Hero who started “Periods for Pence” revealed her identity at a pro-choice rally

As Election Day nears, it’s worth remembering we’re not only electing a president, but a vice president too. In electing Donald Trump, we’d be crowning an Islamophobic, xenophobic bigot guilty of boasting about sexual assault, and according to no shortage of women accusing him, perhaps guilty of sexual assault; but almost equally troubling, we’d be electing Indiana Governor Mike Pence as vice president, a man who supports gay conversion therapy, and, oh, right, defunded Planned Parenthood. Cue “Sue Magina,” the founder of Periods for Pence, a movement that went viral earlier this year when Pence attempted to sign into law some of the most stringent anti-abortion policies in the nation.

At a pro-choice rally at the Indiana Capitol Wednesday aiming to raise awareness about the “damaging laws aimed at women across Indiana legislated during the last four years of Mike Pence’s term as Governor,” according to a press release, Magina revealed her true identity as 39-year-old Laura Shanley. For months, she called herself “Sue Magina,” which obviously sounds like “sue my vagina.”

The Periods for Pence movement in March asked women everywhere to call Pence’s office to report on their periods, since, as governor, Pence was taking it upon himself to make women’s reproductive health his business and govern their uteruses. “Magina” launched the movement with a phone call, and then another, and another, publishing transcripts of her calls on a Facebook page titled “Periods for Pence” (now Periods for Politicians, because why stop at calling out Pence?).

Shanley launched Periods for Pence as a direct response to a measure Pence signed into law prohibiting women from having abortions because of the fetus’ race, gender, or disabilities like down syndrome. This law, like others similar to it, offered no funding or proposals regarding how individuals born with severe disabilities could be taken care of and was widely disavowed by the medical community. Even Pence’s fellow Republicans, such as state Representative Sharon Negele, opposed the bill, slamming it for including no education or funding and consisting of “just penalties.”

The law also claimed pregnancy began when an egg was fertilized, despite federal policy and scientific communities strictly identifying a woman as pregnant only “when a fertilized egg has implanted in the wall of her uterus.” Additionally, it held doctors legally liable for “wrongful death” if they performed abortions for any of the outlawed reasons, associating the already unnecessarily stigmatized procedure with murder and criminality.

In June, the law was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court. Pence’s actions hardly come as a surprise to anyone who’s paid attention to his voting record on reproductive rights, or anyone aware of his 0 percent approval rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. Also, while Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, adamantly supported by Pence, is famous for essentially enabling homophobia and LGBTQ discrimination (like all religious freedom laws), it technically enabled health care providers to deny women access to abortion.

As governor of Indiana, Pence was additionally responsible for defunding Planned Parenthood, resulting in the closure of several clinics providing a range of crucial services regarding reproductive health and sexually transmitted infections, and, consequentially, an HIV outbreak in Scott County, Indiana.

Shanley told Cosmopolitan that officials in Pence’s office told her Pence “was getting very perturbed by the whole thing.” She said, “He would just walk in in the morning and beeline to his office and shut the door and lock it.” I can’t help but wonder which is more perturbing: being ambushed by phone calls calling you out for your sexism or not being able to get an abortion or access breast cancer screening tests?

She also confided in the magazine that she chose to maintain anonymity for her own safety, but also due to her conservative work environment, and only recently lost her job.

“There’s nothing wrong with going to protests and we need those things to call attention,” Shanley told Cosmopolitan of the response her protest has inspired. But calling up your representatives and ensuring that women’s voices are heard on an individual level is important too, and is precisely what Periods for Pence is all about.