Standing outside the White Auditorium in downtown Emporia on a Saturday morning, Alexis Lowder knew she was risking her job. But for her, the cause was worth it.
On the morning of Saturday, July 9, Lowder and other members of the Emporia Community Action group held a rally outside the White Auditorium to encourage voters to vote “no” on a proposed Kansas Constitutional amendment known as the name of Value Them Both. Amendment.
On Monday, Lowder, a music teacher at Sacred Heart Catholic School, received a message from his school.
“On the Monday after the vote against the rally, I got a voicemail from the school principal saying I had to come for a meeting the next day,” Lowder said. “I knew what was coming. I was ready to be fired.”
When Lowder arrived at the school, she said, she was told she would face a hearing before an official decision was made.
“[The hearing] was really unnecessary because, I mean, the position of the Catholic Church is not going to change and I did nothing wrong,” Lowder said.
Lowder said she was “asked a bunch of questions and basically given a chance to apologize, to repent,” an offer she didn’t take. Later that day, she received an email and text telling her she had been fired.
“The exact wording was, ‘We are terminating your employment at Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary School effective immediately. Your words and actions while organizing and participating in a Vote No rally are inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church,’ and that was about it,’ she said.
Sacred Heart Catholic School principal Alison Geitz told The Gazette she could not comment on personnel matters.
Lowder had been a teacher at Sacred Heart for a year before her firing. She is also a former anti-abortion Catholic herself.
She said she decided to leave the Catholic Church about seven years ago.
Now 30, Lowder is an activist for bodily autonomy and said her personal journey with abortion rights began in her early 20s.
“The first step was realizing, ‘Oh, wow, so a lot of people are having an abortion because it’s a threat to the life of the pregnant person,'” Lowder said. “I had, like, this kind of realization that if I got pregnant and found myself in this situation, maybe I would choose to take this risk, but no one else should be forced to sacrifice their life for a non-viable pregnancy.”
Additionally, Lowder said she spoke with a co-worker who had an abortion, a conversation that helped shift her perspective.
“She had two daughters and her third pregnancy, it was going to kill her, and so she had an abortion because she wasn’t going to orphan her two daughters and it was like, oh, my, yeah, that just clicked for me that I had these preconceived notions of who gets abortions and why, and really I don’t know the circumstances of other people’s abortions,” she said.
“Slowly I began to realize…abortion is more complicated than I thought and it’s a personal decision and no one, not me, certainly not the government, should be responsible for telling others what what they can do with their bodies,” she added.
Looking back, Lowder said she doesn’t regret her decision to help organize the rally.
“Knowing that I had the ability to get people out, to motivate people to vote and to tell others to vote, it seemed important enough to take the risk,” she said. “Sometimes just keeping silent is unethical.”
While the Value Them Both amendment failed, the Value Them Both Coalition – an advocacy group supporting the legislation – released a statement after the amendment was overturned by Kansas voters on August 2, stating that voters had been misled about what the amendment entailed and that the organization would not give up the fight “to empower women and babies”.
Lowder also said she has no plans to back down and will continue to work with abortion advocacy groups in the state, saying there is “no time for complacency”.
Kansas was the first state to put abortion rights before voters following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in late June, and other states quickly followed suit.
According to the Associated Press, “four more states – California, Kentucky, Michigan and Vermont – could have votes in November on abortion access, and a fifth, Montana, votes on a measure that would require abortion providers to provide life-saving treatment to a fetus born alive after a failed abortion.
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