Last Friday night I had the opportunity to be part of a small meeting with Congressman Tom O'Halleran (who represents CD-1 which includes Flagstaff). I joined about a dozen members of Together We Will Northern Arizona to ask him the questions that most concern our group.
Honestly, I am still processing our meeting. For the purposes of this post, I will just share what was discussed regarding Planned Parenthood and the general ideas of Resistance and Persistence (and a little bit of "what the heck are we supposed to do now!").
We discussed our questions ahead of time and tried to divvy them up so we could be efficient in the hour we had been allotted. A group member named Kara asked about Planned Parenthood and protecting access to reproductive healthcare.
In responding to Kara, Representative O'Halleran shared the following responses:
- "Normal" stories about the services provided by Planned Parenthood are not being well-represented in the press.
- He said it needs to be amplified to Congress that every woman is entitled to access.
- During the health care debate, he did bring real stories to the floor.
- There is a unified caucus that is defending funding for Planned Parenthood and he is a part of it.
- In the budget battle, he is working hard to protect funding for PP. DJT and his people want it out. Moderates are listening, especially those up for re-election in 2018. They are well aware that they have a fight on their hands and we have to keep up the pressure!
When asked what we can do to help, Rep O'Halleran said that they need more stories to share. He said they could be sent to his office via email (see his website at https://ohalleran.house.gov). They are looking for stories that highlight women accessing care through Planned Parenthood and what it has meant to them (emotional stories with some meat are best). (See our Month 4 post for more detailed information on Planned Parenthood if you haven't read it yet).
Now I have to stop for a moment and mention that we fell in love with Mrs. Pat O'Halleran, Tom's wife. He calls her "the boss" and she is extremely down-to-earth and passionate about many of the issues that we care about. While I was listening to Tom's words, I was also watching Pat's body language and facial expressions. By the end of it, I realized that a lot of the trust that I felt in the Congressman was in large part because his wife was in the room being a part of the conversation. I suspect that Pat is a secret weapon in the O'Halleran campaign!
We talked about Resistance and Persistence, and what those now-capitalized words have come to mean since Inauguration Day. We are really making things difficult for DJT and his cronies. There is absolutely no doubt that it is working. The Congressman said that constituents have thanked him for stopping the repeal of the ACA. His response.... I did nothing. The PEOPLE put unmistakeable pressure on the Congress to the point that DJT could not get the votes. Again, the Resistance and Persistence is working.
"If you don't keep up with the persistence and resistance, nothing you have done in the last 4 months will matter," said Rep. O'Halleran. This struck a nerve with me. We've been working so hard, and some days I feel so tired... but we cannot stop or let up. Marathon, not a sprint. Marathon, not a sprint. We need more runners in the race.
We have to get out the vote in 2018 and 2020. It's likely the only way to stop the madness. We have opportunities in the House and Senate, but each race will be a battle. Rep O'Halleran is in a seat that will need defending.
Ultimately to affect change, and protect the organizations that we highlight in 48months (like Planned Parenthood) we must resist, persist and vote. We must care for our fellow humans and put our money and our time where our mouths are. This is what we are trying to accomplish here.
Throughout our meeting, I was taking notes as quickly as I could on my phone. Some snippets that I wrote:
Let them know.
There is nothing greater than making sure the voice of the people is loud and heard.
Keep up the pressure.
Go after them.
Ready to join the race?