President and CEO, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
As the worst legislative year to date for U.S. abortion rights and access drew to a close, so did one of the worst legislative years for voting rights. This is not a coincidence — Black women, femmes, and gender-expansive people are facing dual attacks on the freedom to choose because policy makers know abortion rights and voting rights are inextricably linked.
As we speak, people across the country are anxiously awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — a major abortion case that could further erode our reproductive access. This case comes on the heels of states enacting over 100 restrictions on abortion this year, including the draconian Texas ban on abortion after six weeks.
We saw similar assaults on our freedom to vote in 2021. 19 state legislatures proposed over 400 voter suppression bills across the country and enacted 33 of them. These laws purge voter lists, restrict early voting dates, eliminate Sunday voting, and close polling stations in predominantly Black and Brown communities. Amid these attacks, politicians have also blocked voting rights bills in the U.S. Senate that would reverse the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee that gutted the legal remedies of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
From the Civil War to Jim Crow, the filibuster has been used to block critical civil rights progress, including anti-lynching and anti-poll tax legislation, and workplace discrimination bills. Now the filibuster is being used like never before to once again block voting rights. Since last fall, Senate Republicans have filibustered voting rights legislation four times, refusing to allow even simple debate on the Freedom to Vote Act, the For the People Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
As the head of a Black women’s reproductive justice organization, I implore every single person outraged by the anti-abortion state legislative laws to mobilize in equal measure to protect our right to vote. We will not have full freedom over our lives until we are in control of our bodies, families, communities — and our vote. When we cast our votes, we are making a vital choice about who we place in elected office and who we believe reflect our values.
The power of your vote
If we hope to stop relying on the increasingly politicized U.S. Supreme Court to defend our rights, we must address the ailing democracy that underpins our fight for justice. We must reform the broken rules, structures, and policies that keep Black women, femmes, and gender-expansive people from voting and that keep elected officials from legislating.
If the Supreme Court does dismantle Roe v. Wade, their decision will make official the barriers that are already in practice in states and counties nationwide — especially in the South. These are the same places where Jim Crow voting laws were born and where conservative politicians continue to suppress the voting rights of Black people and other people of color.
We must change the policies restricting our access to choose by voting to change the politicians who create them. We cannot stand by as our racial and geographic status dictate the rights we enjoy as citizens.
I founded In Our Own Voice to ensure that the voices of Black women and other people of color are heard. We will continue to organize, sending a clear and loud message to those who seek to deter us. Our bodies, families, and lives are on the line, and we are done with empty platitudes and broken promises. Remember, we are mobilizing, and by voting, we hold the future of our democracy in our hands.
This article was paid for by In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.