December 10, 2018

Webster alum protets D.C. Kavanaugh hearings with NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri

Webster alum Allison Klinghammer traveled to D.C. on Sept. 8 with her organization NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri to protest the Kavanaugh hearings. She is the Communications Director for the non-profit, and she was there to stay on the outside and facilitate bail when her co-organizer, Alison Dreith got arrested.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say that this could be the biggest fight of our entire generation,” Klinghammer said. “I feel like people don’t recognize that, and if they are, they are thinking ‘well we’re never going to win, he’s gonna get through no matter what when I just don’t think that’s the case.”

Dreith, the Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, said when she was younger she had gotten arrested out of civil disobedience before. But now that she is much older, she was worried and nervous that she may not be able to handle it like she used to. After some thought, she decided to get arrested not for just the cause, but for the future youth.

“I have a three-year-old nephew, a nephew with a pre existing heart condition and a niece,” Dreith said, “So I just thought about what kind of world and country we were gonna leave for our children and future generations. I decided that I was gonna participate for that.”

Dreith entered the U.S. Supreme Court with a group of other protestors. She was given only 20 minutes to go through with her plans so another group would be allowed to go in as well. She spent her short time sitting and watching protestors stand up and shout their piece. But when her Senate escort started motioning her group to leave when time was up, she thought it was now or never.

“I stood up when a Democratic senator was speaking, so in a very midwestern way I said ‘sorry to interrupt you senator, you are doing a great job, but it’s already an undue burden for Missouri women to get an abortion and Judge Kavanaugh will only make that worse,’” Dreith said. “I was simultaneously being handcuffed and drug out all at the same time.”

The stakes are too high for Dreith to sit back and do nothing, she said.

“The Kavanaugh nomination will pivot [the Supreme Court] in such a conservative direction,” Dreith said. “[NARAL] knows that all of our rights that we hold dear, not just abortion rights or healthcare, but union rights and racial justice and the environment. This could be our last chance to speak out.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America

NARAL Pro-Choice America is a non-profit, grassroots organization that helps fight for reproductive health rights for women and men of the U.S. They advocate for Democratic candidates that are pro-choice, as well as work with reproductive health clinics like Planned Parenthood.

Currently, the team of three at NARAL MO is working on making calls to senators, like Claire McCaskill, to try to influence their vote against Kavanaugh. They rallied outside of McCaskill’s office on Delmar in St. Louis, and they are planning to do a sit-in as well.

Klinghammer said through their rallies, protests and arrests, it is not always a cake walk. As members of a Pro-Choice organization, both Dreith and Klinghammer have had their run with conflict. Dreith gets hate mail daily, and recently they have gotten a little more intense than what they are used to.

“We were joking because she hasn’t gotten any death threats this year,” Klinghammer said. “But she posted one letter she got because it got sent to her house. They are usually sent to our office, which is scary enough, but she got one to her actual house.”

In addition to the hate mail, they also struggle with telling new people they meet about exactly what they do for their job. Klinghammer said this is because people in Missouri are very taken back by the idea of working with what some may think is ‘pro-abortion’.

“Even now when I explain it to people, I make the choice in my head when I start the conversation off like, ‘okay, do I want to say exactly what I do?’” Klinghammer said. “I want to go around it, say I work for a non-profit, or for women’s rights. It just depends on the energy I have that day.”

This type of uneasiness that comes along with the subject of pro-choice, Klinghammer said, is why places like Planned Parenthood and Hope Clinic in and around St. Louis need clinic escorts. Klinghammer does this voluntarily when she can. Clinic escorts are people who volunteer to guide patients in and out of the clinic building. This is to distract them from pro-life protestors that may be shouting insults or handing out pamphlets.

Mariceli Alegria is a clinic escort for Hope Clinic in the St. Louis area. She said this particular clinic does not have a fence surrounding the building, so her job is especially important. Protestors will sometimes wear pink vests to disguise themselves as escorts so patients will trust them enough to approach. This, Alegria said, is problematic in more ways than one.

“There is no privacy at the Hope Clinic. It’s a really tiny parking lot, so protestors can get right in their face,” Alegria said, “On top of that, [patients] sometimes have to park off the lot, so sometimes they will get followed by the protestors.”

The National Abortion Federation said that protests at clinics doubled from 2016 to 2017. Since Planned Parenthood in St. Louis is one of three clinics in Missouri that provide abortion, Alegria is one of many clinic escorts in the city.

Along with organizing arrest in the Supreme Court house and rallying outside of senators offices in St. Louis, Klinghammer and Dreith work daily to try to influence the future of reproductive health outside of their volunteer clinic work as well. Klinghammer said her and Dreith work together to change that future.

“My boss is in the state house all the time lobbying and testifying and working every connection she can,” Klinghammer said, “it’s probably the most important part of what she does. What I do is make sure that our voices get out there, which I think is as equally important.”

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