Categories: Elections

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.

Alexa Moormeier

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