After the legislature passed an omnibus bill restricting access to abortion, women (and some men) assembled a vigil on Blount Street across from Gov. Pat McCrory’s mansion. The idea was to remind him of his unequivocal pledge not to sign any legislation restricting access to women’s health services. It was also a vigil for women’s health generally, which has come under constant attack by the current leadership of the General Assembly.
On Monday evening, instead of engaging with the protesters, Gov. McCrory reversed his campaign pledge and signed the abortion bill. On Tuesday, after at first ignoring the women in front of his mansion, he decided to bring them a plate of cookies. According to news reports he identified a woman to meet him in the street and then delivered her the baked goods while surrounding himself with security. Cookies delivered, he trotted back to his house.
Let me pause here and explain a few things. The people chanting on Blount Street are there because they care about women’s health. And they don’t just care about women’s health a little bit. They have dedicated their lives and careers to promoting and protecting women’s health. They endure insults and attacks and threats to improve women’s health. Not only that, but the people across the street from the Governor’s Mansion are incredibly knowledgable. They know more about health care delivery than anyone in the Governor’s administration.
Now I will add what should be an uncontroversial statement: a mature leader would have invited the people from across the street to a meeting. At such a meeting Gov. McCrory could have learned more about the abortion legislation and its practical impact. He could have heard from some of the state’s best minds on how this bill could hurt women. The two sides may not have agreed, but the Governor would have come away a smarter and better person.
Instead, Gov. McCrory decided not to meet with the protesters. And, after signing the bill, Gov. McCrory released a statement saying that the protesters care more about politics than women’s health. He said this about people who spend every waking moment working for women’s health.
Even without this context bringing women a plate of cookies under armed guard, but refusing to speak to them, would be demeaning and patronizing. (At least he didn’t pat them on the head and ask them to run along.) With this context it’s breathtaking.
I can’t begin to explain or comprehend the Governor’s behavior. I have no idea who is advising him. It feels like he is simply in over his head. I hope for the good of the state he turns things around. He could be the lone sane voice with some say over the policies coming out of Raleigh. He could stand against social legislation and turn our collective attention toward economic development. He could try to repair the wide breach he has opened with his insults.
He could start by listening to the people standing a few feet outside of his mansion gates.