Do you remember back in 2018, when women led the Blue Wave that ushered in a Democratic House and, arguably, brought hope to a country of Trump-exhausted Americans? Women don’t take bullshit sitting down. We didn’t in 2018, and we certainly don’t now.
Ever since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, way back in a previous era when women’s rights were valued, or June, women have been paying attention. Did we actually think that Roe v. Wade would be, could be overturned? Did we imagine that a party mainly made up of males would plot to ban birth control? Was it even conceivable that Republicans would refuse an abortion to child rape victims, or women pregnant with non-viable fetuses, whose very pregnancies endangered their own life? For most of us, the answer was “no.”
Was. That’s the key word. Now we all understand that the Trump Republicans, backed by their ill-begotten Supreme Court, don’t give one whit for precedent or women or basic humanity. They are coming after all of it.
And women are fighting back by launching raucous public protests, fundraising obscene-in-a-good-way amounts of money, and setting up networks to help women in states where abortion is now illegal. Women also are registering to vote in numbers that have put serious fear into Republicans. New voter registration for women outnumbers male registration in states like Kansas, Ohio, and Wisconsin — states where abortion rights are under serious threat. While we can’t say that every woman voter is pro-choice, 56% of women recently told pollsters that the Dobbs decision made them more interested in voting in the midterms.
It’s a fact: women are angry and they are enthusiastic to vote. In Kansas, where women make up 65% of new registrations, voters overwhelmingly reaffirmed the state’s constitutional protections for abortion. In New York, Democrat Pat Ryan won a special House election after making abortion rights a prominent part of his campaign. “Freedom was on the ballot,” Ryan tweeted on election eve. In Texas, with its Draconian abortion bans, and in Pennsylvania, where the Republican gubernatorial candidate wants to go further than Texas, more voters support abortion access than oppose it. A recent Wall Street Journal poll showed that support for abortion had increased by 5% since the Dobbs ruling, in fact, it was the single issue most likely to drive voting in the midterms.
But if you are following all this from a blue state, like me, you may be wondering what any of this has to do with you. A few things. States with legal abortion are seeing an impact. Women from states with abortion bans are flocking to other states, causing a rush on appointments and a strain on resources. California now welcomes “abortion tourism” and has launched a government website for people coming for abortions. Some states, like Oregon and New Mexico, have rushed to open clinics on their borders using tax dollars and even are paying for some of the abortion costs for out-of-state patients. And some states are putting abortion itself on the ballot.
This November voters in California will vote on Proposition 1. The Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment would update the state constitution to ensure citizens the right to abortion as well as birth control. As CBS News pointed out, ”Should the measure succeed, California would become one of the first states — if not the first — to create explicit constitutional rights to both abortion and contraception.”
In other words, this is a BFD.
Polling shows 70% of Californians support Proposition 1, so abortion could become a defining issue in several Congressional races. Republicans Michelle Steel, Mike Garcia, David Valadao and Young Kim have pursued aggressive forced-birth policies and voted against legislation to codify the right to abortion and contraception, and the first three co-sponsored the failed Life at Conception Act, which would effectively ban abortion across the country and could even extend to some contraception. In this current Year of the Woman, these Republicans are now running from conversations on abortion although their records make their stance clear. Democratic House candidate Christy Smith said, “[T]his is absolutely an issue that could really change the shape of this election.”
Even in San Mateo County, a bubble so blue that almost 78% of voters voted for Joe Biden in 2020, the call for abortion rights is making waves as we head into the midterms. In the city of San Mateo, councilwoman Amourence Lee asked the seven candidates vying for seats on the council to state their position both on Proposition 1 and their support of women’s rights to access abortion and birth control. The questions resulted in a local political maelstrom as candidate Rod Linhares, who works for the San Francisco Archdiocese, failed to definitively declare his support and instead pivoted his focus to issues over which the city council has jurisdiction, like the budget and public safety.
“Some might ask, is abortion a local issue?” Lee posted on her Facebook page. “Yes. Funding, zoning, health education are all within the local and county purview. Would an anti-choice candidate vote to increase abortion care capacity in our County? … Our state assembly and congress members were once local electeds. Without Roe the question is, could we unknowingly vote for an anti-choice city council member, school board trustee, or county supervisor who will one day become our state representative and strip away our rights?”
Lee’s questions may also resonate in another local race, this one for a seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. Voters have the choice of two Democrats: Charles Stone, a 48-year-old white man, who has the backing of establishment officials, and Noelia Corzo, a mid-30s progressive Latina. Each candidate has a list of priorities you would expect in California, like climate action, public safety, and affordability, but only one has earned the endorsement of Planned Parenthood: the male candidate. As Stone wrote on social media, “Every woman deserves access to safe healthcare and every woman deserves the right to make her own healthcare decisions. As the father of two teenage daughters, this issue is very personal for me.”
In a few months Americans will find out if 2022 is really another Year of the Woman. Will reproductive rights emerge as the defining factor? If we hope to avert “The Handmaid’s Tale” redux, this voter certainly hopes so.
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