Voting Rights are Reproductive Rights:
Reproductive Freedom Champions Confront the Legacy of the 19th Amendment
On August 26 we commemorate Women's Equality Day and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which granted mostly white women the right to vote. The 19th Amendment ushered in the largest infusion of new voters in American history and with it, a new political agenda promoting reproductive rights. It would take multiple Congressional Acts across decades to expand voting rights to Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Today the fight continues for equitable access to the vote for people of color.
Reproductive freedom and voting are intrinsically linked. Equitable access to the vote and fair redistricting means better representation of our communities and responsiveness to our basic needs like comprehensive healthcare, including contraception, maternal care, and abortion care.
Below, women of color state legislators who are allies and members of SiX’s Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council speak to what voting rights and reproductive rights mean to them.
“Black women played a significant role in the passage of the 19th Amendment, and yet many Black women and men did not experience true suffrage until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We must remember to honor and lift up Black women like Mary McLeod Bethune, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Adella Hunt Logan, Harriet Forten Purvis, Maria Stewart, Mary Church Terrell, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Well-Barnett, and countless women whose efforts have been unrecorded, who put themselves in economic and physical danger for the sake of accessing the vote. May the legacy of these women continue to inspire us to work together to ensure full equality and rights for ALL people.” --Representative Merika Coleman-Evans, Assistant Minority Leader of Alabama House of Representative (Alabama, District 57)
“As a Chicana legislator, I know that access to the ballot has been hard-fought, and that for far too long, women and people of color were left on the margins. This election we see the latest attempt to disenfranchise voters by bad political actors intentionally spreading falsehoods and disinformation and by anti-abortion activists pushing for an abortion ban ballot initiative here in Colorado. The stakes could not be more clear: we must fight for our vote, because la lucha por la justicia, the struggle for justice, is never over.” --Senator Julie Gonzales (Colorado, District 34)
“Voting rights and reproductive rights go hand in hand, as both fundamentally involve the autonomy and freedom to determine one’s destiny through exercising choice. As someone who believes in equality and fairness, I will always stand up for a woman’s right to choose, and I will always fight to protect the vote.” --Representative Fentrice Driskell (Florida, District 63)
“Reproductive rights depend on voting rights. As a health educator where maternal mortality is high, our lives are made better when we make our own decisions!” --Representative Park Cannon (Georgia, District 58)
“Since our country’s inception, the right to vote has been used as a tool to maintain and build power. While we rightly should celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment, we must also acknowledge that the 19th Amendment did not include Black women, Asian Americans, Indigenous people, or other marginalized groups. Even after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we have continually witnessed the tactical stripping away of voting rights throughout our nation through poll closures, ID laws, and other prohibitive legislation. The right to vote has always been conditional for people of color, and we must honor the legacy of the 19th Amendment by ensuring that all Americans can utilize this powerful tool without intimidation and without modern-day poll taxes.” --Representative Bee Nguyen (Georgia, District 89)
“May we take this pause during a pandemic in these months leading to the elections to recognize the 19th Amendment and hope that all women are accorded their right to vote this year. The 19th Amendment is a definite blessing when we acknowledge the concept that a step forward for some women, is a step forward for all women. Although not quite in its full potential when I think of Idaho’s Black, Indigenous, and women of color toiling in the fields, in the meat packing plants, dairies, agriculture as well as essential workers at check out stands who might not be able to get to stand in long waiting lines to vote in person. May our fight be successful for removal of extraordinary barriers so women can fully express their desires from affordable and accessible healthcare including long wanted parity in reproductive healthcare to education for their children and the quality of life all people should enjoy." --Representative Sue Chew (Idaho, District 17)
“My district is majority women and we have a slight majority of Black folks. I know that even as we celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, the people I serve often feel their interests and needs are ignored by the government. Women of color have had their vote and their reproductive autonomy threatened or flat out denied to them in ways that white women would never understand. On this anniversary, let’s work together for a more equitable democracy, centering and uplifting diverse life experiences in places of political power.” --Representative Attica Scott (Kentucky, District 41)
"For me, turning 18 years old and being able to vote was my coming of age. It was a new acquired power to have my voice heard and make my own decisions - my choice, my vote is what all women want and deserve" --Delegate Pamela E. Queen (Maryland, District 14)
“As we look towards the centennial of the 19th Amendment, we must be cognizant that it’s neither a centennial for all women, nor is it a celebration of full equality for women. As an Afro-Latina legislator, I know it wasn’t until 1957 & 1965 that Latinas and Black Women respectively gained full suffrage. And with reproductive rights and voting rights continuously under assault during the 21st century combined with the unfulfilled promise of ratification of the ERA, we must work to ensure that all women have full equal rights under the law, have guaranteed reproductive rights and freedom, and access to the ballot box.” —Senator Erika Geiss (Michigan, District 6)
"I would not be standing here, a Black woman in leadership in the first state with a female majority in our legislature, if not for the courageous women who came before me to fight for our franchise. We've made progress but we aren't done. As the beneficiaries of the work of our sisters 100 years ago, we have a moral obligation to continue the journey for equality, justice, and freedom for women and all Americans." --Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, Assistant Majority Floor Leader of the Nevada State Legislature (Nevada, District 1)
“Voting rights and reproductive rights have a lot in common. They both provide women and families with choice and the freedom to choose what is best for them." --Representative Chandra Dillard (South Carolina, District 23)
“I understood early on that who we vote into office has an impact on the decisions that impact our everyday lives. Black women are dying in hospitals because we’re not pushing laws that hold doctors and health care systems accountable to prioritize Black maternal health. As women, the ability to control our bodies is a decision made by men. They are the ones creating and passing abortion restrictions that harm women’s health. When more women, mothers, and people with a diversity of lived experience are in office, you’ll start to see legislation that reflects reproductive justice and freedom.” --Representative London Lamar (Tennessee, District 91)
“Today, as we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, I’m committed to continuing the fight for representation. Women’s rights and voting rights go hand in hand. We must continue the work to make sure women – and especially women of color– have an equal voice in the voting booth, in the legislative chambers, and in the executive offices across our nation.” --Senator Jennifer L. McClellan (Virginia, District 9)
About SiX Action and the Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council:
SiX Action is an independent, nonpartisan 501(c)(4) strategy and advocacy organization that is committed to achieving progressive change at the state level, while defending against efforts to move our country backward. Through issue advocacy, support around messaging and political strategy, and engagement with state legislators, progressive leaders, and state and national advocates, we seek to aid in the development and advancement of a progressive agenda in states across the country. SiX Action is working to secure real, lasting reforms that support working families, protect the environment, defend civil rights and liberties, and strengthen our democracy.
The Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council is the country’s only network of state legislators who champion reproductive health, rights, and justice. With hundreds of state legislators from around the country, this network of visionary leaders is changing the game to achieve the equitable, resilient, healthy and prosperous future we long to see - a future that includes reproductive freedom for all.
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