BY CLARE HOWARD
Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women, urged about 55 attendees at the state convention in Peoria to mobilize for reproductive justice and say no to Trumpcare.
In her keynote address to the Illinois state convention at the Peoria Public Library main branch, Van Pelt said a priority must be to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed in the Illinois Legislature. The ERA was passed recently in Nevada and passage in Illinois and Virginia would give the constitutional amendment the necessary 38 votes.
NOW is focusing on local action, interesting young girls in high school to start thinking about careers in public office. Van Pelt is reaching out to the Girl Scouts of America to discuss establishment of a merit badge for learning the skills to become women in elected leadership roles.
“We need more women in elected positions,” she said. NOW is analyzing congresssional districts looking for opportunities to support female candidates.
Another major concern of NOW is marriage equality under the Trump administration, she said.
NOW is initiating a major effort to recruit and work with African American women. The organization is making resources available to help with a Sept. 30 “March for Black Women” in Washington, D.C.
NOW action initiatives include: advance voting rights; protect immigrant rights; ratify the ERA; mobilize for reproductive justice; and end the criminalization of trauma.
The current version of Trumpcare reveals how critical it is to have women in Congress Van Pelt said, citing pushback from Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono.
Van Pelt said NOW is pushing to expand Medicaid nationwide to cover abortion.
Attendees held a rally outside the Federal Courthouse following Van Pelt’s talk.
Illinois State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, Chicago, was given a legislative award and Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, Peoria, received the presidential award for work on behalf of women’s rights. Nancy Long received the NOW president’s award.