Submitted by Willie Puchert
Friday’s Supreme Court ruling that reversed the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling has me reminiscing of a campaign I cut my political teeth on over 30 years ago.
In the Spring of 1990, I was in the final semester of high school at McQueen High School and was offered extra credit by my Honors Government Teacher, the late Kendyl Depoali (the namesake of the Southeast Reno Middle School), if I attended the local Washoe County Democratic Convention. This was my introduction into the world of political activism, and as the summer months progressed I noticed a ballot initiative campaign known as “The Campaign For Choice” heating up. After it received enough signatures, it was placed on the November Statewide Ballot as Question 7.
The proponents of this ballot initiative sought to codify in the Nevada Constitution the rights granted in the Roe V. Wade abortion ruling as law in our state.
At the time, two of the state’s Democratic Leaders, then Gov. Bob Miller and the late Sen. Harry Reid, held pro-life positions and there was a real concern that there was a threat to reproductive freedom in Nevada. It was also a time when local abortion providers were being threatened publicly with bounties on their heads and daily pickets at their clinics by abortion opponents.
As the fall began and I was a freshman at University of Nevada, Reno, I felt compelled to get more politically involved, especially after reading several books over the summer written by the late ‘60s activist Abbie Hoffman. I remember after watching hundreds of pro-life activists form a human chain waving pro-life signs on South Virginia Street, I came up with the idea to respond in-kind with a few of my friends with pro choice signs at the same location. We started with only four of us, called ourselves the “Students For Choice” and by the last weekend before the election there were over 200 of us. I befriended a female local television reporter who I think was sympathetic to our cause and thus we would always get a story on the local news.
I also felt compelled to respond to the daily pickets of abortion providers by holding demonstrations at the Nevada Eagle Forum, which was coordinating the statewide “No on 7” campaign. Their side was led by the ultra-conservative activist and Nevada Independent American Party founder Janine Hansen, who was not pleased by my multiple appearances picketing their Sparks office on Rock Boulevard.
When the November election came around, our side won by nearly a two-thirds margin and I give much of that credit to my dear friend and mentor Mylan Hawkins, who was the statewide director of the “Yes on 7” campaign. Her life has been devoted to women’s rights, from running the Nevada Pro-ERA Campaign in the ‘70s to organizing one of the first local Women’s Marches five years ago. I am grateful she trusted me enough to support my direct action with my friends during that campaign. Those experiences laid the groundwork for my future political endeavors in the years to come.
Our efforts 32 years ago hopefully will protect reproductive freedom here in Nevada. However, this is not the time for us to become complacent. I recall last month’s GOP Nevada Primary Gubernatorial Debate, when former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, reversing his previously stated pro-choice position, stated:
“I will do everything possible to make Nevada a pro-life state…I will raise the money necessary to overturn the abortion statute we have in this state. I will raise the money necessary to get the matter back on the ballot, whether it be $2 or $3 million because I realize that’s the only way it can change.”
As I write this piece I see posts from friends on Facebook stating that democracy is over, several Handmaid’s Tale memes and the like with this recent Supreme Court ruling. I also see predictions that rolling back LGBTQ rights is next for this new Supreme Court conservative majority.
That will happen if people do not become active now. Mr. Heller’s above-mentioned flip-flop should remind us why it is important to stay engaged.
I did on this issue and I would like to think I was part of history in doing so. The question now is what future history is about to be written? …AND WHAT WILL YOU DO?
Willie Puchert is a local graphic designer and former journalist who has volunteered, managed or consulted on numerous local campaigns He headed “Students For Choice” during the 1990 Yes on 7 Campaign.
Submitted opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article or letter to the editor here.
This Is Reno is your source for award-winning independent, online Reno news and events since 2009. We are locally owned and operated.