you will because it was a Republican woman who sponsored this bill in the House, and the other four or five Republican women in the House signed on as co-sponsors. 

Then it went to a Republican female governor, who could have put an Executive amendment on there, which I asked her to, and she ignored. She could have put at least those two exceptions on that bill, and she did not.

Ashley: You asked and you didn’t get a response?

Senator Figures: Oh, I did two ways. I called, left a message for her, told her assistant exactly what I wanted. I didn’t just call and say, “Call me back.” I told her what I wanted. Then I wrote it on my letterhead and had it hand-delivered to her. She got the message, and she read the letter prior to her signing that bill. I haven’t gotten a call back yet.

Ashley: Governor, we waiting. That’s what we call receipts in this day and age. We got our receipts. You know what I’m saying? The image of these older, white males, particularly who voted for this in Alabama – you have to go to work with them again. Do you talk to them? I struggle with sometimes having conversations with people who don’t see eye-to-eye with me. I’m a work in progress, but how do you do it? Are you in conversation with them? Are you trying to push them? What is the work?

Senator Figures: You do, and then you say things whenever you can. I was in a committee meeting, and they wanted to give a bonus to the retired educators in the budget. This one Republican senator says, “Well, that’s just a gift. A giveaway. That is just being fiscally irresponsible.” Then I said, “Excuse me? From the colleague who just voted in a bill that’s going to potentially cost this state millions of dollars in legal fees on a bill that they know is unconstitutional?”

Ashley: Hit ‘em.

Senator Figures: Is he talking to me? Is she talking to me? I said, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” I have the cordial relationship with him, actually because we disagree on this issue, but then there are other issues that you have to continue to work with them, so you work with people where you can, but as I said – I don’t like to waste my energy being mad ‘cause it’s not going to accomplish anything. I wanna put my energy forth in starting my PAC to help women, to train them, to find them, and help them, and give them the tools and resources they need to win some of these seats.

Ashley: Kimberly, I’m gonna close out with you. Do we see any more bills like this on the horizon in other states? Should people be directing their energy? I don’t live in Alabama, but I’m gonna do whatever I can to support Senator Figures and other folks. My home state is trifling in one of these bills too – Ohio – but do we see anything else on the horizon on this issue?

Kimberly: Yeah. One of the ways in which Alabama has set a terrible example that other folks is following is that last year Alabama had a ballot initiative that made it so that abortion is no longer a constitutional right in the state of Alabama. We are seeing states popping up across the country who are doing this for two reasons.

One, it’s a way to clear the path for some of these extreme abortion bans, but it is also to set up effectively a trigger so that if we lose Roe v. Wade, we can see maybe up to half of the country where abortion is no longer legal. This happened in Alabama, it happened in West Virginia. These are often done on the ballot with a lotta misinformation. One is expected to be coming down the pike in Kansas. These are popping up across the country. This is the time to be informed. 

You mentioned your home state of Ohio – the reality is, every single one of us has work to do in our own community because I also don’t want this idea out here – people think, oh, that’s Alabama. People start talking trash about the South. You know what? Every single state in this country has an abortion restriction that they need to get rid of. Actually, I think Oregon might be the only one that doesn’t have any, but literally across the state we have bans on abortion coverage, we have laws that target young people. There is something you can do in your own state to improve access to abortion, and I think folks need to start there. 

Ashley: Everybody, you’re listening to Pod for the Cause. I’ve been joined today by Senator Vivian Figures, member of the Alabama Senate, and Kimberly Inez McGuire, Executive Director of URGE. You need to get educated, you need to get counted on that census, you need to vote, and you need to stand up for women’s right to choice. Thank you and continue to listen to Pod for the Cause.

Coming up, I’ll hit you with some real talk during our hot takes segment, where I get a few things off my chest in three minutes or less.

[Music 33:51 – 34:11]

Ashley: Welcome back to Pod for the Cause. We’ve been talking about a woman’s right to choose and the abortion bans happening today. Between our Pod Squad, and Senator Figures and Kimberly Inez McGuire, I have a few things to say. 

I fundamentally believe that people should be able to choose what happens to their bodies, whether it be how they identify on the gender spectrum or if they have access to abortion or not. It is their body and their choice. Today, rather than trying to convert pro-life believers on abortion, I wanna talk to the hypocrisy of the politicians who support these abortion bans.

Either politicians value life or they don’t. The argument of pro-life politicians is that every life deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and I would agree. Shouldn’t Flint have clean water? Don’t trans lives matter? Don’t black lives matter? Do the politicians really believe that every life deserves dignity and respect? 

To them I say: no you don’t because you really aren’t standing up for life. You in Alabama are fine with your prison conditions to be cruel and inhumane. You in Missouri are fine to use military force against nonviolent protestors. You in Ohio are fine stripping working class union members of their rights. You in Mississippi, you will not keep families together in sanctuary cities. And you in Georgia will execute men and women in our criminal justice system.

You are not working for the dignity of life. You are working to control life. You want to have a say in how people live their lives, and you wanna ensure that you will never lose power in your life. You, Mr. and Mrs. Pro-life Politician, you are trying to take our right to vote, incarcerate us, deport us, and trying to challenge Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. 

You wanna have power over women, power over people of color, power over this country, but guess what? Women, immigrants, queer folx, people with disabilities, and everyone else you wanna marginalize has your number. To you, we say: our body, our choice. Our life, our choice. We will rise up together and stop you. To join this effort, visit civilrights.org and together we will win.

[Music 36:44 – 36:52]

Ashley: Thank you for listening to Pod for the Cause, the official podcast of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Leadership Conference Education Fund. For more information, please visit civilrights.org, and to connect with me, hit me up, @podforthecause on Twitter. Be sure to subscribe to our show on your favorite podcast app and leave a five star review. Until then, for Pod for the Cause, I’m Ashley Allison, and remember, a cause is nothing without the people. 

[Music 37:25 – 38:00]