By Emily Cain
This week, Texas enacted a bill banning nearly all abortions and allowing private citizens to become vigilantes by suing people who help others seek an abortion, including health care providers, clinics, even friends or family members who might have driven someone to an appointment.
The Texas state government is majority Republican and only 27 percent of seats in the legislature are held by women. This week in the state, 666 new laws went into effect, including this cruel abortion ban, as well as attacks on voting rights designed to make it harder to register to vote and vote by mail; even harsher restrictions are expected to be signed by Governor Greg Abbott soon.
Texas is not alone in its attack on reproductive freedom and our democracy—the assault on reproductive freedoms, as well as other rights, is happening in states across the country. For example, earlier this year in Pennsylvania, we saw the Republican majority attempt to restrict reproductive health care by forcing families to have ritual burials or cremations at any stage of pregnancy loss, including when embryos fail to implant.
The good news is there are still many reasons to keep hope alive. At EMILY’s List, a political action committee working to elect and support pro-choice women candidates into office, we have seen what can happen when we put in the work and elect those who support abortion rights to office up and down the ballot.
For example, in Nevada, where women make up the majority of the State Assembly and Democrats have control of the State Assembly, State Senate, and governorship, the government expanded access to health care and family planning, fortified abortion rights, and strengthened penalties for domestic violence. In Virginia—where Democrats also hold a trifecta and made history this session with the highest number of women ever in the state legislature—politicians made health care more affordable and accessible, increased teacher pay, codified LGBTQ+ rights, ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, and expanded reproductive rights and access to contraception.
Fifteen states currently have a Democratic trifecta, and EMILY’s List is working to protect the one in Virginia this November. It is critical that we work together to elect officials to our state governments who will protect reproductive rights, ensure health care accessibility, value voting rights, and champion the issues that impact our communities most. We’ve seen what happens when we don’t.
State governments must protect our rights, and we must use the power of the vote to ensure that those who attack our reproductive freedom are voted out of office. There are several things you can do to get involved:
First, if you are eligible to vote, do so in every election. This is especially critical in years when there is no presidential election and no midterms. Turnout is usually lowest at these times. State governments are the last line of defense when it comes to the issues we care about, yet state and local elections are often held in off years, making these elections the ones Americans are least likely to vote in, with only 15 to 27 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot in local elections. Regardless of who controls the White House, state officials make decisions that impact us every single day. Remember, each vote makes an even bigger difference.
Secondly, just as your vote can make a bigger difference at the state level, so can your donations. Find local candidates you are passionate about—or consider running yourself! Donate or volunteer for their campaigns. At the state level, where budgets are smaller, your time and contributions make the largest impact.
Finally, speak out about injustice when you see it. Call your elected officials, email their offices, sign petitions, and make your voice heard. As we watch abortion bans go into effect in states like Texas, reach out to your local abortion providers, start conversations around abortion with your family and friends, and encourage everyone around you to get involved.
Let the millions who were stripped of their reproductive rights this week spark a fire in all of us to engage more directly and vote so that our state governments truly represent the people they serve.
Emily Cain is the Executive Director of EMILY's List and former Minority Leader in Maine.
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