The ladies around the tables in actress Lulu Ward's converted garage in Garland were talking serious politics as they pieced together pretty scraps of fabric Sunday afternoon. Shiny bits of pink satin, bright fuchsia felt and black and white zebra print were being sewn into puffy three-dimensional shapes that look like a woman's uterus. Some of the ladies were knitting small replicas of ladyparts, counting stitches as they whipped red yarn around tiny needles. There were plastic googly eyes and sparkly beads for embellishment. Some of the little uteruses wore smiles; others looked none too happy. You occasionally heard someone say something like "How do you stuff the pipe cleaners into the Fallopian tubes?"
The finished items, representing women upset with how their innards are being politicized, will be mailed to Texas Governor Rick Perry and other lawmakers on the state and federal levels this week as symbols of protest against the new waves of legislation turning back the clock on women's health care. The defunding of Planned Parenthood, the new trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure mandated for women seeking abortions, the attacks on birth control, the new so-called "personhood laws," the push for "abstinence education," the relentless slut-shaming by the media-political complex -- it's as if men in government finally discovered loopholes in women's reproductive rights and are trying to wrest back control of everything going on down there.
Out of 40,000 state laws of all types enacted last year, nearly 1,000 were devoted to restricting a woman's right to legal abortion services. Even Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison sees the downside of this pushback on women's healthcare, warning Rick Perry recently to back off the issue or risk losing women's votes. Hutchison expressed her support for Planned Parenthood, which provides mammograms and other preventative healthcare services to low-income women. (In mid-March, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it was ending Medicaid funding for family planning in the state of Texas, following Perry's implementation of a new law that cuts Planned Parenthood from the state's Medicaid Women's Health Program.)
Ward, who's starred in productions at all the major Dallas theater over the past 20 years, said her afternoon of "craftivism" was inspired in part by the bi-partisan Government-Free Vajayjay project, whose web site provides patterns and instructions for where to send a handmade vagina, uterus, womb, cervix or "snatchel." The suggested message to accompany the handsewn items going to lawmakers in both parties: "Hands off my uterus! Here's one of your own!"
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The 15 women at Ward's event, including actresses Wendy Welch and Barrett Nash, Equity stage manager Cathy O'Neal and director Kimberlyn Crow, were fired up about letting men in government know how women feel about these issues. "We're pissed off and we vote," said Ward. "This is just one action we can take. It's the first item in the vaj offensive. This is our uterine spring."
During the afternoon, a cameraman from WFAA showed up to snatch some footage. A local filmmaker called to ask if he could come by to document the event.
As the little puppet uteruses started to pile up on the table, it felt like the start of a serious grassroots effort coming together. A pube-roots movement, if you will.