We Need Courageous Leaders Who Stand Up to Anti-Abortion Extremists
While headlines focus on politicians’ efforts to ban abortion at the state and national levels, anti-abortion forces are also working at the local level to erode abortion access—even in deep blue states such as Massachusetts. In addition to pumping massive funds into anti-abortion fake clinics in blue states, they are also working to block municipal protections for abortion healthcare by using threats and legal intimidation.
Recently, in the progressive Western Massachusetts city of Easthampton, both the mayor and city council president—both Democrats that claim to support abortion rights—voted against an ordinance to protect access to reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming care. The ordinance was supported by over 20 reproductive and trans rights groups in the community, who were perplexed and frustrated by their actions.
After a three-hour public hearing on July 5, a two-thirds majority of the Easthampton City Council passed an ordinance to ensure safe and fair access to legally-protected reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare services. The next morning, Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle sided with anti-abortion forces by vetoing the ordinance.
At an Aug. 2 hearing, the council considered a motion to override the veto. Many spoke in favor of the override. Only one person spoke in opposition: Easthampton Democratic City Committee chair Jackie Brousseau Pereira. Brousseau Pereira had not participated in any of the extensive public discussions of the ordinance over the previous year or communicated with advocates for the measure. Despite overwhelming community support for the override, Council President Homar Gomez sided with two other male councilors to uphold the veto.
How can we explain the behavior of Democratic leaders who profess to support reproductive rights but vote against reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare access?
I interviewed LaChapelle last February for a story on accountability measures for crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). I asked why she opposed an earlier version of the Easthampton ordinance. She told me she had received threatening letters from anti-abortion extremists across the country—including one soaked in blood. She gave other reasons for opposing the ordinance, but none resonated with statements and analysis of the leading reproductive healthcare organizations that support the ordinance. In fact, LaChapelle showed no desire to collaborate on modifying the ordinance to address her concerns. At the end of the day, were LaChapelle, Gomez and Brousseau Pereira intimidated by anti-abortion extremists?