A Handmaid’s Protest in downtown Vancouver

Protesters outside of Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler's office don't want to become actual handmaids.

Protesters outside of Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler’s office don’t want to become actual handmaids.

It’s become fairly routine for progressive activists to gather outside of the district offices of Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R- Battle Ground. This week they again got together to protest the congresswoman, but this time they wore topical costumes.

Tuesday morning, protesters gathered outside of Herrera Beutler’s downtown Vancouver office with a handful wearing the white bonnets and red cloaks from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The dystopian novel (and television series based on it) depicts a theocratic dictatorship that relegates fertile women as “handmaids,” whose entire lives are governed by a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. They’re forced to wear red cloaks and assigned to households of “commanders” for the purpose of becoming impregnated.

Clad in handmaid’s attire, Audrey Miller, southwest regional field organizer for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, stood outside of the congresswoman’s office on Tuesday where passing motorists offered supportive honks. She and other activists held signs that included anonymous testimonials from people who’ve benefited from Planned Parenthood. She said the protest was intended to call attention to Herrera Beutler’s positions on health care, particularly for women.

Audrey Miller, a progressive political activist, helped organize the protest.

Audrey Miller, a progressive political activist, helped organize the protest.

“Women’s rights are under attack right now,” said Miller. She said that the handmaid costumes helped bring greater visibility to the protest and were provided by UltraViolet, a national women’s advocacy group that has supported similar protests elsewhere.

Miller said that although the U.S. has yet to descend into a theocratic dystopia, she said that Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) would mean that women wouldn’t have the same access to maternity care or birth control.

Herrera Beutler ended up voting against the House bill that would repeal and replace the ACA. But Miller pointed out that congresswoman has previously voted to repeal the health care law and remains opposed to it. Miller also pointed out that Herrera Beutler supports defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides many health care services to women.

Miller said that while it was positive that Herrera Beutler was in town for a job fair, protesters wanted a town hall meeting to express their concerns.

“We want to see her face to face,” said, another protester wearing handmaid’s attire.

Herrera Beutler’s office sent a statement in response to the protest:

Jaime will continue to engage with the people of Southwest Washington in a variety of productive formats, from live town halls to issue-focused events to telephone forums to one-on-one meetings and any other way we can think of to have a useful dialogue with those she represents.

On the Affordable Care Act, while the health care bill proposed in Congress this year didn’t make enough positive reforms to earn Jaime’s support, it’s no secret that the current health care law is failing millions of Americans.  Premiums keep going up and families in many areas have fewer and fewer health care options.  Jaime will keep fighting for affordable, quality health care for all Americans.

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