Democrats Are Making Reproductive Rights Personal—And Voters Are Listening

  • Apr 10, 2024
  • A'shanti F. Gholar

Conservative groups have been working overtime for the past year fighting to take away women’s reproductive rights: passing 6-week bans, trying to roll back FDA-approved medication, threatening access to emergency contraception, and even limiting the ability of Americans to utilize long-standing IVF treatments. These policies don’t just limit women’s freedom and interfere with medical decisions that should be between a woman and her doctor – they put our health and lives at risk. 

Now, Donald Trump has weighed in: he’s endorsed states’ abilities to restrict women’s rights as much as they want, and promised Americans can expect more of this assault on women’s health he laid the groundwork for with the overturn of Roe v. Wade if he’s elected to another term. Make no mistake: women’s bodily autonomy and even our ability to start and grow our families is not safe if Trump returns to the White House.

On the heels of Trump’s statement, on Tuesday the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated a Civil War-era law from 1864—more than 160 years ago—that bans all abortions unless the patient’s life is in danger, with no exceptions for rape or incest. These latest attacks on women’s reproductive rights should serve as a clarion call to voters to reject these dangerous policies. We have seen this issue motivate voters to go to the polls since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Since then, in the seven states where extreme politicians proposed extreme ballot measures to ban abortion, voters in all seven states voted to protect abortion access. Democrats who campaigned on abortion have won key gubernatorial races in Arizona and Kentucky, victories that ensured they had veto power over any abortion bans passed by their GOP-controlled state legislatures. 

Now in this election cycle, more and more Democratic women candidates are taking it a step further and sharing their personal abortion stories on the campaign trail – and it’s working. At Emerge, which has trained Democratic women to run for elected office and win, for more than 20 years, we’ve incorporated these winning lessons in our programs over the past two years.

In March, Emerge alum and Arizona State Senator Eva Burch made headlines by announcing in a floor speech her intention to terminate her non-viable pregnancy and shared how Arizona’s restrictive abortion laws are impacting women like her across the state.

In Tennessee, Allie Phillips, a candidate trained in the Emerge Tennessee training program, launched her campaign for a state House seat after she was forced to leave the state to terminate a nonviable pregnancy that was endangering her life. Phillips had never been involved in politics, but her heartbreaking and now viral experience led her to run for office for the first time to advocate for reproductive rights for women across her state. 

Just days ago, Marilyn Lands, a Democrat who made abortion rights and IVF centerpieces of her campaign, won a special election for a state House seat in Alabama, flipping a seat that had long been held by Republicans. During her campaign, Lands shared her personal story about how she terminated a nonviable pregnancy 20 years ago – noting that women in Alabama today must leave the state to have an abortion as a result of these draconian laws that exist to punish and control women.

And it’s not just abortion that is motivating candidates to share their stories and voters to come out to the polls in their favor. Lands also focused her campaign around IVF access–after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling temporarily paused fertility treatments in the state–showing the recent ruling reignited the reproductive rights debate ahead of November.

These candidates recognize the reality: abortion and IVF are widespread in this country. And Republican attempts to roll them back are extreme, irrational, and dangerous. 

Nearly 22 million women live in states where access to abortion is heavily restricted. According to a recent poll, nearly half of Americans have utilized abortion care or know someone who has. We need women in elected office who have lived these stories, had abortions, and understand these issues personally and the impacts that these hostile restrictions have on our health and our lives. 

Infertility affects millions of Americans with about 1 in 5 women of reproductive age in the United States experiencing challenges to conceive. IVF represents greater than 99% of assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures performed and allows many people a potential path to starting or expanding their families. More than 1 million babies have been born in the United States alone via IVF since its inception.

Every time the GOP makes a decision that restricts and impacts women’s health care, more and more women are paying attention. Now, more conservative women in Alabama and around the country who may be relying on IVF to have children, are paying attention. These are just some of the bold women candidates who are sharing their personal stories to connect with voters and underscore the impacts of their states’ dangerous bans – and voters are listening. Our candidates who are speaking out on these issues are out winning races, garnering national attention, keeping abortion access front and center, or all of the above. 

The stakes could not be higher. Women are speaking up and speaking out, sharing our stories, and voters are listening. Republican politicians who are trying to roll back our rights should do so at their own peril.