On Being Saved in the Capitol

Republicans in the Iowa Senate want women and children to have access to healthcare and family planning in all Iowa counties. Which is a good thing. The idea of it. The need for it. Yet there is a catch. They are proposing to cut the 3 million dollars in federal Medicaid funding and implement a state run program that will not fund any medical organization that performs abortions. Planned Parenthood, despite performing abortions not funded by any state or federal taxes, would surely be dismantled under this new law.

Without the federal money needed to fund the 12 Planned Parenthood centers in Iowa, our citizens will lose essential healthcare needs. Planned Parenthood is an organization that provides healthcare for women, children and men. Family planning, cancer screening, counseling, HIV screening. Basically, healthcare working to keep people alive and well. Not pregnant without happiness.

Senate File 2 is a bill co-sponsored by 29 majority Republicans and grew closer to being approved today. It is on its way to the Senate floor. The bill can be read in full here:
https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook

The basic tenant is that the state run program will fulfill all Planned Parenthood duties, except to perform abortions. Regardless of the lack of any government funding for abortions. The truth, these Republican senators say, is that federal funding is paying for abortions because you cannot separate things like electricity used during an abortion. Yes, it is that low.

I went today to the Judicial Meeting that is basically set to abolish the 12 Planned Parenthood sites in Iowa. I wanted to add my being to the large group of Planned Parenthood supporters. We had been asked to wear pink. I don’t own pink. Anything pink. I don’t look good in pink. So, I wore maroon, grabbed my camera, a notebook, thinking I could do some piece for my political blog. These days, I haven’t been up to much except crying. But it was time to do something. Stand against the terrifying tide. Make some sort of statement of my own.

Crowds hung outside the room, babies on hips, cradled in slings, bleary eyed toddlers tired of waiting, watching the ornate ceiling, the painted vines and art deco borders. Lady liberty stood holding a globe of light. A tall man, a man near seven feet surely, in black began talking to the ladies in pink. Pink shirts. Pink tennis shoes. Pink hair bands. Pink pins. In their faces. He had a video camera hung like an abstract necklace around his neck. A light was on, the lens small, but on their expressions.

“Stop filming me!” A woman said sternly.

“Why?” He said. And then something about if you don’t want to go back to sexism then let me film you. It was odd, this harassment, among women simply standing before a closed door waiting to hear news. Odd that he would believe himself so righteous that he could violate private citizens. An overly pregnant woman with a baby in a sling, her own chubby necklace,  also in black, was rubbing the gargantuan man’s back, talking him down. Didn’t appear to be working. Not until a sheriff came in and made him leave. Women were left visibly upset. Later, one of them told me that he does this. Then he edits the video and posts them to Facebook. A true Christian.

I was against a large marble pillar, leaning, observing. A young woman standing next to me slid past and smiled. “I don’t want to be in that.”

“I don’t blame you. It’ll be viral soon.” I smiled at her. She had long shiny brown hair, pulled back a bit, beautiful bright blue eyes, skin that only comes during youth. If you are lucky. She was, frankly, stunning. Beautiful, yes, but her aura was what struck me as something I’d only hoped to have found in my life. A sweet grace, I suppose.

“I’m Lisa,” she said.

I introduced myself, “Jenni.” And smiled. A rare event these days.

She asked me if I were a writer. I had a pen out and a small notebook, jotting thoughts, visuals. Getting back in the game, like I’d said. And I told her that. “Hard times with politics, you know.”

She smiled. “I don’t really know about politics. I don’t keep up.”

I was slighly more than aghast. I did ask her if she had at least voted.

“Yes. Evan McMullen.” She smiled. I smiled. What else could I do? Bash her over the head for giving us Trump? She voted. That is all I ever ask a woman to do.

“But here you are in the Capitol.” I smiled, meaning, being politicial.

I’m a nurse. I am more concerned about healthcare for all, for women and all people. Funding healthcare for life, that is what I promote.”

I was right there on the same page. She told me she wanted to do overseas nursing. Medical work. I asked her if she’d already done so. I asked if I could write about our conversation and she was fine with that.

“I went to the Dominican Republic with my Church when I was young.”

“Like mission work?”

“Yes, I believe in helping refugees.”

“The ban is probably making you angry?”

Blank look. What ban? The sweet thing was apolitical. “Where else have you been?”

“France and Morocco.” She smiled.

“Morocco, how was that?” I was thinking culture and religion, I was thinking women’s roles and rights.

“I was in a small village. We weren’t really wanted at first at the border. So, that was hard and scary. But we got into the village and it was so nice.”

She told me it was like a “National Geographic Magazine.” I thought of the cover of the Pakistani girl years ago. Her see-through eyes. Eyes much like Lisa’s.

“Like time standing still?” I suggested.

” I went to take the blood pressure of an old man, he had one of those Turban hats, worked in fields and you know that smell.” She came at me, almost touching me. “He smelled like that. Like he just worked hard outside. The women would bring us water and head scarves it was so hot. There were little translators, and I don’t speak Arabic, but it was nice.”

“And you want to do more?”

She lowered her voice a bit. “I believe in God. And believe in the Lord will hopefully lead me in the path I am to take. So, I am hopeful.”

God. I wondered if she could just Google.

“I believe in that too.”

“In God?”

“Yes.”

“What is God like for you?”

I thought a long minute. “Interestingly, he is a he. And I believe in Jesus. I believe God is good and wants the best, but he’s kind of hard to get hold of. So, I have fate angels. I let them guide me.”

She lit up, yet seemed surprised, too. Not really the Biblical version, I supposed.

“I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as my savior and that gives me so much peace,” she felt comfortable talking with me. I don’t think we had yet figured each other out. “I am not afraid of death. I know we are all sinners. And I know that Jesus paid for my sins. So, I look to him. And cannot wait to meet him.”

“Have a good dinner?” I said. I wasn’t joking. “I mean, as opposed to a wave, a nice conversation?”

“Yes, like that.”

“I am afraid of death.” I said. Matter of factly. I have been thinking of this much lately.

“My aunt is a Lutheran Pastor and has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. So, it’s been hard on me. I have been having a very hard time with this. With my death. My mortality. I know she’s sacred. But I know she has your faith. That she will be with Jesus. Be home.”

“What is her name?”

I was thinking, did she think she knew her?” I told her my aunt’s name.

“Would you mind if I said a prayer for her?”

Yes, I started to cry. “Yes. That would be nice.”

She took her hand to my shoulder and we bowed heads, this young woman who voted for Evan McMullen, and she prayed to Jesus for my aunt’s health and for God to find me and lead me to where I needed to go. To let Jesus in my life.” I was feeling a little bit like a Duggar was mugging me – a Duggar in jeans – but it was sweet and kind and it made me feel special. I needed something so badly; even Jesus and God in the Capitol as I protested for choice.

It was at this point I was getting a bit more orientated to what was going on around me. The people in black I had naively believed were like me, not pink lovers. Since wearing maroon was a big step from my usual black wardrobe, I simply believed we were all wearing pink in spirit. I was wrong. I was beginning to see how wrong I was. Because for every bill that is not supported by us, it is supported by others. And these people, the man in black, the girl I was speaking with, who was praying over me, were not there for Planned Parenthood. They were there for everything that Planned Parenthood stands for except the right for a woman to choose. They were there to make sure all lives are born.

I told Lisa I was adopted and that choice wasn’t an easy one either. For anyone involved. Especially the birth mother.

“So, you are here for the bill?” I finally got it.

“Yes. And you aren’t.”

“Nope.”

We laughed. I still held my pen and paper. I was still a journalist. I was still okay with this. She had her rights, I had mine. But her rights – if she cared about health and humans and refugees, meant she needed to be aware politically. I told her so.

“Would you like my number in case you just want to talk. Maybe come to a service?”

I jotted her number. I was up for things. I was curious.

“I was brought up Congregational. We didn’t bring our kids to church. But I taught them spirit and God.” I didn’t tell her one is an atheist now. The other sort of noncommital. Why bother. But I did tell her how the atheist, as a toddler, came into this very Capitol and saw that painting, I pointed up the wide elaborate staircase to a mural. l and told her that when Sam had seen that at 2 years-old, he dropped to his knees, and prayed.

“He is very political now.” Our religion.

She laughed. She was a happy girl. A truly peaceful person. I wondered what was coming her way in life, and hoped it would all be good. I mentioned that going back to no abortions would create desperation again, and the death of mothers and young women. She didn’t seem to understand.

By now my pen was shaking a bit. I was tired of being neutral. I needed Jenni to speak. Not argue. Just question. I put away my notebook.

“Do you believe in the Bible verbatim?”

“I have to.”

“No loopholes?”

“No,” she smiled almost wearily. “If I don’t believe in one part, then none of it is right.”

“So, you don’t believe in gay marriage?”

“The Bible says homosexuality is a sin. My friend just came out to me with her girlfriend. I didn’t know what to do.”

“Love them?”

“It just doesn’t work that way.”

“You said, Jesus loves us all. So, he doesn’t love them? And if he died for their sins and
homosexuality is a sin, can’t they also be covered.” Like some clause? I had no idea how to
speak this way. Biblical and intolerance.

“I don’t want to get into an argument.” She said.

“No. I don’t either. I just was brought up differently. I wonder if so many of these babies you want to be born need homes, why can’t homosexuals raise them? Have their own family?”

She sort of nodded. “They do, and they are good at it.”

But the but that was left hanging was enough for me. That was about as far as we were going to go on that subject. But I still liked her. I just had to get away. I had to find my people. I found a group of pink women and told them the story.

One older woman said, “We can be Christian and believe in choice.”

“They come up and say, God loves you. And I say, I know.” Another paler pink lady said.

Yet one woman couldn’t speak. She couldn’t even look. She wasn’t laughing. She was shaking. The man in black had accosted her. She was in serious fear. Seriously violated.

I spoke today with a young woman who told me she knows nothing about politics. Does not watch TV. Who wants to do good. To help people. To spend her life in the belief we are all sinners and living in the light of Jesus, and that is just fine. That is her absolute right. But she didn’t come at me. She asked me if she could pray with me. She kept her distance. She did not cause me to shake and live in fear.

Compared to that stalking man, who obviously is as religious, I saw her work not as a bully, but a healer, and I thank her for that. I pray for her, too. That she will open her eyes to reality and not stay so rigid in a life that she can’t get past the love of others and their rights to it. That killing babies is not what is happening, and it is nothing anyone wants or condones. That she continues in healthcare and will see that it is not black and white, or pink, for that matter, that there are myriad needs and terrible situations and decisions people in heath crises need to make. Taking away Planned Parenthood is not what Jesus would do. And that is what I really want her to realize.

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