Back a few years ago when I helped run a low-cost spay/neuter program with the same passion I now have for “this political thing” I began to volunteer up to 30 hours/week because I wanted to see less dogs and cats run loose on the streets, homeless … and to help bring down the number of cats/dogs/puppies/kittens who were euthanized in my county shelter each year, which was at the time about 15,000 annually in a county with a human population of 250,000. It was the equivalent of the “social issue” side of the problem. I wanted to help the pets and the families, to lessen the suffering and deaths.
As I learned more and more about the spay/neuter issue, and began an advocacy that spread to working with animal control, our local shelter, rescue groups, the veterinarian community, county and city council I began to understand the fiscal side of the issue. More than just provide affordable/accessible spay/neuter for low income families we needed to engage these agencies to provide a more comprehensive solution. Animal control needed to see us as “partners” and supporters of their efforts, despite their bad reputation in the community because THEY saw and talked to our potential clients every day in the field and could hand out our appointment cards. Rescue groups had the ability to promote our spay/neuter program at their well attended adoption events. The shelter was able to give us access to their receiving office where unwanted pets were turned in and we offered a spay/neuter solution to try to keep that pet in the home, and provide surgeries for their other pets. And when it came to city/county council we advocated for two things A. – a fee reduction in local licensing laws for pets who were spayed/neutered and B. – a small shift in animal control budget to a spay/neuter fund to help subsidize the very lowest income families. We were able to accomplish B. (still working on A.) because we had learned that different things were important to different groups of advocates. City/county council were persuaded by our ability to collect and present data that explained how their constituents’ tax dollars would be well spent in PREVENTION of the problem of stray/unwanted pets being turned in to the TAXPAYER SUPPORTED county shelter and more spay/neuter = less unwanted pets = less pets needing to be cared for on taxpayer dollars. Additionally we showed them documented evidence that the health and safety of their constituents was well served with less roaming animals, better rabies compliances (all our spay/neuter clients were vaccinated), and the sad circumstances of three small children being killed in our county in an 18-month period by unneutered pets; statistically the most likely to be in an attack situation are unneutered dogs, both male AND female.
So although I was engaged by the “social issue” side of spay/neuter I learned the “fiscal responsibility” side of the issue really helped get us to where we wanted to be. We needed the passionate Animal People to volunteer for our program, and their inspired passion and advocacy helped give us a constituency that enabled us to negotiate with animal agencies and local government for fiscal assistance. Which leads me to contemplate today how the fiscal conservative elites in the Republican party have long dismissed the social advocates on issues like abortion, to the point of wanting to depress their presence at the national (and some local) levels. The voices at the top who have been embarrassed by the pro life folks who have rallied and written and stood holding signs for decades. Those mothers and fathers and churchgoers who continued to speak, plead, show up, and take abuse in the face of a law that will probably never be repealed. Yet they fight on.
And now today the entire conservative movement, including those elite Republicans at the top of the party are hanging one of their last hopes on the abortion issue to kill the health care bill. Without the abortion issue we may only have a 2-legged stool chance of any sort of distant victory. Without the 20 or 30 years of pro life advocates keeping this issue in front of voters, congress, senators, medical organizations, religious organizations, and making almost every candidate declare their convictions on the abortion issue we’d be FAR LESS LIKELY to have any shot at killing this bill. It would be a non issue, something that an earlier generation would only remember infrequently as “the way it used to be.”
So, I am grateful beyond words to those men and women who have carried this torch for all of us for years. It must have been so difficult to keep up their passion with no victory in sight. I know I am discouraged several times a day in this present circumstance, and do not know if I could have fought for so long with so few political victories.
And to the fiscal elites and dismissive party leaders. I believe you will never acknowledge the debt you owe to those you’ve tried to ignore in keeping the faint hope of killing this bill alive so long, but it will hang on you as shame, whether you acknowledge it or not.