Local women dressed as handmaids protested in silence in Wall Township on Wednesday, May 29th, where Republican Congressman Chris Smith was scheduled to speak at the Lyme and Tick Born Diseases Informational Town Meeting. Despite heavy rain, the protesters lined up silently in rows outside the entrance so that they could be seen but not disrupt the event or disrespect the concerns of those attending the event.
The protesters wore costumes inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale,which is an American dystopian drama television series. The red capes and white hats from the television series were meant to highlight what the women called “Congressman Smith’s egregious record on women, the LGBTQ community and others.”
Some examples offered included that Congressman Smith voted against the Women’s Against Violence Act in April 2019 and that Congressman Smith has voted for Personhood bills over 20 times. Personhood bills seek to give legal protection to every fertilized egg – beginning with conception –which would effectively ban abortion and even some forms of birth control such as IUDs.
Similar protests have been occurring around the country as a reaction to recent laws in several states including Alabama, Ohio and Georgia, which enforce the tightest restrictions on abortion in the United States in decades.
Congressman Smith consistently dismisses the basic rights of people who deviate from his rigid views, according to the protesters. For example, he notoriously stated that he does “not construe homosexual rights as human rights.” Also, Congressman Smith’s redefinition of “forcible rape” was widely reported as drawing bipartisan disapproval and was thrown out.
While Congressman Smith is frequently lauded for his humanitarian efforts in Africa, the protesters noted that his focus is primarily around enforcing abortion bans in countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya, rather than addressing their widespread famine and poverty. Moreover, Congressman Smith has voted to repeal the ACA over 50 times with no replacement.
As a result, the protesters stressed, Smith is ranked poorly by human rights groups, such as the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union. Congressman Smith is up for reelection in 2020.