Melanie: Welcome to The Resist Bot
Podcast, hosted by me, Melanie Dione.
Join me this week and every week
as I chat with the advocates and
activists in your neighborhood at the
intersection where policy meets people.
Now, let's start the.
Welcome to The Resist bot Podcast.
I'm your host, Melanie Dione, and I
am so glad you're tuning in because
we have a great show in store.
I don't know why anybody
lives in Red States anymore.
Anyway, you've heard that before, right?
Or maybe you've said it.
I know y'all have said it.
I've heard you.
It's fine because it sounds like an easy.
But it's not really a solution at all.
First and foremost, everybody
deserves for the place that they
call home to be livable with equal
privileges no matter where home is.
Whether it's New York,
California, Louisiana, or Florida.
We live in the United States,
not 50 different countries.
Second, have y'all looked
at price tags at all?
Moving as expensive.
Third, if you run from oppression,
it doesn't say, okay, that's enough.
We're gonna stop.
You've, you've gone far enough.
We'll stop here.
Oppression pursues you until
there is nowhere to go, so
somebody has to stay and fight.
In my home state in Louisiana, we know
a thing or two about fighting, which
is why when it comes to reproductive
justice, I couldn't think of a better
person to call than this week's.
So if you're even remotely familiar
with me from whether it's the
show or my own social media, you
would know that I am a big fan of
the organization Lift Louisiana.
So it is my great pleasure to
have the co-founder and executive
director of Lift Louisiana.
Here on the podcast this
week, Michelle Berg.
Thanks so much for having me.
Thank you so much for being here.
I am a Louisiana girl, born and raised,
so I'm always, when we have these
conversations about the struggles
that, uh, southern states, red states,
conservative states, however you wanna
look at it, have, especially when.
The tone gets to be, well, why
are people still living there?
It's because the work is needed.
It's important, and it's probably
needed here in places where the support
is slimmer than in other places.
So I would love for you to talk a bit
about yourself and if we can lead into
what moved you from being Michelle
Ehrenberg citizen to establishing Lift.
Louisiana being a reproductive
justice advocate and a.
Michelle: It's such a long
winding journey, but I'll just
say I also am from Louisiana.
I grew up in, in Monroe, which is a small
conservative town in northeast Louisiana.
It's very, I, I joke with people that
it's the buckle of the Bible belt.
It's very evangelical, but I
was raised by very progressive
Jewish mother and grandmother and.
I always sort of had an idea in my,
in my mind and in my upbringing, uh,
that, you know, we needed to fight for
social justice, but it wasn't until I
was in college at Loyola University in
New Orleans when I went to the health
center to have my annual well woman
exam, and I asked the nurse practitioner
for a refill of my birth control pres.
And she told me that because they were
a Catholic university, they didn't
prescribe birth control to their students.
That I realized, you know, how
these systems, especially in the
context of religious institutions,
are oppressing people and, and
leaving them without access.
So I went to the local Planned Parenthood
and while I was in the waiting room
waiting for my appointment, I saw a little
clipboard asking if I was interested
in volunteering and I signed up.
And so that's really how I first.
Got involved with doing
this work for a long time.
It was really just as a volunteer
advocate, both volunteering
with Planned Parenthood and then
later as a board member for the
National Council of Jewish Women.
And in 2016, uh, I
co-founded Liif, Louisiana.
So that I could dedicate a 115% of my
time to this work because it was so
Years of this, and we still have mute,
unmute, fails 2016 was such a pivotal
year for a lot of us because plenty
of people could see what was coming.
So was knowing how Roe was on the
bubble of being jeopardized, did.
Spring you into action?
Was it kind of a slow build or
how did that, how did you go from
being part of the work to know,
we've gotta jump out of this.
This has to be the focus for me.
Michelle: Yeah, it's such a good question.
I think that what we had been seeing
in Louisiana, and this was the same
across the Gulf South and throughout the
Midwest, was a ramping up of restrictions
on, on abortion and in Louisiana.
Really going completely unchallenged.
These laws were being introduced.
No one was really showing up to object
to them, and so they were passing.
And then we didn't really have the
infrastructure in Louisiana to challenge
the laws on constitutional grounds.
We were really at the mercy of
whether the Center for Reproductive
Rights had the capacity or the
resources to be able to come in.
And litigate for, you know, the
protection of our rights here.
So that was the context in
which Li Louisiana was formed.
I had met a reproductive rights
attorney, Ellie Schilling, who
had been representing some of the
abortion providers in the state.
And we started talking
about how it was a need.
We needed to show up, we needed to
be bringing people to the capitol.
We needed to be pushing back
against these laws, and we needed
to be able to take, you know, these
laws to court when they passed.
And so that, that was why
we started with Louisiana.
And I'll tell you, when we started
in 2016, I think we thought at
the time that we were gonna have
a very different, uh, situation.
We were gonna have a progressive,
you know, female president, that we
were gonna have a friendly judiciary.
And then obviously at the close of
the year, none of that came to pass.
And it made, it made this work a lot
more challenging, but it also has
been a huge opportunity for us to.
Really mobilize the support for abortion
access that I knew fundamentally
existed in Louisiana, but uh, had
not really been activated, uh, and,
and, and wasn't really showing up.
Melanie: think a lot about how when we
start talking about abortion access to
people who are impacted on the front end
are marginalized people, poor people who.
Don't necessarily have access
because people with money
know how to get abortions.
You're a familiar face.
You, I mean, you've gone from being,
you know, kind of in the work to
being someone who is a familiar
face in state legislature with
testimony and things like that.
So when we're looking right
now, for example, miry Stone is
the big current conversation.
I mean, there's always like the
conversation, but right now we're
looking at what's going on in Texas and
how that is going to impact US Federal.
, does that have bearing into what
you're preparing yourself for?
Michelle: Yeah, I think
it's, it's such an important
conversation that's happening and.
There's so much uncertainty around
it because like you said, people with
means, people with privilege are going
to be able to get out of state, to
go to a state where they can access
a legal abortion, but that's not the
case for many people in Louisiana.
Louisiana has some of the highest
rates of, of poverty among women
and children, and we also have a
maternal health crisis here that.
Black women at a disproportionate rate.
Um, I think the most recent statistics
are something between two and three Black
women die from pregnancy related causes
compared to white women in the state.
So access to medication abortion,
which is safe and effective, is
really, really critical to, uh, not
only, um, abortion care, but uh,
this is a medication that is used.
Um, in a lot of different contexts in
terms of managing pregnancy complications
and what we've seen in Louisiana.
The Dobbs decision, and since Louisiana
has implemented its near total ban
on abortion, is that the language
in the law is really impacting the
provision of pregnancy care for
complications across the board.
So doctors are confused about
what they can and can't do.
They're not sure whether or not
they can intervene in someone's
miscarriage the way that they
would have pre the Dobbs decision.
And they're concerned about
facing criminal prosecution
for making the wrong decision.
And those impacts are going, we're
gonna see that play out, you know,
in this racially discriminatory
way as we see over and over.
Oh, again, when it comes to healthcare
provision and particularly pregnancy care.
Melanie: I wanna go a little bit into
the weeds on this one, not just, oh,
I love the weeds . I, I love it too.
So right now, um, for example, the,
the Walgreens has been in the spotlight
for just cutting off entirely.
Um, the quote unquote abortion pill.
As for the average person who knows
that something needs to be done
and wants to make an impact, I know
that the go-to idea is to boycott.
We don't boycott, we boycott Walgreens.
We don't support Walgreens.
But it brings us back to that, the issue
of, you know, we're not just doing this
to quote unquote, to punish Walgreens.
This is also to get people
the care that they need.
Like that's the bigger.
. And so the idea of a boycott or whatever
leaves right back to leaving poor
people behind who the only drugstore
in their neighborhood is a Walgreens.
So can you talk a bit about meaningful
things that the average person
can do in terms of small change,
volunteering, making a difference?
Of course, we know petition.
But do you have other thoughts
on what we can do to make sure
that reproductive justice is not
just available but equitable?
Michelle: such, it, it's a, it's
a really important question and.
I struggle with this conversation around
boycotts too, because in many communities,
Walgreens may be the only pharmacy, or
at least the only pharmacy that keeps
hours that working people can, you
know, can access, um, their, you know,
their pharmacists during those hours.
So, but I do think that writing to
companies and, uh, and, and engaging with
them on social media and, and using that
as a means of raising awareness about.
You know, misguided, um, or misunderstood
practices that companies are engaged.
Is is really important piece of it, but
we also really need for people to engage
with their local elected officials because
this is where the harms are happening.
The Louisiana legislature
is where reproductive.
Rights, reproductive justice,
where social justice, criminal
justice, this is where all of the
things that we hold dear go to die.
And that is one of the things that has
been so centered to Lyft's work is.
Helping people not only understand the
policies that are being proposed, but
giving them the tools that they need to
be able to engage in the process, to know
how to call their legislators, to know
what exactly to say to their legislators.
Also to show up at the capitol in
the event that you are able to do.
We've been working with a lot of
medical providers, I think folks that
are in the provision of healthcare.
This is really an important time for
those people to be showing up to talk
about the impact that these decisions
are having on their patients and,
and how they're able or not able
to provide care to those patients.
So this is really a moment where people
need to be reaching out and forcefully
and en mass to the folks that are making
the decisions that are impacting their.
Melanie: Thank you.
In terms of medical professionals and
and engaging that, do you encourage
people to actually engage their medical
professionals directly on the topic?
Michelle: I think this is really
important and a lot of people who are
seeing their general practitioner, uh,
or even that are, you know, going to
their ob gyn appointments every year.
They have no idea where
their doctors stand on these.
, and this is really an important thing
for people to understand, to be able
to advocate for their themselves in how
they're receiving care, and from who.
The last thing that I would want is
for somebody to be pregnant and to be
experiencing a complication and find
out at that moment that their doctor
has some sort of, you know, religious
or moral objection to being able
to provide them the care that they.
So these are important conversations
that I think people need to be having
with their healthcare providers
and certainly with pharmacists.
We actually just found out today that
somebody went to go get a prescription
for a medication that is totally
unrelated to their reproductive health.
Went to a Walgreens and the Walgreens
pharmacist asked them their pregnancy
status before filling the prescription.
These are not the things that
people should have to answer if
there's no medical reason for that.
So I think this is the time that people
really need to start understanding
what it means to advocate for their
own health and to be having these
conversations with their pharmacists
and with their medical providers.
Melanie: I appreciate that
from the standpoint of what
the, the bigger challenges.
Are going to be, you know, going forward
we do have to start from those macro
levels or micro rather levels by the time
something is part of a national convers.
it's typically been a state and local
conversation for years, and we are
watching the culmination of that where
it's, you know, ROE has been the law of
the land for the entirety of my life,
and to see how quickly it can revert.
So with that and having these tools in
our toolbox, What would you say the
biggest challenge people, whether it's
you know, allies, people who are in
need of reproductive healthcare, what
would you say the biggest challenge is
for the immediate future that we should
be facing or, or looking to tackle?
Michelle: think the, the biggest
challenge is people only focusing on
the immediate future because there are
things that we need today, we need to.
Have abortion funds and and
support networks that are able to
move people from band states to
states where they can access care.
We need to be able to figure out how
to connect people to the resources
that they need, and those are the
immediate things, but that is not a
sustainable solution to this problem.
We cannot continue to exist over
decades in a country in which half
of the states and the country.
Do not a allow access to this,
you know, critical, essential
healthcare, and half of them do.
So we need to be thinking about
addressing the immediate needs
while also building for a future.
The anti-abortion movement had a
multi-decade strategy, and they worked
at this piece by piece, little by
little, and, and they were fully, fully
committed to that long-term strategy.
That is what we need right now.
We need to be thinking about
addressing the issues that people are
facing today, but also investing and
building power for a long-term fight.
And we need to get comfortable with
the fact that this is not going
to turn itself around overnight.
That we can bring Liberation to all
people in Louisiana, but it's gonna
take us a long time and people need to
stay involved in that fight and need to
stay motivated for the, the distance.
You know, this is.
It's not a sprint.
Melanie: We hear so much.
We're not going back.
We're not going back,
which is a great slogan.
It requires a lot of effort and it
requires people, . Can you talk a
bit about what the works needs are?
What needs you may have
as an organization?
What volunteering opportunities
people should look for, and
in those volunteer opportu.
what skills that are useful to
this movement, to this push?
Michelle: Yeah, that,
that's a great question and.
Louisiana is a, a little bit of a unique
organization because we don't have a
lot of sort of typical volunteering
opportunities, but we do work a lot
with volunteer attorneys, with, um,
volunteer, you know, medical, um,
experts, and we always need them,
you know, to engage in advocacy.
We always need people that can help us.
Research and develop messaging,
and I think another critical
component of of what.
We need volunteers to do is to not
just follow organizations doing this
work on social media, but to get into
the conversation, you know, on these
social media platforms and using Look
Louisiana's resources and, and fact
sheets and access to data and and
analysis to be able to engage in some
of these conversations on social media.
We are in a moment where we've got
hearts and minds that need to change,
and some people are going to be motivated
by facts and other people are gonna
be motivated by personal stories and,
and really having a conversation with
someone that challenges their thinking.
And so I think that that's a, a.
Place where people that are
interested and they want to
do something, inform yourself.
Go to trusted organizations to find
the information and then throw yourself
into some of these conversations
that are happening on our various
social media pages because they're
really, really important to start
to move the needle back towards.
Melanie: This has been a generation,
a multi-generational effort.
There are, you know, women like us who
have known role for the primary parts
of our lives, especially all of the, you
know, the pertinent parts of our lives.
There are the Gen Zers who are the
first ones in years to be faced
with these type of challenges.
And we have a, uh, there's a
wonderful Gen Zer who has, who just.
It was just something as
simple as, as as Links.
Her name is Hanin.
She is amazing and she has the nicknamed
the Abortion Link Fairy, and it's,
it's just little things like that.
There are also, you know, people
who have to go into those, the
depths of what it's like to be also
disabled and need reproductive.
Healthcare, what reproductive justice
looks like, because a lot of this is, is
it still boils down to bo bodily autonomy.
That's, you know when, that's right.
We deal with the treatment of disabled
bodies, the treatment of reproductive
organs, the treatment of trans bodies.
It all boils down to.
So I want to ask how people can keep
up to be aware, to be in the know when
there are actions, when there are things
that you'll be, you know, sponsoring.
Can you let folks know how they can
keep up with Lift Louisiana's work?
Michelle: Yeah, thank you for that.
So obviously people can sign up to
receive our email updates at our website.
It's l i ft louisiana.org.
You can also donate to lip Louisiana.
Funding is absolutely
critical in this moment.
We have a lot of work to do and we
need resources to be able to sustain
that work, and it's a really important
way that people can contribute and
make sure that we're, we're moving
towards justice in this state and.
We have a pretty robust
social media presence.
Uh, we provide a lot of
information on social media.
You know, I would highly
encourage people to follow us.
It's at Lyft, Louisiana,
on Instagram, on Facebook.
We even have a TikTok.
It's becoming more active.
Melanie: Trust me, I too have the,
the TikTok struggles, especially
when we talk about sensitive topics.
And you have to make sure you don't
like, hit whatever trigger word
that, um, TikTok might decide to,
you know, get rid of your post.
So trust me, you are not the only
one who, who struggles with staying
active, getting active on TikTok.
And I too am, you know,
in the sauce with you.
I wanna thank you so much.
For your time.
I know that it is while getting
prepared for the legislative session.
Before we go, did you want to leave
any parting words or thoughts?
Michelle: I really appreciate
this opportunity, so thank
you so much, Melanie.
It's been really good talking to you.
The last thing that I would say
is we are going to be very active
this legislative session we've got.
Really important priorities to try to
reduce the harm that the abortion bans
in Louisiana have caused on people.
So please, you know, uh, follow us and,
and sign up for those email updates.
And when we ask you to call your
legislator, please make that call.
It's really, really important.
Melanie: Thank you so much, so much.
I cannot tell you how excited I am, how
happy I am to talk to you about this.
Such a great organization so much.
Great work, and like I said,
these little, these little red
states work is going on here guys.
So please, please look for
those organizations who are
doing the work for all of the
politicians who are ignoring you.
There is an organization
and an organizer who is not.
So thank you so much,
Michelle, for joining.
I'd like to say thank you to
Michelle Ehrenberg, first and
foremost for the amazing work that
you're doing with Lift Louisiana.
So important, so impactful, and I've
said, I don't wanna use the word
tireless because I know you're tired,
but we appreciate you all the same.
Thanks to the folks at Lift
Louisiana for your work.
Thank you, David, for making this.
And lastly, thank you, Michelle,
for being with me today for
this interview and adding to the
greater national conversation.
I really appreciate it.
As you can see, the work that
Michelle and Lyft are doing is
incredible, but they're not alone.
I can guarantee you that wherever
reproductive rights are being jeopardized,
there is somebody going to battle for you.
Even in red.
Three stacks said, and I'll repeat
it as many times as I have to.
The South got something to say.
Again, you can support Lift Louisiana
by going to lift louisiana.org
or you can find the Repro Justice
organization in your area and find
out how you can give them a hand.
I guarantee you they need it.
You can also sign some of the reproductive
justice petitions we have here.
First up, we have President Biden.
We need you to fight for medical abortion.
That call sign is P W R W D.
. We also have tell Walgreens to
protect abortion pill access, P U . U.
R H i is the call sign Text.
Either one of those call signs
to five zero four zero nine.
If you already supported
the petition, that is fine.
You can also text promote and the call
sign and usually resist bot coins and
promote them to folks in your area.
Folks who would be interested
in supporting this petition.
Also, side note, if you're a
boycott, Walgreens, great for you.
Love that for you.
But remember, we still need you to
sign the petition for the people who.
There are folks who, Walgreens is
the only thing they have access to.
There are folks who are relying on
other people for transportation.
So remember them.
When we have these ideals, it's not just
about us, it's about helping the people
who need a little bit more of a hand.
And speaking of helping folks
who need help to and more.
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I want to thank you so
much for joining me this.
Once again, I'm Melanie Dion and
this has been The Resist Bot Podcast.
I'll see you next week.
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