In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya, and De’Ara, cover the underreported news of the week—including the gubernatorial election in Virginia, Stacy Abrams’ efforts toward eliminating medical debt, a police chief in Georgia who is leading on police reform, and a win for fair wages for ICE detainees who work in their detention centers. DeRay interviews Destiny Lopez.
DeRay Mckesson: Hey, this is DeRay and Welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me, Kaya, De’Ara, and this is our post Halloween episode. I was, I dressed up, same costume for three days in a row and then the last day yo, I just had to be, I just had to be an activist. It was like I had a shirt, I had a Crooked shirt actually, that said “Call Congress” because I was wearing that costume OUT. Also remember that in Virginia, there’s a big election. Terry McAuliffe, we hope it’s going to be the winner. And in this episode, I get to talk to Destiny Lopez, who is a well-respected thought-leaders, strategist, and reproductive justice leader, and is the co-lead of All Above All, an organization fighting to sustain and restore all the work around abortion. I learned so much in this conversation. There was a lot of something I didn’t know, and I’m happy that this is a space where we can ask the questions, we can all learn together. And this was one that was like that. So let’s go.
De’Ara Balenger: Happy Halloween, everybody. Even though I don’t like Halloween, but welcome to another episode—
Kaya Henderson: Don’t be a hater. Don’t be a hater.
De’Ara Balenger: —of Pod Save the People. Someone on this podcast may have a costume on at 10:44 this morning, but you know—
Kaya Henderson: I do.
De’Ara Balenger: It’s never too early to get your Halloween started
DeRay Mckesson: It’s never too early for joy.
De’Ara Balenger: Are you going to wear that to church, Kaya, the Halloween costume, or? How does that?
Kaya Henderson: I’m wearing, I’m wearing it to Halloween brunch. Already watched church this morning on-line at 8:30. That is just so . . . old and Black, Halloween brunch. Yes. Yes. My girls and I have brunch every Sunday, and you know, we go with the themes and so, as Halloween, so we’re all coming in costume to brunch. Don’t be mad.
De’Ara Balenger: I do, I actually do love that. I can get into anything that involves brunch. But good, kind of good to be, you know, the three of us together. We don’t have Myles today, but that’s OK. You know, good, good to be back. Halloween going on, lots of, lots of serious political things going on like the, you know, governor’s race in Virginia. Terry McAuliffe is running on the Dem side for the 1,087th time. So, you know.
Kaya Henderson: Can I be petty? Can I be petty for 30 seconds? So first, let me just say, this race is critically important and we can talk about that in a second. But as a resident of Washington, D.C., where we share a media market with Virginia, I can’t, like November 2nd could not come faster because every single commercial on TV is political ads. And so I feel like I know way more about the Virginia governor’s race and all these other races that people are advertising than I know about my own local races. And it is, you know, it’s a high-stakes race. Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin, who is a Trump Republican, a billionaire, I think by his own account. And to watch the election lies that are being spread is pretty profound. I mean, the Republicans are just straight up telling whole entire untruths on these commercials. And maybe one of the most interesting commercials that I’ve seen— this was actually brilliant—is it’s a Terry McAuliffe ad. And they’re saying that Glenn Youngkin is not who he says he is and etc., etc. And they have him on camera and one of his supporters is saying, are you, are you going to ensure that abortion is banned when you become governor? And this man says, well, you know, I can’t do that right now. Right now, I can’t say that on the campaign trail, of course, but you know, I’m going to take care of it when I get into office or something like that. And it’s, so, it’s like, literally, you’re like, right, right, liar, liar pants on fire. And so all these other ads where you’re, you know, saying these crazy things make the whole thing look dubious and suspect. Yet and still, it is one of the tightest gubernatorial races that we have seen so far, and it matters a ton for Democrats.
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah, it’s really scary how neck and neck it is. And just, you know, the outcome of this election is so important as we look to the midterms. There’s a really tight governor’s race in New Jersey as well. You know, I’m in New York, so you know, right across the water. Phil Murphy is running against Jack Ciattarelli and again, same, same here. It’s like so many ads, so many wild ads.
Kaya Henderson: One of the things that’s sort of interesting to me, it is new because people never talk about education, and now education is a hot-button issue. In fact, Glenn Youngkin says he’s going to put a billion dollars in the education budget. And I’m like, yay, we’re talking about it, but wait a minute, hold it. Terry McAuliffe is touting his prior record on education. And again, as we talked about a couple of podcasts ago, this question of parents, the Republicans are kind of riding on this parents get to decide what is taught in schools, and they are trying to position Youngkin as allowing parents to decide what is taught in schools. And Terry McAuliffe, who in some clips says I don’t think parents should determine what is happening in schools, and so when we talked about this with the Moms of Liberty article that I did a couple of weeks ago, where Republicans are deeply appealing to mothers, mostly 18 to 45-year old women who they’ve never been able to capture in numbers before, and this education and schools debate is the thing that is pulling folks into the conversation.
DeRay Mckesson: The only thing I’ll add, is I haven’t been following it as closely, partly because it’s not an election in Baltimore. I spend a lot of time in New York City and there is actually, the real election, like the actual election post primary is coming up. But the election I have been watching more closely recently as India Walton in Buffalo.
Yes! India Walton.
DeRay Mckesson: It was that whole conversation about her being a socialist and da da da. And, you know, Schumer came out and supported her, finally. AOC and Chuck Schumer, AOC and Elizabeth Warren have come on to support her. But De’Ara, did you see the polling? She is projected to lose that race. That the write-in former mayor is actually projected to win. And it blew my mind. But it also was a reminder of like the immense power of the media. That like after she wins the primary, all of the coverage is essentially negative. Like everything you could read about her is sort of a negative framing. The party is not behind her, da da da. And then they come in in the end, and I fear that the damage is already done. And like that just, I hadn’t, I hadn’t followed it closely. I thought that this was like a shoo-in. I thought that this is going to be like a slam dunk. I didn’t take, I like took for granted how much the media narrative around that race and the party not supporting her damaged her so much in the beginning.
De’Ara Balenger: But the party not supporting her did damage her. Like the Dems have now come out like recently to support India Walton, but like as recently as like a couple of weeks ago, Jay Jacobs, who is the head of the Democratic Party in New York state, compared, he basically said in so many words, he was like me having to like India Walton and her socialist principles is like me having to like David Duke’s. Sir, have you lost your wine? So I think part of it is, like there is this great tension, obviously, between, you know, kind of the new Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of old. And I think her her national support with Dems was very, very late. Her support in Buffalo was also very, very late. And I remember, like there’s been so many accounts and it’s interesting how these local politics play out, but there are a lot of liberal progressive, like authentically so, like legitimately so, candidates that actually have to run as independents or Republicans. Because the Democratic establishment, the Dem party establishment is so messed up and so about touting power and keeping the same people in place and keeping the status quo that we can’t get new blood in there. So I think this, like what’s happening in Buffalo, India Walton, if she doesn’t win, I think there needs to be some reckoning with our, within our own party about what support should look like, what support of young, brilliant candidates should look like. And you know, I could talk about this all day long, but I think that, that’s what I think is going on with India.
De’Ara Balenger: So my news today is reported in the AP. It is about the Stacey Abrams and her incredible organization, Fair Fight, in particular, like the political action committee, A Fair Fight. So Stacey is now, Stacey and crew, because, you know, it is like, it’s just an incredible organization. And Lauren Groh-Wargo, who’s the CEO of the PAC is brilliant in and of herself and her leadership. But what they have set out to do is pay off medical debt. So the Fair Fight Political Action Committee has donated 1.34 million to a nonprofit called R.I.P. Medical Debt, and it’s to wipe out debt that has actually a face value of $212 million. I think that’s like the total amount they’re trying to get to. And this debt is owed by 108,000 people in Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. And so, Stacey, Lauren, they believe that that paying off this medical debt is another facet of Ffair Fight’s advocacy work. And you know, and how they also, you know, really want to expand Medicaid coverage in the 12 states that have refused health insurance to, you know, their state’s most vulnerable and most poor individuals. So I don’t know, this is like kind of short and sweet. I just, you know, I love Stacey Abrams. I just do. And I could be petty and say some things that I’m not going to say, I’m just going to leave it joyful this Sunday morning, saying that I love Stacy. I wish her leadership was everywhere. I’ll leave it at that. And go ahead, Kaya.
Kaya Henderson: I’mma it keep it joyful. Thank you for bringing this, thank you for bringing this to the pod, De’Ara. I had no idea about this one, that there was even a group that is trying to eradicate medical debt for people and it’s hugely important. I’m on the board of a foundation in New York that has figured out that most people are $400 away from being thrust into poverty. And that is a bad medical bill, a car, you know, a car repair, a hospital visit, or whatever. And so these debts become crushing. And to know that there are groups out there who are buying the debt on, for pennies on the dollar is huge. But I also think it’s brilliant. And so I’ll say I’m going to add RIP Medical Debt, I’m going to add that to my list of charities for the holiday season, and I would encourage people to do that because your small donation could make a huge difference for people. But I also think it’s brilliant on Fair Fight’s part to not be a—what do you call it—a single something pony?
De’Ara Balenger: A single issue—
Kaya Henderson: A one-trick pony. Yeah. Right, right. Like so people are not single-issue people, right? Voting rights affects you, medical issues affect you, education, housing, jobs—all of these things. And I think Fair Fight expanding their scope to Medicare and medical coverage and medical debt is incredibly smart. And I think will be resonant with lots of people and get even more people engaged in what they are doing. I mean, the numbers on this are pretty staggering when you look, especially at the states that they are focused on: Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Hmm, I wonder why? 108,000 people in those states will be relieved of their debt. And so I think that this is a brilliant strategic move. I think that it’s a brilliant humanitarian move. And I think ultimately it causes us to question how do we fix this broken system?
DeRay Mckesson: A couple of things here. One is about Stacey, who we all know and love, is that maybe you knew, but her 2004 novel “Never Tell” is actually being adapted into a new series on CBS. And it was initially picked up by CBS in 2019, but it’s being redeveloped a new writer. And I’m super pumped to see, you know, see her fiction writing life actually come to screen. Most people know her like we know her, as a political, as a political leader, as hopefully the next governor of Georgia, as the person leading the voting rights fight around the country. She also is an accomplished writer. And it’s going to be pumped to see her with a TV show. Like what, what a world? In terms of, in terms of this with the medical debt, what is so cool is that she is modeling what people with big platforms should be doing. So she’s not the first person to do medical debt. Tons of people have done it. It’s been around for a long time. But what she did is exactly what Kaya, like Kaya’s comment, Kaya, your comment is exactly why she did it ,right? She does it. It gets big PR. People realize it’s a thing. Then they’re like, Oh my God, we should do this too, And you’re like, yes, yes. And what’s so important about this is that this is structural. I am, I think I’ve sort of passed my excitement of people with influence giving bikes to kids. I’m like, okay, let’s just, I get it. Like, let’s fix public transportation so we ain’t got to give the whole neighborhood bikes. So let’s do bikes and public transportation. We’re like, let’s do things that structurally help people build wealth and build capital and lead healthy lives. Make the best dec—like the structure is the only way we scale the solution. And this, to me, is just like the best example of how to not be a single-issue organizer and how to use your platform to bring publicity to issues that more people should know about it. So kudos to Stacey.
Kaya Henderson: My news is out of The Washington Post and I, you know, on its face, it looks like in an article about policing. And it is that. But from where I sit, this is an article about leadership. And what I have learned over time is leadership matters. It matters tremendously. That’s the, that’s the point that DeRay just made about the Stacey Abrams piece. And this leader that I want to highlight is the chief of police in Lagrange, Georgia. His name is Louis Dekmar. La Grange is a a small town about 70 miles southwest of Atlanta, 31,000 people, 51% Black, 42% white and chief Dekmar has been the chief of police there for 26 years. Can I just say, longevity in leadership matters. Anyway. Why we are talking about Chief Dekmar at this particular point is because he has implemented a shoot-to-incapacitate policy in his police department, so most of, most police operate with a shoot-to-kill mentality. The idea is you hit the central mass of a person and the bullet is then likely to stop somebody from advancing. But in fact, Chief Dekmar is training his officers to shoot for people’s legs, pelvis or abdomen, in an effort to decrease fatal police shootings. Of course, you can imagine the national law enforcement communities has their panties in a bunch about this. There’s widespread criticism. People are writing policy papers about why this shouldn’t be, etc., etc. But I’m not focusing on the haters today, I’m focusing on this man’s example of leadership. As I said, he has been the police chief for 26 years. The mayor, town leaders have consistently invested in his leadership because his leadership is enlightened, it’s innovative, and he’s done progressive things that other people haven’t done. In the late 1990s, he mandated audio recordings whenever there was a police and community member interaction so that he could hear what was going on, they could hear what was going on. In 2004, he mandated crisis intervention training of his force to be able to de-escalate encounters with people who have mental illness. In 2004, right, we’re just talking about this now in the 2020s, and he did this in 2004—he instituted body cameras in his department. In 2009, he is one of the only, perhaps the only, southern police chief who has ever apologized for the police department’s role in a lynching in the 1940s. He is, he calls his department not “law enforcement” but “police services” because he tries to emphasize that the police are helpers in the community. And in fact, instead of the SWAT team, they are called the Emergency Services Unit. He even takes care of the little things. So he has a “no profanity” rule with his department. If you cuss in front of the community, you are suspended and you lose a day’s pay. And he says that his officers cannot wear sunglasses when they’re interacting with the community because it’s intimidating, right? So this is a guy who has traveled around the world to look at policing, in Israel, then New Zealand, and in a lot of other places where there are far fewer fatalities, and learned from that. He’s looked at data to understand how police shootings happen and what could be different. And in fact, even his own, his own training sergeants and his own team members were skeptical at first. But he leads with, he leads the same way with his team as he leads in the community, and he’s walk them through the data, they’ve done the research together, and folks on his team are believers. There is a police expert who had what I thought was a great quote, and he says “sometimes policing is its own worst enemy. Chief Dekmar is very comfortable with his base of support locally, and that gives him the freedom to challenge the policing status quo. He’s willing to be disruptive.” And I brought this to the pod because I believe that leadership matters. I believe if we have more courageous leaders like Chief Dekmar, we might see more innovation in policing.
DeRay Mckesson: Well, I’ll say, you know, I saw this and, you know, by now, people know how I feel about the police, and I think that we can keep communities safe without people with guns. And I know that you’ve got to be alive for us to do all this other work in a meaningful way. And there are policies like this that they just highlight how wild the police community is, because of their response. This man is just saying like, don’t like, just don’t shoot people to kill them. And I’ve read some of the responses from like the police associations and they’re like, even if it is the right policy, we can never train everybody. I’m like, is that really, is that really the best thing you got? We can’t trained everybody to do this!? Somebody else was like, this will lead to more shootings, because now that they think the gun is not a lethal. And you’re like, OK, ya’ll, y’all are just like making up anything that that goes against the idea that you should not be able to kill somebody immediately. That is such a, it’s a fascinating world to live in where that’s like people’s default, is that like the police should be able to kill, right now. Any limitation on that, anything that says that the police don’t have full discretion to do whatever they want, is a bad thing. And you’re like, that’s just not, that is not right. That’s not true. And it’s certainly not what we should be encouraging in communities. Now, obviously, this is not a panacea, and we need to dramatically scale back the way that we think about the police apparatus in United States. And it is people like him who push everybody to realize just how wild the police are. That like a “no profanity” rule and big cities, people would say that was impossible, right? Sunglass—people would be like you can’t—and you’re like, no! Like, this is, this is, if you are actually pro police, this is the stuff you should have been supporting in the first place. And for people like me, we understand this is like, this is on the pathway to get us to a better place, because the reality is that people need to be alive so that we can win in the end. So this was interesting. I was, I was surprised by, but more fascinated by the wild responses from the police.
De’Ara Balenger: I think what came up for me is that as I was reading this, in my mind, I just like had the wildest visual of like a police officer, just like wildly shooting because I think what I went to was like, clearly, these folks don’t get a ton of training or evolve training or continual training, and so the fact that this police chief is just saying, we’re going to do more training, and for there to be—DeRay, to your point, such a backlash against that—is like, I don’t know, that’s what came to mind for me. There was a part in this article as well that said, you know, this is going to be impossible to execute because, you know, because the police officers are going to be too nervous in that heat of the moment, there’s not going to be a way for them to, you know, to shoot with precision. And I just was like, but is it? Shouldn’t, isn’t that training? That’s training. So I understand how that is actually a rebuttal to that. So I don’t know. Kaya, I found this to be fascinating, and I think, you know, this question around training is one that really needs to be pushed and explored. Yes, his leadership clearly, that’s also something that should be, you know, replicated or used as a model, but it’s just, it is interesting to know, you know, that you can carry a weapon and have qualified immunity in a lot of places and not be properly trained on how to use said weapon. And then in same place, can’t get an abortion. So it’s just really all the things. Just very, very wild to me. So thanks for bringing this one Kaya. It was really fascinating.
DeRay Mckesson: The only thing I say is that there actually is a lot of data on trainings and—not to be shocked—but trainings do very little to change police officer behavior. And one of the reasons why we understand that to be true is that, you know, you aren’t normally disciplined for what’s in the training, your disciplined for what’s in the policy or within the rules, right? Or the law. And that’s actually why it matters that a police chief, like or a police department is like, this is the rule now, because we can discipline you, and I can discipline you. You know, when we go in communities and we’re like mandating de-escalation policies, what the police will do that’s really sad is that they will say, oh, but we mandate de-escalation training. And you’re like, yeah, but the de-escalation training and the de-escalation policy are two very different things, and we know the difference. So, so interesting. Interesting to see. Now my news is about private prisons. So just to give you an explainer, the percentage of private prisons in the country is actually around 8% in the general prison population. But for ICE detention, which is something different than how we think about the normal carceral system, for ICE detention for about 40% of those facilities are actually privately run, which is wild. And this is actually why people like me were frustrated with the Biden administration’s executive order on private prisons, because their executive order only touched the Department of Justice, which is the Bureau of Prisons, which are like prisons and jails that you think of, it did not touch the Department of Homeland Security, which is where ICE is under. So I say that to say that this article is about a private prison company that just lost a big lawsuit. So the GEO Group is one of the biggest private prison companies in the country. There are only a handful of them, and they run a lot of the facilities, and they, instead of hiring employees like the normal facility would to cook and clean and do maintenance and all that stuff, if they actually make the people who are detained in the detention center do it, and they compensate them for what they call a quote, “voluntary work program” and about a dollar a day. And some people who have been detained there have said that they have not been paid and they’ve actually been paid in extra food. Again, wild, offensive, shut it down, all the words. But the Washington State Attorney General sued on behalf of the people of Washington state, and they didn’t do so well with the first lawsuit because the jury deadlocked. But they did really well with the second trial, and the jury decided that they deserve the $13.69 per hour minimum wage that is the current minimum wage, the federal minimum wage. And what a great win for the people who are incarcerated now. Let’s be clear, this win does not mean the end of incarceration. We need to get rid of private prisons, like all those things are true. And this is a signal that you can’t exploit people. Like, literally they are being forced to do full-time work and being paid a dollar. I mean, that is like, it wasn’t even like they were pretending to pay them some equitable thing. They were paying them a dollar. Which is wild. So I want to bring that here because we don’t often hear successful stories in the criminal justice space like this, and this is good.
De’Ara Balenger: Can somebody in the leadership of the United States of America do something with our immigration policy? Somebody make a plan? Anybody? Anybody? Like these types of stories are so important because, you know, a lot of immigrants that are being like, they don’t necessarily have the advocacy or the resources to to get lawyers, to get assistance that you know, that citizens of this country who are incarcerated have. I mean, obviously like, there is an exponential amount of work to do there, but I just say all that to say, it just, there are so many people in this country who are enduring such suffering and inhumane treatment. It’s just, it’s wild to me. And I think the larger issue is here is, yes, around the carcal system altogether, but also when it comes to ICE, when it comes to immigrants being detained, when it comes to Biden keeping in place some of the policies that Trump had in place when it comes to immigration—it’s just like, whatcha all going to do?
DeRay Mckesson: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Don’t go anywhere. There’s more to come.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: And here’s my conversation with Destiny. We talk about a range of things. I had a lot of questions about medication abortion because I didn’t really know, I didn’t understand it as well. It’s something I recently learned about. But she gives us overall advice on what we do, how we keep the fight. Here it is.
DeRay Mckesson: Destiny, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Destiny Lopez: Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.
DeRay Mckesson: Now I realize that there is, with the latest court decision in Texas, or the latest law in Texas, I guess, I realized that there was a lot around reproductive health and reproductive justice and abortion that I just didn’t know, and that’s why I was excited to talk to you because I’m always curious and you run All Above All. And can you talk to us about how you got to this work and what is your work? And then we’ll start from there.
Destiny Lopez: Yeah. Well, I, so All Above All is a campaign that is working to achieve abortion justice so that every person, regardless of their income or their age or where they live, can get abortion care when they need it in whatever way they need it, and have that be supported. And I come to the work, I grew up in Detroit, I identify as Latina, Mexican-American, and I came up in the work really by having conversations with my family and supporting ultimately supporting a cousin who was, you know, deciding whether to end the pregnancy when we were really young, and kind of helping her navigate the world and figure out kind of how she was going to, what she was going to do, how she was going to do it, and not having a lot of access to resources. This wasn’t a topic we talked about in our family. You know, we didn’t really know a lot about kind of what was available out there. And so that really, you know, kind of that exploration really got me interested in understanding more about reproductive health and about abortion access. You know, in undergrad, I did a lot of work on H.I.V./AIDS movement, getting condoms on campus at a Catholic university. And so, you know, it’s just, I just ultimately believe that everyone should be able to access abortion care when they need it and I wanted to make that a reality for folks. So, you know, I’ve been doing this work now for a really long time, two decades, and doing a lot of policy work, a lot of coalition-building work, and really came to All Above All after running an abortion fund in California and seeing firsthand what it took, even in a really progressive state, to access abortion care. Because it’s not easy, even in California, which everyone thinks is like the bluest of the blue states, right? Like, there are people who live very far away from abortion providers in the northernmost parts of the state who are traveling significant numbers of miles to get care and who may not, may need other resources like a tank of gas or a place to stay or help with child care. And so that experience of leading that abortion fund and providing practical support to Californians and folks coming from outside of the state, really prompted me to want to get more involved in abortion access works directly, and that’s how I got to All Above All.
DeRay Mckesson: Can we start, can we start here just because this is the thing that got me to you actually, because I was like, I didn’t know, I didn’t even know this—is medication abortion care. Can you help us better understand it, like the issue? Is this, do you think that this will be like an effective tool especially as it seems like legislators in some parts of the country are scaling back access to abortion? I’m at the like pre-101 stage, didn’t even know this was a thing. So can we start there?
Destiny Lopez: Yeah, yeah. I’m excited to kind of educate a little bit about medication abortion care. So medication abortion is widely considered a really safe way to end an early pregnancy. It involves taking two pills, and is considered safe and effective for ending pregnancies up to 10 weeks. Nearly 40% of abortions are now done using medication abortion, according to most recent data we have from the Guttmacher Institute. And so, yeah, I mean, I think you’re right, there is a lot of potential, particularly in early pregnancy, for medication abortion care to become more readily available as a real option for folks. The challenge right now is—
DeRay Mckesson: Time out. One second. I’m only cutting you off because I want to make sure I understand. This is different than Plan B, right? Or is it not? Or is this like the formal name for Plan B? Again, I’m the pre-101 stage.
Destiny Lopez: No, no. This is different from Plan B. And I used to do a lot of work on Plan B in another life. So Plan B actually can help you prevent a pregnancy. So if you’ve had unprotected sex, you know that you’ve had unprotected sex, you can go get Plan B. It’s an emergency contraceptive, so essentially it functions much like birth control pills do after you have unprotected sex, and it can help you prevent a pregnancy from even starting. But if you do get pregnant, an unintended, unexpected pregnancy, then medication abortion care is what you seek early in pregnancy to end that pregnancy.
DeRay Mckesson: Got it. Got it. OK. Cool. Now I get it. Thank you.
Destiny Lopez: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So the challenge with medication abortion care right now, at least pre-pandemic was, you’ve had to go into your doctor’s office to get it. Your doctor had to have a special license to prescribe it, right? But what we actually know is you don’t need to see that doctor necessarily in order to get this care and use it safely and effectively. And so right now, what’s happening during COVID is the Biden administration has realized that, you know, that’s unnecessary during this, during the crisis to like, put patients at risk, put providers at risk by forcing folks to go into the doctor’s office to get this care. So right now, you don’t have to do it. And right now, the FDA is actually considering changing some of the regulations around medication abortion care and lifting those restrictions so that you would actually be able to get medication abortion delivered directly to your home by your physician, right? So bypassing that step of actually having to actually go into the doctor’s office. And when you think particularly about people who live in rural areas, when you think about all of the restrictions that are happening and the clinics that are closing as a result because of these restrictions and these conservative state legislatures or these anti-abortion state legislatures, the need for a medication like this becomes much more profound. What I will say, though, is that it’s not a panacea, right? There will always be a need for abortions later in pregnancy. There will always be a need for people to have a choice around how they get their abortion care. Some people actually might prefer to go in and see a doctor. They might prefer that method even early in pregnancy. Some people might want to do it in the comfort of their own home early in pregnancy. Some people, because of all these restrictions, might be forced to wait until later in pregnancy to get their abortion care, and in that case, it is likely that they are going to have to actually go into a provider’s office to get that care. So we can’t, we can’t expand access to medication abortion care at the expense of in-clinic procedures. We have to fight for both.
DeRay Mckesson: And is anybody attacking medication abortion care or is this like a, it’s like it’s doing what it’s supposed to do, people are OK with it on the right and the left? Or is this like, I don’t know. Again, pre-101 me asking,
Destiny Lopez: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, yeah, unfortunately, as with all abortion care right now, it is under attack. I mean, there are a number of states, I think it’s like something like 17 or 19 states that actually have already proactively restricted access to medication abortion care so that you can’t actually even receive it in the mail or via telehealth, which is one of the ways that people are accessing right, accessing right now. So, so there are, the same people who want to outlaw abortion altogether or finding any way that they can to restrict it, and that includes restricting medication abortion care. So certainly it is something, it is something that is under attack along with clinics, along with, you know, other kinds of restrictions like ultrasounds and age requirements and things like that. So what should, what we know to be safe and incredibly effective, and we should be guided by science on these matters has, as with all abortion issues I would argue, really become a political issue. And states are really going after it.
DeRay Mckesson: OK, take us to, take us to what else we should know. That was where I started because I was what I legit didn’t know. But what is, what’s the fight outside of Texas? What, can is there a big fix or is this only the Supreme Court? I don’t, I don’t know. Which is why we called you.
Destiny Lopez: Yeah, I mean, look, you know, there is this moment that we’re in, right? Texas just banned, effectively banned abortions for folks who are living there. We have upcoming arguments at the Supreme Court on a case in Mississippi that would that would begin or effectively outlaw Roe v. Wade, right? And this is, you know, so we’re at this like touch stone or critical point for abortion access in this country. And now is the moment for action so that abortion is actually accessible and not just legal. And you know, I think one of the things that we’ve been saying at All Above All for a long time now is the courts aren’t going to save us on this one. I mean, frankly, effectively, Roe has been out of reach for many Black and brown folks in this country since the Hyde amendment was established back in ’76. And for folks who don’t know what the Hyde amendment is, essentially it denies Medicaid coverage of abortion to folks who are enrolled in Medicaid and are working to make ends meet. And if we, you know, if folks know anything about Medicaid, they know that there are a lot of Black and brown folks who are enrolled in that program. And so it makes it that much harder for them to actually pay for their abortions. Now if you have restriction after restriction, you finally get to your abortion, you can’t actually pay for it, then this is not a right, right, this is a right in name only. And so, and yet here we are, right, with Texas and Mississippi, and we know that there are other pieces of copycat legislation coming down the pike in places like Florida. You know, we might expect some something in Ohio. We kind of know which states will be next in trying to like pass these aggressive bills, like in Texas. And so, you know, we’re in the midst of an all-out attack on abortion access. And, you know, it’s scary. Effectively, the Supreme Court has allowed Texas politicians to ban abortion after six weeks, and we know that other, you know, the anti-abortion politicians in other states are ready to do the same. And this is coming on top of decades of restrictions, including the Hyde amendment, that target folks of color and that target folks who are working to make ends meet. You know, and also, as you and I both know, right, those are also the same folks who are being hit hardest by the pandemic, the same folks who are being hit hardest by the conversations we are having about racial justice in this country, folks who are hit hardest by their immigration status, right? All of those folks are the same, the same folks that are the brunt of these abortion policies around the country. And so, you know, I think that it’s time to talk about solutions that include racial, economic, and immigrant justice. Our solutions include ending the Hyde amendment. Our solutions include expanding access to medication abortion. And we really just need to have a whole new vision for abortion access in this country. I mean, in some ways, we really need to like start from scratch on how we think about this issue.
DeRay Mckesson: Is there a, is there a place that’s doing this particularly well?
Destiny Lopez: Yeah. I mean, we know that there are some real bright spots amidst all of this darkness. I mean, I think about all of these, you know, we’ve been doing a lot of work with city councils because oftentimes they have pots of money that they can access and using creative ways. And I think particularly in the pandemic, you know, we’ve seen, you know, this notion of mutual aid and folks redistributing money, right, that goes to policing and other, you know, other aspects of the criminal justice system are, you know, being now geared towards other parts of the community. And we’ve seen places like Portland actually dedicate funds to supporting people who are accessing abortion care in that state or in that city. Right? So if they need that, that kind of practical support, whether it’s money to pay for their abortion or support to be able to access child care or lodging or whatever they need to get that care, that comes on top of places like actually in Texas, Austin did this a couple of years ago, as has New York. So people are coming up with creative solutions to ensure that people are still able to get the care that they need. And those are the kind of solutions that we need longer term, right? We need dedication of local, state and federal funds, not just frankly, to cover, you know, to ensure that abortion is covered by insurance, public and private insurance, but also to ensure that folks are able to get to the care they need to get the lodging that they need because oftentimes later in pregnancy it’s like a two-day procedure, right? So we have to think about the supports that surround a person seeking abortion care and not just, you know, that abortion in and of itself.
DeRay Mckesson: Mmmm. Didn’t think about that. OK, can you help me understand again, the prefaces is “pre-101.” So if a city puts out money to help, what’s like the ideal? So, like at the city level, they want to do something about access—like what would, what would you tell them to do?
Destiny Lopez: Yeah, I mean, I would tell them to follow the lead of places like Portland and Austin and New York, and either take existing pots of money that maybe they are now deciding, rightfully so, they do not need for policing—use that for community care, right? And we should be considering abortion access part of community care, particularly in this day and age, right, as we see access dwindling across the country. And reapportion that money so that you have a small pot of money. Now look, we’re not, unfortunately, we’re not talking in the millions with many of these cities because that’s just not the realities of their budgets. But even 100, you know, $100,000, $150,000, $175,000, those are more of the numbers we’re talking about, can make a huge difference in someone who maybe needs another $100 to like, make the difference to actually pay for their abortion or someone who might need a couple of hundred dollars, right, so that they can get a hotel room to be able to stand for their two-day procedure, right, where they have to go to the hospital and then go home and then come back again the next day for the second part of their procedure. Or maybe someone who needs some gas money to get to the, you know, from their home to another part of the state to access their abortion, right? So it’s those kinds of pots of money, small dollars, can actually make a huge difference and be the difference between whether someone can get an abortion care, abortion in their community or not.
DeRay Mckesson: And are there any misconceptions that we need to clear up?
Destiny Lopez: I mean, look, yeah, I think a couple of things I would say. One is, you know, we say, we spend, I spend a lot of my day saying the word abortion. I just I can’t say it enough. And part of the reason why we so intentionally talk about abortion at All Above All, talk about abortion justice, is because part of the reason I believe that we are here is because we haven’t talked about it enough out in the open for long enough. We haven’t told stories or empowered folks to tell their own stories of seeking abortion care in this country. You know, we essentially allowed our opposition to define this issue, and we were too afraid to talk about it for many, many years. I would say we really have only started as a movement talking openly about abortion access and care and sharing stories in the last really like 5 to 10 years. And so the only way we’re ever going to destigmatize this issue, the only way we’re ever going to put a human face on this issue, the only way people are going to ever, we are going to ever understand that they love someone who has had an abortion because they do, because something like, I think three in four women in this country have had an abortion at some point in their lives, right, like until we talk about it openly and consistently, until we do that, there will be a continued stigma associated with it. And so what I want to see is support and love for people seeking abortion care. And one of the ways that I believe we can do that is by actually saying the word, right? So I think that that’s one thing. I think too, is I think that there, you know, particularly now there’s this attitude that like what’s happening in Texas or Mississippi is what’s happening in Texas or Mississippi, and that’s never going to impact me, right, where I live because I live in a progressive place or because I live, you know, in someplace that, you know, isn’t, isn’t anti-abortion. While that may be true, and while I can say that folks who have generational access to generational wealth will always probably be able to get an access to abortion in this country, that is not the case for Black and brown folks in our communities around this country who are working to make ends meet and who have low incomes. And so those folks, regardless of where they live, are always going to have a harder time accessing care. So your state, your locality may not be at the Texas level, at the Mississippi level in terms of completely trying to gut this, but make no mistake, access to abortion care is limited throughout this country almost everywhere we all live. And so we have to be vigilant about fighting back on these attacks. We have to stand with folks in Texas and Mississippi because if we don’t, they’re coming for us next.
DeRay Mckesson: Are we supposed to say a woman’s right to choose?
Destiny Lopez: I don’t anymore. And here’s why, right, Like, one: is it really a right if I can’t access it, if it’s been legislated out of existence in my state? Do I really have a choice if it’s been legislated out of existence, if I don’t have any providers in my community, if I don’t have the money to pay for it, if there are not services that allow me to access care in my language of choice? All of those things matter and if I don’t have those options, do I have a choice and is it really my right to act on? So I prefer to say abortion, right, again, both to eliminate that stigma, but also to, you know, and a woman’s access to abortion, a person’s access to abortion, because it is not just CIS-gendered women that can access abortion care in this country, right? We have to be more inclusive and ensure that we are acknowledging that trans folks get abortions, too. And so, you know, to me, when I talk about this issue, I say that I support access to abortion, period, and I support all people being able to access it regardless of where they live, regardless of how they get their insurance, regardless of their immigration status. You know, when I, when I say “all above all,” I really do mean all, right. And so that’s how I talk about.
DeRay Mckesson: Where can people go to stay up to date with what you’re doing and to like, follow this work? How can people follow what you’re doing, or get involved? Can people get involved? Like what is there for people to do?
Destiny Lopez: Yeah. Well, let me say what, let me tell you where to find us. So we are AllAboveAll dot org. We are @Allaboveall on all of the socials, the social media outlets, channels, whatever you call them these days. You can follow me on Twitter. I’m not the best Twitterer, but I still do it occasionally. I am @DLOtweets. That’s D L O Tweets. So you can find out more about our work and how to get involved there. Right now, what we need people to do, I’ll offer a couple of things. One is there are two bills in Congress that would really ensure that the federal government is doing all it can to ensure access to abortion for anyone who needs it in this country. One of them is called the EACH act, and that would ensure that folks who are enrolled in Medicaid can access abortion care and also ensure that private insurers continue to cover it. That is sponsored by the amazing Barbara Lee from California. And then there’s another bill called the Women’s Health Protection Act, that would essentially guarantee access really looking at those issues from a legal perspective, and that one actually just got a vote in the House and passed the House. We need to have the Senate move that bill, and we need both of those bills passed and signed by President Biden. So writing your member of Congress, telling them to move those bills and urging the president to sign them if they do make it to Congress is vitally important. The other two things I will say is, find your local abortion fund. These are the funds around the country that are really on the ground, ensuring that people who are seeking abortion care have what they need to get that care, whether it’s money or lodging or other kinds of practical support. Find them, volunteer with them, donate to them. That is, that is a major way to get engaged in this issue. And that’s frankly where the fight is in terms of what the needs are right now. Find your local independent abortion provider through a group called the Abortion Care Network. They support all of the independent abortion providers in this country, and they are vital to ensuring the provision of any clinic care right now.
DeRay Mckesson: There are a lot of people who look at this work and they’re like, you know what, I’ve done a lot, like emailed, called, testified, given money and it hasn’t changed or it’s gotten worse, and people are losing hope in moments like this. What do you say to those people?
Destiny Lopez: I mean, I think that we are at another critical moment where we’re in this fight for another 15 to 20 years. I’ve been doing this work for the last 20. We need new voices, we need new ideas, we need new energy, and hopefully that will lead to new solutions. I mean, we really do need a new vision for abortion access in this country. And I believe that my generation, we’ve done our work, we’ve protected what we could, you know, as part of, you know, reproductive justice activists who came into this work and really, you know, 25 years ago ensured that Black and brown folks would have a voice in this work. You know, we have done a tremendous amount of work to really bring our voices to the center on this because our communities are most impacted. And I think we need the next generation of folks now to take that on and figure out like how to get us out of this mess. And that’s what it’s going to take. I mean, you know, I have lots of ideas, but we need to new energy and new vision to really move the work forward.
DeRay Mckesson: Well, we consider you friend of the pod and can’t wait to have you back, and thank you for helping us understand today.
Destiny Lopez: Thanks so much for having me, DeRay.
DeRay Mckesson: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in at Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else and we’ll see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by Brock Wilbur and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our executive producer is Jessica Cordova Kramer and myself. Special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Ballenger, and Sam Sinyangwe.