When I think of May 17, the day Missouri’s legislative session ended, two images come to mind.
The first is an image of battle, of allied legislators making a last stand, silencing the bustle of the chamber with stirring speeches and personal appeals, attempting to stop Missouri’s unconstitutional and dangerous abortion ban. Watching them I remember the tears that flowed freely from many of their eyes.
That image is ruptured by another, more piercing. I remember sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with protestors who erupted from restless silence in the galleries when the House voted, shouting down into the chamber with one voice, “When politicians lie, people die!”
The silence shifted.
The representatives became onlookers as the protest took center stage. For the first time in twenty years, the gallery doors were shuttered, the people were displaced from their House.
As the House moved to vote, the echo of objection could still be heard through the chamber walls, marching through the halls, circling the chamber.
I don’t know how to tell you what it feels like to watch Missouri wake up.
This Tuesday, I filed a petition for referendum with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office to challenge Missouri’s extreme anti-abortion law, HB 126. I’d been working all weekend. I don’t remember how many times I talked to our legal director or how late we texted. We planned, we polished, we moved. The clock was ticking. We knew we had ninety days from May 30 to gather over 100,000 signatures. We couldn’t waste a second. On Memorial Day, I drove to Jeff City- ready to file at daybreak.
That night I went to see my friend Kendall, they were out helping with tornado relief efforts in Jefferson City. As we walked through the destruction, I explained what I had come to do and I asked if they would come with me in the morning.
This wasn’t a simple ask. Kendall’s sister was raped when she was 10 years old. Under HB 126, she wouldn’t have been able to get an abortion. Kendall and I stood shoulder-to-shoulder to stop HB 126 in the months prior to this moment. It felt right that we would face this together.
We got a ride to the Secretary of State’s Office, bumbled through getting our visitor badges, and walked swiftly to the elections office. One petition for submission? Check. One copy to keep? Check. In moments it was done, filed away and ready for the Secretary’s review.
The fight has just begun. As the news hit the wires, our phones were inundated, offers to volunteer, to sign, to donate came in quick succession.
I can’t tell you what it feels like to watch Missouri wake up. But I know it has.
Today, when I checked in on social media I saw a single tweet from Kendall, an image of us at the Secretary’s office and a caption, “This is for you baby sis.” This is for her. This is for anyone who may become pregnant. This is for us. It is time for the people to speak.
Sara Baker is the Legislative and Policy Director for ACLU-MO. To read Kendall’s story, click here.