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Stop punishing women

By Alison Dreith

Originally posted on 4.24.16 The Joplin Globe

Should we punish women for having abortions?

That’s the question everyone has been talking about since Donald Trump said that yes, a woman should be punished for certain decisions she makes about her body. Of course, the American public and Missouri women were outraged at this comment. Most would agree that a woman should not be criminalized or punished in other ways for choosing to have an abortion. That’s absurd.

However, in the Missouri General Assembly, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and some of his colleagues on the "Sanctity of Life” Committee don’t find this absurd at all. How else to explain their determination to force the CEO of Planned Parenthood St. Louis, to "testify” before this committee and collect the private medical information of nearly every woman in Missouri who has had an abortion in the past six years? Yes, you read that correctly, and yes, we are talking about the 2016 Missouri General Assembly, not the Salem Witch Trials of the 1600s.

Luckily, a tentative compromise has been reached, and the spectacle of a kangaroo court appears to have been averted. I wish I could say this was an overly dramatic interpretation, but sadly it is not.

 I’m sure Sen. Schaefer would never intend to incite, nor would he condone, violence. But grandstanding about a major health care provider "trafficking in baby body parts” and throwing dead babies into dumpsters is exactly the kind of language that can push dangerous individuals to take their beliefs too far.

Dangerous individuals such as Jedediah Stout, who pleaded guilty last Monday for twice attempting to burn down a Planned Parenthood clinic in Joplin as well as setting fire to a local mosque, don’t just come out of nowhere. They emerge from an environment of over-the-top rhetoric laced with violent and incendiary language. No one should have to fear for their safety when visiting a doctor or worry that their private medical information will be made public. 

Instead of attempting to violate women’s privacy, we should be protecting Missouri women’s access to health care. We should be passing Medicaid expansion and adequately funding social services that serve Missouri’s most vulnerable. While Sen. Schaefer and the members of his committee try to turn women into criminals and endanger their health, NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri will stand with Missouri women and families and continue to demand real solutions to real problems.
Anti-abortion bill takes another step in Missouri House
By Jon Swedien
Originally Posted on 4.18.16 News-Leader
"One of the biggest problems is it is so broad. We don't know what this means in terms of what women are going to be able to do with birth control," said Rachel Goldberg, a NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri member from Springfield. 
Pro-choice groups begin attacking Schaefer with campaign
By Rachel Herndon

Originally Posted on 4.12.16 The Missouri Times

Planned Parenthood Advocates has launched, a site collecting signatures to tell Sen. Kurt Schaefer, the Senate Sanctity of Life committee chairman, that his attacks on Planned Parenthood are "shameful.” Activists donning t-shirts with the slogan also dropped off the first batch of signatures collected from the campaign to Schaefer’s office Tuesday.

"We’ve had enough of Sen. Schaefer’s schemes to punish Missourians, invade privacy, and attack our rights,” reads the website, which has gathered over 1,700 signatures as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. "When Kurt Schaefer ran for Senate, he described himself as a moderate who wouldn’t play politics. Now he’s attacking Missourians’ access to health care to score political points with extremists.

<"Sen. Schaefer is: Pushing legislation that would take vital health care services like birth control and annual exams away from thousands of Missourians. Cutting access to safe, legal abortion care in Mid-Missouri. Trying to force Planned Parenthood to turn over private patient information, violating federal law. Threatening to throw Planned Parenthood’s President and CEO in jail if he doesn’t get his way. Really? It’s shameful. Tell Sen. Schaefer: Enough is enough.”

"Senator Schaefer wants to throw a nonprofit executive in jail for refusing to break the law by handing over the private medical records of who-knows-how-many women,” said Laura Swinford, executive director of Progress Missouri. "Folks across Missouri have had enough of Senator Schaefer’s hypocritical grandstanding and witch hunts. We hope Missourians will continue to let Sen. Schaefer know they’re sick of his political gamesmanship, and that it’s time to help find real solutions to the problems women and families are facing each day in our state.”

The website also promotes the #shameonschaefer hashtag, which has been picked up by left-leaning groups such a Progress Missouri (@ProgressMO) and NARAL Missouri (@NARALMissouri), Democratic state representatives such as Rep. Stacey Newman and Tracy McCreery, and more, all hoping to gather more signatures. The website lists the first initial, last name, and city of each signatory.

Campaign supporters in the Capitol Tuesday donned t-shirts stating "Shame on Schaefer.”

"There have been quite a bit of responses that have come in quickly,” said M’Evie Mead, director of statewide organizing for Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri. Mead led the group who dropped off the first batch of signatures to Schaefer’s Capitol office Tuesday morning.

Missouri Sen. Kurt Schaefer furthers his crusade against Planned Parenthood
By Barb Shelly

Originally Posted on 4.7.16 The Pitch

At the rules committee hearing on Tuesday, Alison Dreith of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri reminded senators that the attention centered on the deceptive videos last summer had coincided with an increase in violence around abortion clinics. A shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs killed three persons.
Missouri House panel reviews abortion, fetal-tissue bills
By Associated Press
Originally Posted on 3.30.16 Joplin Globe
Alison Dreith, the executive director of the Missouri branch of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the measure could also impact access to birth control and could lead to lawsuits over the handling of embryos created for in vitro fertilization. 
Split decision turns up heat on Senate to find ninth justice for the Supreme Court
By Dave Helling

Originally Posted on 3.24.26 The Kansas City Star

Monday, a handful of liberal activists protested outside Sen. Roy Blunt’s Kansas City office, demanding a vote on a new justice. "It’s time for Senator Blunt and others to do their job, like we do ours,” said Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, a group that supports abortion rights.
Democrats to offer paid leave initiative
By Travis Zimpfer
Originally Posted on 2.11.2016 The Missouri Times 

One of the bill’s early allies is NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, and their executive director Alison Dreith noted that it was a bit of a departure from their usual advocacy of abortion rights. However, she did state that NARAL supported paid leave because it allowed women more reproductive freedom in giving women greater control over their pregnancies and hopefully by strengthening families.

"Today, we’re here on a different note, which is … changing the conversation about what reproductive freedom really means for women and when women and families choose to go through with a pregnancy that they have everything available to them to make sure those families are happy and healthy.”

Committee hears Onder’s bill on abortion regulations

 By Travis Zimpfer

Originally Posted on 1.12.2016 The Missouri Times

Despite the opposition to Planned Parenthood in the Missouri legislature, Alison Dreith, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, does not believe the legislation will become law, even though she noted that Missouri has become the third most restrictive state in the nation on abortion rights. Instead, she believes this legislation is purely political.

"I think it’s just a tool for the senator to take back to his right-wing constituency to say that ‘I did this in such an important year such as 2016 where we’re going to have a Supreme Court decision come down on half of exactly what this bill is talking about,’” she said. "He has continually made abortion legislation one of his top priorities whether it gets passed or not, and just like we saw in 2015. Thirty pieces of legislation were filed, none of them moved, and I expect to see the same this year.”

Subpoena fight sets tone for legislative debate on abortion
By Rudi Keller
Originally Posted on 1.5.2016 Columbia Tribune

Abortion rights supporters will use grass-roots action to oppose the bills, said Alison Dreith, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri.

"It is not what voters want, just Republicans pandering to the far right to come out ahead with donors or in the primary, as we are seeing with Sen. Schaefer,” Dreith said.

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