To Protect My Body, I Must Have a Voice – An Open Letter to Western PA Representatives

Dear Jake Wheatley, Adam Ravenstahl, Harry Readshaw, Dom Costa, Dan Frankel, Joe Preston, Dan Deasy, and Paul Costa.

Gentlemen. As you are aware, my House District (22) has no Representative in your august body. Nor is there any realistic hope that we will have a special election in April to ensure we are represented in the current year. Given my belief that our former Representative’s decision to skip many of her job duties to run for another office, we have effectively been disenfranchised for almost two years under this current plan.

Silenced, I should say for 2 years. A predominantly and important African-American community has been silenced, overlooked and disregarded for two years. Two years. A community with a significant LGBT population. Silenced. A community with very poor and vulnerable people. Rendered mute. Rendered invisible. Unheard. Hushed. Stifled.

What do we do? The redistricting map put Manchester into at least 4 different districts depending upon whom I was speaking with at the time – Mr. Wheatley, Mr. Ravenstahl, Mr. Dom Costa and Mr Readshaw (not sure how that worked).  But the court rendered that impossible.

So, I am silenced. However, you are considering legislation that impacts my body … my uterus, my free will, my constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy (that also protects my sexual orientation), my consent, my safety should I be the victim of sexual assault, potentially my health insurance costs. And my body. HB 1077  impacts my body and yet I have no voice – no one to listen to my point of view and take it into consideration when casting a vote. No one to hear me. No one who will even read my email because it’s from the “wrong” zip code.

It is ironic that my former Representative missed many votes because of pregnancy she chose to carry to full term, but chose a course of action that might strip me of my choice.

Let me be clear … forcing me to endure a sonogram is not going to change my mind about seeking an abortion. It doesn’t matter what my persona opinion is on abortion. It matters that you are investing energy into controlling women’s lives and bodies and stripping them of dignity to accomplish this end. It matters that many of my neighbors struggle to find jobs, pay rent, feed their families and gain access to health care in the looming shadow of Allegheny General Hospital. It matters that should they be able to make time in the midst of survival to address this violation of our bodies … we have no voice. No individual voice and no collective voice.

So please take note. I am opposed to this legislation. I am appalled that State Representative Harry Readshaw responded to a constituent with a vile disregard for his duty to listen to her.  You should read that post and call for an immediate investigation into his including personal information about her in what appears to be an attempt to intimidate her. That’s an egregious violation of his position. If he or his staff did this, you must be my voice.

You MUST listen to me. You owe it to me. Your House rules permitted a seated member of the House to seek other office while retaining their seat. You OWE it to me to pick up the slack. You ALL represent me. You must change your web forms to accept my zip code (15233) You must respond to me (preferably without tell me about your daughter’s miscarriages and fertility, okay?)

I challenge any of you to respond. I will forward this to your offices. I challenge you to remember that Manchester among the rest of the 22nd District should not be rendered mute while critical issues disproportionately impacting poor families are being discussed and voted upon. I challenge you to do more than process my driver’s license requests and negotiating with PennDOT on potholes in my neighborhood.

Man up. That’s appropriate since you are all men. The shenanigans to fill our seat are beneath you. Maybe not, but I’d like to think you aren’t going to permit a would-be-felon to represent me. And seriously … you should require elected officials to use FMLA like the rest of us should we choose to skip the government sanctioned vaginal rape and give birth. (I realize our bill isn’t “as bad” as Virginia, but they dropped it.)

I’ll be following this. It is stunning to me that Dan Frankel voted for this to be the Year of the Bible. It is stunning to me that Jake Wheatley doesn’t think we should fund public education. Dan Deasy scares the hell out of me. And Mr. Readshaw has lost any ounce of moral authority by his recent actions.

It’s puzzling that I end up wanting to be in Adam Ravenstahl’s district. But I feel better connecting with Perry Hilltop, Fineview and other struggling Northside communities than Castle Shannon.

So, how do I remove the General Assembly generated muzzle and speak my piece?

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