Throughout the GOP-led assault on women’s reproductive health rights, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) has served as a soldier of love for women of color, poor women and victims of sexual and physical abuse.
Moore consistently commands the House floor and deploys pieces of her personal story to shame the mostly White male lawmakers who are hostile to women’s reproductive health rights, birth control, the Violence Against Women Act, free breast exams, kitty cats and orchids. Here, three of Gwen Moore’s greatest hits:
1. "I know a lot about having Black babies. I’ve had three of them.”
Last year when Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) tried to strip federal dollars from Planned Parenthood and his crony Paul Broun (R-GA) claimed that the organization’s free breast exams, pap smears and birth control were just a front for Black genocide, Moore shut him down:
“I am really touched by the passion of the opposite, to want to save Black babies. I can tell you I know a lot about having Black babies. I’ve had three of them. And I had my first one when I was 18 years old—at the ripe old age of 18, an unplanned pregnancy.
I just want to tell you what it’s like not to have Planned Parenthood...you have to give your kids Ramen noodles at the end of the month to fill up their little bellies so they won’t cry. You have to give them mayonnaise sandwiches. They get very few fruits and vegetables because they’re expensive. It subjects children to low educational attainment because of the ravages of poverty. ….
And let me tell you, you know the public policy has treated poor children and women who have not had the benefit of Planned Parenthood with utter contempt.”
2. “Violence against women is as American as apple pie.”
In April, Moore confronted GOP lawmakers who were blocking the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) because they didn’t like new protections for immigrant women, gay and lesbian domestic violence victims and the one in three Native American women who are raped in this country:
I can tell you that when this bill came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with all the Republican senators, all of the guys voting 'no', it brought up some terrible memories for me of having boys sit in a locker room and sort of bet that I, the egghead, couldn’t be ‘had.’ And then the appointed boy, when he saw that I wasn’t going to be so willing, completed a date rape and then took my underwear to display it to the rest of the boys. This is what American women are facing. …
Violence against women in this country is not levied against just Democrats but Republicans as well. Not Blacks or Whites or Hispanics but against native people as well. Not just Christians or Muslims and Jews but non-religious people—atheists. Not just rich people or poor people but middle-class people. And not just against heterosexual women but homosexual couples. It knows no gender. It knows no ethnicity. It knows nothing. And I’ll tell you: violence against women is as American as apple pie.”
3. “Stop playing games with the lives of women!”
Last week, after House Republicans passed a watered version of VAWA that the White House has threatened to veto, Moore revealed how the unplanned child she had at 18 was the product of a beating and rape by a so-called friend and that during her rapist’s trial, she was treated like the criminal. Then she exhorted her colleagues with this:
"Stop playing games with the lives of women! They don’t want to hear us talking about a war on women, but I mean this is a direct assault on women’s lives. Three women a day die because of victimization. And I would implore my colleagues to stop playing games!"
Can someone give Gwen Moore a medal of honor?
Akiba Solomon is an NABJ-Award winning writer, freelance journalist, editor and essayist from West Philadelphia. She writes about the intersection between gender and race for Colorlines and is the co-editor of Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts.