Pro-choice activists sounded the alarm over Republican efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, which affirmed a constitutional right to abortion, for decades. Those warnings grew louder when Republicans stole President Obama’s final Supreme Court appointment and louder still after Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in 2016. They reached a crescendo when Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement in 2018 and a fever pitch when Republicans jammed Amy Coney Barrett onto the bench after voting in the 2020 election had already begun.
Still, it wasn’t enough to stop the Supreme Court from issuing the Dobbs decision, which gave states the authority to ban abortion care.
Instead of listening, many people in positions of influence dismissed these warnings as hysterical, insisting Roe wouldn’t be overturned. Now we live in a time that we were told would never come, vindicating activists and their allies, who were right all along. Unfortunately, being right offers little solace to the increasing number of people whose reproductive rights have been or will be stripped away. It also is of no help in the fight against a conservative movement that spent half a century building legal organizations, candidate pipelines, grassroots organizing networks, and media outlets to empower right-wing activists and their extremely unpopular objectives.
But now, we’ve come to an inflection point for the pro-choice majority in this country. Will the response to Dobbs be a month of anger and outrage that dissipates, giving Republicans the space they need to destroy all of the progress we’ve made over the last 150 years, or will it be a movement that sustains itself for years to come?
The slow and reluctant response from Democratic Party leadership is a worrying sign. But those leaders are not the only tools we have at our disposal. There’s a vast network of activists, organizations, and elected leaders who have been preparing for this moment, including our team here at Vote Save America.
So here’s what comes next for us.
In the short term we have to help patients across the country access abortions when they need them, through legal defense funds, clinics, medication, and abortion funds. These organizations have been doing this work for a long time in red, blue, and purple states, and we need to ensure they’re funded and staffed so they can scale up. We’re also getting to work on the 2022 elections up and down the ballot, in all races where winners will have a direct impact on abortion policy. Our Midterm Madness volunteer program is designed to enable volunteers to organize on behalf of federal, state, local lawmakers and candidates, and prosecutors who can decide whether or not to enforce abortion bans.
Over the long term, we’re investing in a no-race-is-too-local, grassroots, nationwide strategy, similar to the one that we watched Republicans implement over decades.
The good news is that we’re not starting at square one. In 2019, we raised $2.6 million for Fair Fight to fund, staff, and train voter protection teams in 20 states. In 2020—well, we did too much to fit into one sentence, but it included raising $48 million and recruiting 300,000 volunteers. And, in 2021, we raised more than $1.2 million dollars for local, grassroots organizations in battleground states to fund early voter registration.
After the Dobbs decision draft leaked, we launched Fuck Bans Action Plan, our plan to fight back. The Immediate Impact fund, established to ensure people who need abortions can still access them, is nearing $1 million. Our parallel Fight Back Fund is designed to make immediate investments in direct democracy and local organizing.
That fund has two goals. First, to build power in the places where the future of abortion rights is still up in the air. Kansas, Kentucky, and Michigan are all have measures on the ballot this year that will give voters a direct say on the future of abortion rights in their states. We’re making sure they’re well resourced and have enough volunteers to win. Ballot measures not only enable progressives to circumvent anti-democratic, gerrymandered legislatures to enact good policy, they also help build relationships, infrastructure, and proof-points of progressive success to build upon in the future—and make no mistake, progressive ballot measures have a very good track record of winning even in the reddest of places.
Second, we’re investing in local organizations that are doing year-round power building in nine states: Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Unlike most candidate-centered campaigns, which mobilize for election season every two or four years, then disappear, our partners are there year round and know what it takes to win in their communities. Our goal is to ensure that they’re funded and staffed to be active at the statewide and state legislative level, but also for positions down the ballot that play a role in reproductive freedom, like district attorneys, judges, and mayors. Just as importantly, these organizations are equipped not only to mobilize, but to organize their communities around the issues that matter most to them.
At this point, plenty of people have expressed frustration with the inadequacy of telling people to “just vote,” when voting alone has been unable to prevent this tsunami of shit. There’s no easy fix to the situation that we’re in, from abortion bans and gun violence to racial injustice and the ongoing attack on democracy. But there are a whole bunch of hard ones.
Vote AND organize.
Vote AND protest.
Vote AND donate to abortion funds & independent clinics.
Vore AND get involved in a mutual aid program.
Vote AND volunteer.
Vote AND run for local office.
Vote AND keep demanding more of the people you elected.
This work won’t be easy, and it won’t get done in one cycle. But our two choices in this moment are despair or defiance. We know what our answer is. We hope you’ll join us.