NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, August 18th, 2022

Netroots Nation 2022 — Day One — Featured Panel: Defenders of Democracy

Our “Defend­ers of Democ­ra­cy” pan­elists this morn­ing, includ­ing Col­orado State Sen­a­tor Julie Gon­za­les, Emily’s List Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Emi­ly Cain, and Vir­ginia State Sen­a­tor Jen­nifer McClel­lan, focused on keep­ing per­son­al abor­tion care sto­ries on the fore­front of cam­paigns and advo­ca­cy this Novem­ber.

Under­stand­ing where we are in this moment is impor­tant: if Repub­li­cans make sig­nif­i­cant gains in the Sen­ate this year, a fed­er­al abor­tion ban will be on the table. Sen­a­tor Gon­za­les said that we need to remind vot­ers that for this rea­son, the stakes are high­er than ever to elect pro-choice women. This issue is play­ing out in every state and every com­mu­ni­ty at every lev­el. This means not only focus­ing on Con­gres­sion­al races, but also on elect­ing pro-choice lead­ers as Gov­er­nors, State Leg­is­la­tures, and Attor­ney Gen­er­als.

Emi­ly Cain says that we need to under­stand that “Vot­ers are with us. Across the board, wher­ev­er they are, they’re with us.” As abor­tion creeps up in the list of issues that vot­ers care about, the Dobbs deci­sion will cer­tain­ly impact elec­tions this Novem­ber. Remind­ing vot­ers that Repub­li­cans will seek to ban and restrict abor­tion will inevitably lead more vot­ers towards pro­gres­sive can­di­dates.

Cain also argued that Repub­li­cans will not want to talk about this issue, seek­ing to keep the focus on oth­er issues like infla­tion. She stressed the impor­tance of not let­ting Con­ser­v­a­tives change the sub­ject or focus on debat­ing what weeks abor­tion should be restrict­ed to. Keep the mes­sage clear: when any restric­tions or bans are placed on abor­tion, dis­cre­tion is being tak­en away from patients and their providers.

Sen­a­tor Jen­nifer McClel­lan dis­cussed the chal­lenges she has faced in Vir­ginia over the last decade, fight­ing against such restric­tions as ultra­sound require­ments and wait­ing peri­ods. McClel­lan said that one les­son she has learned as a Sen­a­tor fight­ing for repro­duc­tive rights is the impor­tance of mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­nary coali­tions. She not­ed that before 2012 when sig­nif­i­cant abor­tion restric­tions were passed, only abor­tion providers and the pro-choice move­ment were tak­ing a stance on the issue. After, oth­er mem­bers of the med­ical com­mu­ni­ty includ­ing groups made up of OBGYN physi­cians entered the con­ver­sa­tion, val­i­dat­ing pro-choice argu­ments and sup­port­ing abor­tion as a med­ical­ly safe option.

Cre­at­ing a wider and more rep­re­sen­ta­tive pro-choice vot­er base and coali­tions also means under­stand­ing that dif­fer­ent audi­ences will require dif­fer­ent lan­guage. McClel­lan said that it is impor­tant to remem­ber how many peo­ple have nev­er been know­ing­ly affect­ed by abor­tion. This makes these groups sus­cep­ti­ble to being per­suad­ed by Repub­li­can mis­in­for­ma­tion and mis­lead­ing abor­tion “hor­ror sto­ries.”

McClel­lan argues that the most effi­cient way to replace these lies is with the per­son­al sto­ries of women and preg­nant peo­ple who have had abor­tions, life-threat­en­ing preg­nan­cies, and expe­ri­ence with fatal fetal com­pli­ca­tions. She recalled shar­ing her per­son­al expe­ri­ences in front of the Vir­ginia leg­is­la­ture while preg­nant as well as the large amount of peo­ple she was able to reach this way.

Wrap­ping up the pan­el, each speak­er high­light­ed the need for self-care and sup­port in trou­bling times. As Repub­li­cans attempt to roll back decades of progress, it is impor­tant to focus on what you can do rather that focus­ing on defeats. As Novem­ber quick­ly approach­es, Pro­gres­sives will need to bal­ance the real­i­ties that win­ning is both essen­tial and pos­si­ble, with prepa­ra­tion and effort.

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