The 1973 Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade stated that it was unconstitutional for states to ban abortions, but over 40 years later, clinics still have a difficult time providing that service because of unscientific laws and threats of violence. In recognition of the difficult time these medical professionals face just performing their jobs, Lady Parts Justice (LPJ) was founded in 2012 in order to celebrate and honor them.
The organization was founded by Lizz Winstead, co-creator and former head writer of The Daily Show, who had an abortion when she was 16 years old. If that option were not available to her at the time, she says, she would not have been able to accomplish all she has been able to in her career. For that reason, she wanted to pay it forward using the best tool in her arsenal: comedy.
"For so long, the clinics had to defend themselves, defend the science, and then provide the care and it was just too much," Winstead said, when she recently sat down with A Plus. "So I called up my creative friends and I said, 'I want to do something crazy, I want to make videos that are as funny as anything you see on Comedy Central. that really expose [laws and politicians that are] anti-science, anti-woman… just anybody who doesn't care about fucking people."
Winstead had no trouble finding friends willing to lend their talents to stand up for these clinics. The website even has a map of the United States, with a playlist of videos for each state, demonstrating some of the most baffling laws and restrictions that women and abortion providers endure. Take this example from Michigan about "rape insurance" which is sadly a very real thing that impacts how women in the state pay for abortions:
While some states have more restrictions than others (for example, things are generally easier in Vermont than, say, Texas) Winstead's New York video insists that there are no "safe states" and even where access to services may be easy, there are more resources required in order to truly meet the needs of the community. After all, these clinics don't only provide abortions, they also provide contraceptives, STD testing and treatment, medical exams, and education services, among other things.
"We just want to be a place where creative people can come and make videos that are in their tone and spirit. We want to color outside of the lines," Winstead explained with a smile. "We work with the organizations but we also have permission from the organizations to be [ourselves] so that we can use language and tough messaging because we live in 'what the fuck' times and I think sometimes we need to say 'what the fuck.'"
In addition to the videos, LPJ also provides direct support for clinics with what Winstead calls a "USO approach." That is, just like the United Service Organizations that provide entertainment and support for members and families of the military, Lady Parts Justice travels around the country in order to support clinics as well as the staff.
For instance, Winstead said that they will soon be traveling to Fort Worth, Texas in order to install a security fence for a clinic that is in desperate need of one. In other locations, they might do some landscaping or something to improve the property.
It's also important for LPJ to make the staff of these clinics feel like valued parts of the community, so they may also put on a comedy show, throw a barbecue, or hold an educational workshop to allow them to interact with the community.
Lisa Winter / A Plus
Around six months ago, LPJ began a postcard writing campaign, allowing people to write notes of thanks and appreciation to clinics. It's important to use postcards, Winstead explained, as clinic staffs are often too scared to open letters in envelopes for fear that something hazardous might be inside.
Since the postcard writing campaign began, they've sent out around 4,000 postcards, thanking the staff for being in the community and providing the services they do. The notes are very appreciated by the workers, who are used to being vilified and protested. By following LPJ on social media, supporters can learn when the next push for postcards will be, although they are welcomed at any time.
Winstead sat down to talk about LPJ with A Plus before she took the stage at the Reason Rally on June 4 in Washington, D.C. In addition to being a noteworthy atheist, Winstead played an important role at the event because evidence-based sexual education was one of its tentpole ideas.
The organization was a huge hit among attendees of the rally. The booth was consistently surrounded by people who wanted to learn more about supporting LPJ and the clinics. Volunteers also applied gold temporary tattoos in the shape of a uterus, giving everyone the chance to proudly display their support of "lady parts." By the end of the day, these golden womb tattoos graced the skin of hundreds, if not thousands, of supporters at the rally.
Anyone who wants to get involved with LPJ can simply assemble a small group of 15-20 friends and write to the organization that they are committed to attending an event in their town. LPJ will then contact a local clinic to put the steps in motion and offer to put on a comedy show or do whatever maintenance work needs to be done.
Instead of setting up chapters and official memberships, Winstead would prefer for people to put their energy into helping their local clinics. LPJ has a small full-time staff of only seven individuals, with an additional pool of hundreds of part-time volunteers across the country. Even with these small numbers, she feels incredibly proud of what they've been able to accomplish.
"I was asked by the community to speak on the steps of the Supreme Court during Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt arguments," she said, referencing the ongoing case concerning the "undue burden" of abortion access in Texas. "I felt very proud of that because we're very nontraditional. We're aggressive in our messaging and so to see the acceptance... was very cool."