S3:13 - Action Lefty: What Comes Next
3:22AM Jul 18, 2022
Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission because victory for Louisiana requires you.
I'm your host, Lynda Woolard. We're on summer break, but we're still turning out mini-pods in the meantime. We'll return to regular episodes when our next podcast drops.
This week, I wanted to call your attention to our new YouTube channel. We'll continue to add content there. For the moment, we've got a video from an advocacy zoom we did last week, based on a piece I wrote for the Bayou Brief in response to the overturn of Roe by the Supreme Court. We had Deon Haywood, Executive Director of Women with a Vision speak about what's happening in the Reproductive Justice space in Louisiana. We had State Representative Mandie Landry address what's been going on with our legislature and in the courts. And I spoke about ways Louisianans can contribute to Democratic wins in the midterms such that we can restore our federal protections for the people of our state, which have shielded us for years, and which we desperately need back.
When I asked Deon Haywood, how we could support reproductive rights and justice efforts in our state, this was her reply.
I'm glad that everybody wants to jump in. I would think that those of us to do reproductive health and reproductive justice work in the state of Louisiana would appreciate resources. And when I say resources: donations.
But also the other way you can support is you know how we have that saying "education starts at home," it's time to no longer have these conversations with just the people you think you can have them with. It's time to talk to each other, it's time to start in your home, starting with your community. And I've been saying to people, a lot of people can't seem to wrap their head around the whole idea of abortion. But as you laid out, when you started our conversation, we're not just talking about abortion anymore. We're talking intersectionality, we're talking all of our rights are kind of laying on the line.
What I would like people to not do, let me start with the not do: please don't send Women with a Vision, or any other org that's doing this work right now, messages about purchasing abortion pills, Plan B, taking people for rides. It's not safe for us. And it's not safe for you. And as much as we want to talk about like an underground railroad, first we need to map out some things with lawyers, because it's just not safe. And Jeff Landry has told us that he will seek us out. The State Police has said that they will use every bit of surveillance they have to do so.
And this is when I want to help people understand the idea of criminalization. It's not just I get you and you go to jail. It's a long term strategy. We saw this before. The right has used this strategy before in the war on drugs. If many of you could think about what the 90s was like for the war on drugs, we saw things like entire communities, and mainly communities of color, completely decimated. And two ways that Black men were removed from the community, and women but mainly Black men, was either by death or prison. It is my fear and my experience that this is what we're going to see. It's going to be that kind of hunt again. And so before we jump in, and we've gotten messages through Instagram, we've had people stop by our office, we want people to help, but there are ways to do it without all of us putting each other at risk.
And for Women with a Vision, people may remember or not, but we have had an arson attack before. And so we know firsthand that the other side doesn't play fair. And we're not always talking about politicians, we're talking about the people that follow this ideology that they share. And so the first thing is, pick one, pick one of us, pick all of us, and support. It can be $10, $20, whatever you can do, because then it supports the work that we do. And also for those of us who distribute Plan B like Women with a Vision and ReJAC, it allows us to be able to continue to do that while we can, to support people with the resources that they need to be healthy and well.
So that's the first place you can start. But the other place is if you are a person that understands what's happening in this moment or you're willing to learn what's happening in this moment, please teach people in your community, reach out and say, "Hey, what do you think about what's happening? What can we do?" And what can we do, you talked about it, midterms are going to be important. But we can't just vote for people. I want foot on neck. I want my foot and your foot, our hands around Democrats necks, it's time for y'all put your neck out for us like we do feel every time we show up and vote. And that's what we do. And so I'll just leave it at that. But we have to be safe in this moment as well.
When I asked representative Mandie Landry what's possible at the state level through legislative actions, and because she's also a lawyer who works on abortion issues, what's possible in legal actions? She had this to say.
What's possible at the legislature? What's going on? That is intimately involved with the legal situation right now. So the day Roe came out, as you know, we, Louisiana, had a trigger ban and has a new trigger ban we passed this year by Senator Katrina Jackson. And so Roe came out and those bans had a very clear mechanism that abortion be banned if Roe was overturned, so they closed that day.
And then Monday morning, Ellie and some other attorneys went down to CDC in New Orleans and filed a request for TRO, temporary restraining order, and they got it. And I was surprised, everyone was kind of surprised because it was a Hail Mary. I'm sure Jeff Landry, no relation to me, was also surprised. And what they did, it's legally correct. So I think their argument will win out but you know, politics will get involved. But what they said was that because we have multiple trigger bands now, so the latest one did not supersede the older one, and it specifically said it doesn't supersede, I don't know why. So because they have multiple trigger bands, they have conflicting provisions. So in particular, for doctors and clinics, you don't really know what the law is, what the penalty is, when does it kick in. They're poorly written laws. Let's just put it that way. And they said that this violates the clinics' and the doctors' state constitutional right to due process, because you can't be held in violation of a law if the state doesn't tell you what the law is or isn't clear about how you're going to violate it. At least that's what it's not supposed to do. So they got the TRO from Judge Robin Giarrusso. And that means the clinics are now open. All three clinics in the state are open now.
We are still advising people, if you're a new patient and need an appointment, you might want to make an appointment out of state. You can go to Pensacola right now. Florida is expected to close their clinic soon. But they got a reprieve recently. So they have their several clinics in Florida and Pensacola is the closest. And I think one of my judicial bypass from a few weeks ago decided to go to Florida. So that's open, but they're open right now. There's a hearing Friday for a permanent injunction, which would indefinitely essentially kick out the trigger bands, and the clinics would stay open. If that happens, I think that the legislature will call itself back into a special session.
So a lot of y'all are familiar with the legislature and some of the special sessions we've had. Some are necessary, like when we were shut down for COVID and we had to do the budget. So we came back. Some are completely nuts, like when the Republicans wanted to strip the governor of his executive powers and end the COVID Emergency. This, they would do in a second. They would call us back and pass a new trigger ban. And probably this one would be more legally clear cut, I guess and have input from actual lawyers and not from Right to Life. Right to Life writes all these bills. And it was the governor's office directly who said to me that they're the ones running the show and all these meetings and everything that happens. They have extreme power.
So I think even if we get the injunction this Friday that we'll have a special legislative session probably sooner rather than later. Even if that doesn't happen, we go in in April and they might clean it up then. I do think whether we go into special session this year or in our regular session next year, I think that there is room for a rape and incest exception. I think that now that Roe has been overturned, this stuff isn't theoretical anymore. I think a lot of my colleagues, even though only one of them or two of them voted for a rape and incest exception, now that it's real, I think they might. Only about 20% of people from Louisiana support an abortion prohibition with no rape or incest exception. So I think we can do something like that and maybe expand on life of the mother and expand on a physician's discretion.
A major issue right now is doctors are freaked out, understandably, they don't want to go to jail. But they also don't want to kill their patient by waiting too long. They're responsible for mother and baby. And their obligation is to their patients and to make sure that mom makes it through, or that parent makes it through. And they're freaked out that they might have to let their patient get all the way on death's door before they can do something, because that's kind of what the law says. So I think that, whether it's this year or next year, we'll get some more clarity on those issues. I'm really hoping.
And a lot of us are starting to work on, we need more sex education. We have an abstinence-only based sex ed in this state, it's easily opt out. We have the second highest teen pregnancy rate. They don't know, the youngest ones don't know really how they got pregnant. They don't understand how fertile they are. They don't really know what happens when you get your period. For the little kids, if they don't know the names of their body parts, they can't report abuse. If they don't know good touch and bad touch and that sort of thing. They can't report abuse. So I think as bad as all this is, that's going to open the door to some more of those conversations so that we can work on some of those numbers.
I learned early in my political career in Louisiana, that while we're working to organize our own state, sometimes the best use of our energy is to engage at a national level. In fact, part of my own political origin story was the realization in 2007, that in order for the Gulf South to recover from Hurricane Katrina, we needed an ally in the White House. So I went to work for Barack Obama. And on both of his presidential campaigns, Louisiana was a partner state, focusing our organizing efforts on Florida. Louisianans could play a similar role this year, because the need to reel in this radical Supreme Court could not be more critical for the people of our state. Here's a snippet from my presentation on the Zoom.
This is about more than abortion rights, we're fighting simultaneously for individual freedom, personal privacy, human rights and democracy. And while we need to have a longer conversation about building our movement, our infrastructure and our power in the state, the emergency of this moment, calls for us to invest in the Senate races of the 2022 midterms. Louisiana, I'm sorry to tell you, is not likely to be one of the seats we pick up this year. Now, that doesn't mean we don't want a good Democrat in every race. That doesn't mean we don't get out and vote for them, and honestly vote for whichever Democrat you want. Because we just need to get enough votes across the board to keep Kennedy under 50%. That'll spark a runoff. And if that happens, the eyes of the nation will be on Louisiana will be the last race happening for this year. So everyone will be looking at us and we can talk again at that time if that happens.
Charlie Cook from Shreveport is the Cook from The Cook Political Report. So he might know a thing or two about Louisiana. The Cook Political Report rates Louisiana as an R+12 solid Republican state in that Senate race, basically saying any Democrat running against Kennedy would have a hard time. Similarly, efforts to add a second majority-minority district to our congressional delegation have stalled, likely leaving us with five Republican Representatives and one Democratic Representative. That situation continues. There's still people fighting to change that. If that changes between now and and us getting to vote, we'll revisit that as well.
We do have some consequential races we know are happening in Louisiana this year, like the Public Service Commissioner races. There's two of them up. There's judges across the state, school board members across the state where we see a lot of these Q anon conspiracy people running for those seats, and that's where we've got those CRT fights and the book banning that's going on. Police chiefs have so much impact over people's lives. And particularly in some of those spaces that some of the laws are coming down from the Supreme Court, the police chiefs can have some big control over that. So these are races we really ought to be looking at and considering every time we vote. There are other races that Supreme Court decisions will be important in, like D.A. races or the Attorney General next year, but those are in future years. These are the ones that are happening this year. But let's make sure we're supporting our local Democrats.
And I'm going to always ask people to check their registration. You can check it at IWillVote.com. You can update your registration by going there.
But I'm going to talk to you about what strategically we need to do this year to halt the radical actions of this Supreme Court. At the federal level, we have to keep the house I'm counting on Nancy Pelosi and the DCCC to do the work of that for the most part, because it's really hard to identify a handful of congressional races and know what the local politics is enough to impact them. Not impossible, just a little hard to do. We know the importance of this though, because if we get a Speaker McCarthy - or worse - a Speaker Scalise - or worse - some Q Anon speaker... any of that is possible. We'll have endless hearings on Hunter Biden; we'll have an impeachment of Joe Biden, for what? Who knows, they'll find something. And they'll end the work of the January 6 Committee, which as we know, is really important work. There was an attempted coup at our last presidential election, and states are feverishly working to try to figure out a way to make legal what they tried to do illegally last time. We need some folks there to hold this crew accountable. So we need to keep that January 6 committee in place.
But the Senate is really a place where we can have some impact. And we know there are a handful of races that we can focus on, that can really make a difference. We need two more Senate seats in order to never have to think about Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema again. If we have two more pro choice, Democrats who are willing to adjust the filibuster, and hopefully expand the Supreme Court, we can do a lot. We can pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act; we can pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act; we might be able to get DC as a 51st state. And we can codify Roe.
Although those things are really important and of course, really important to the conversation that we're having right now, we do not want to give authority over Supreme Court justices back to Mitch McConnell. We've seen what he does with that power.
I cannot stress the importance of this midterm fight enough. If Republicans take control of Congress, they've already said they want to pass a national abortion ban. If Democrats can hold the House and expand the majority in the Senate, we can not only codify the protections granted by Roe, we can adjust the filibuster and most importantly, we can reform the Supreme Court. There are a handful of options for accomplishing that. But my belief is the best course is expansion of the court. Once considered a radical idea, expanding the court is tame by comparison to the extremism of the current court.
I've identified in the advocacy zoom four Senate seats we need to work to hold this year and five Senate seats that are possible to pick up. We need a net two pro-Roe, pro-filibuster reform Democrats in the Senate to, quite bluntly, save democracy. You can contribute to that happening. I want to make sure folks appreciate the precarious moment we're in.
While Louisiana Lefty is devoted to organizing our own state, that's a long term project that requires real plans, significant resources, and hard work over many years. To protect the people of our state, we sometimes have to look at the bigger picture, think more strategically, and put our energy where it will count the most. While the horserace media, conventional wisdom and cynics on the left will tell us Democrats are going to lose this year, I would like to counter that the trends are in our favor.
In 2018, we saved democracy by flipping the House in the highest turnout midterm ever. In 2020. We saved democracy again by dumping Trump, with Joe Biden getting more votes than any president ever. In 2021 we denied Mitch McConnell the majority leader position in the Senate by helping to elect two Democratic senators from Georgia. And that's resulted in us being able to seat Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, more judges to the federal bench than either Obama or Trump, and more Black women justices than any other president.
We need one more big push to hold the house and get a true Senate majority in 2022. And then we must continue to mobilize to demand the changes we've worked to put Democrats in office to make. We have a hard road ahead. But we create our own hope through organizing. And we can do this.
If you're interested in hearing a more detailed outline on all three of the issues discussed on this podcast. I'll post the links to connect to our guests, as well as to the full advocacy zoom recording in the episode notes. I'll also post the original article I wrote for the Bayou Brief. And for those who just want a quick cheat sheet on who to lend their support to in these winnable Senate races this year, I'll have that in the episode notes, too.
Thank you for listening to Louisiana Lefty. Please follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Thank you to Ben Collinsworth for producing Louisiana Lefty, Jen Pack of Black Cat Studios for our Super Lefty artwork, and Thousand $ Car for allowing us to use their swamp pop classic "Security Guard" as our Louisiana Lefty theme song.