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What top reproductive rights leaders learned in the year after Dobbs
Plus: How national Democrats and abortion rights groups plan to keep the issue front and center in the political discourse this weekend through next year’s election.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Saturday marks a year since Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court that overturned the right to abortion care in America.
Since the ruling, abortion rights groups have flooded the zone to limit the impact of statewide restrictions in conservative states and uplift the blue-state legislatures that have protected and expanded access to reproductive health care — while calling on federal elected officials to do more at the national level.
Supercreator was curious about what the leaders of these groups learned about the strategies and tactics they deployed during the past twelve months and the challenges they’re troubleshooting as we enter year two of Post-Roe America.
Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong, a national activist organization dedicated to reproductive justice for women of color, told the newsletter that she saw a significant return on her investment in what she described as culture-shift work.
“What we are really focusing on is making sure that we’re not continuing to preach to the choir, but that we are reaching people who have never heard of this work before, who can see themselves reflected in this work, and really igniting them and giving them the tools to be able to be active and to really move them towards the work that we want them to all be engaged in,” she said.
SisterSong worked with the cast of the hit STARZ TV show P-Valley, which featured a compelling storyline around abortion, to tap into the culture that Black people connect with to help them see these different storylines as examples of what's actually happening in their state houses and what’s happening at the federal level.
Simpson said SisterSong worked with the actors on political education, provided reproductive justice training, and encouraged them to use their power, privilege, and ability to move the organization’s message forward.
“It’s not just about being a transactional relationship with influencers and culture bearers. It’s about educating them and arming them with the power that they need to be able to help us continue to carry the message,” she said. “So we’ve done that with many different influencers and artists across different shows and mediums to really help us bring that message further down in communities.”
Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said her organization found meaningful success with young voters and young voters of color, especially those on community college campuses.
“We also know kids in community colleges are in their communities. They’re not going away out of state to a four-year [university]. They are staying in their community, they might be still living with their extended family,” she said. “So they're also great relational organizers, and they're also great folks who get their aunties and their grandparents and their cousins to the polls.”
NARAL is expected to invest more significantly in this strategy going forward and continue to do aggressive outreach to get more young voters engaged in its volunteer networks across the country.
On the flip side, Simpson said a challenge SisterSong has been language.
“When we talk about reproductive justice and we only think about that from a very singular-issue lens, it’s been making it very difficult for our folks to get tapped into that,” she said.
So SisterSong has evolved its language around reproductive justice to include conversations about bodily autonomy — the ability to make your own decisions about your body, family, and future — and giving it to people in that way to attract more people to the table.
“I’m in East Point Atlanta and I’m talking to the people in my community,” Simpson said. “It’s like, ‘Do you know what reproductive justice is?’ No, some of them don't. But a lot of them are like, ‘If you tell me that I need to fight for my body? I’m here for that.’”
For Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, an emerging concern is how to engage corporations, universities, and other institutions that impact politics and overall quality of life.
“I think that we saw the move right after Dobbs for so many companies to kind of engage their employees around their work, their workplace benefits, their travel policies, but not around their communities that they were in,” she said. “We know that so many of them are funding the lifeblood of their corporate PACs that drive some of these horrible state lawmakers and yet they’re trading deregulation, lower taxes, for our bodies and our freedom.”
McGill Johnson added that the impact of OBGYN residents matching into ban states and its effect on workforce recruitment is a lever that leaders will have to engage and will require them to have a harder conversation around strategies to make the case downstream.
Timmaraju said a persistent challenge is how to persuade Americans of the importance of Congress and the White House when in the absence of federal legislation.
“So I think we need to collectively do a better job of connecting the dots, really honing in on the intersections between things like reproductive freedom, but also climate change, but also voting rights,” she said. “And that comes down to talking to voters about democracy, and a lot of our groups are aligning with other groups and other issues to really crystallize this for American voters. And I think we’re going to keep refining that.”
Congressional Democrats find themselves in the minority in the House and up against the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, which will prevent any abortion rights legislation from advancing without the support of Republican lawmakers.
This has led them to reintroduce bills that they put forward in the immediate aftermath of the Dobbs decision as rallying cries for the base, not legislative solutions with serious chances of passing.
Senate Democrats this week attempted to pass four bills to protect reproductive rights through unanimous consent but Senate Republicans objected.
As I reported in Thursday’s newsletter, three House Democrats filed a discharge petition on Wednesday to force a vote on the Women’s Protection Act, which would restore the protections to abortion care under Roe v. Wade that Dobbs overturned. (The petition needs 218 signatures, which means at least seven Republicans would have to break ranks on a politically divisive issue, which is unlikely.)
And Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) on Thursday led several members in introducing the Abortion Justice Act, which features sweeping provisions “to guarantee abortion care is readily available — without stigma, shame, or systemic barriers — for all who seek it, regardless of zip code, immigration status, income, or background.”
But the words reproductive justice and Republicans are the political rendering of oil and water: They just don’t go together.
Nevertheless, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) will join House Democrats this morning for an event to reinforce the caucus’s commitment to protecting and expanding abortion rights.
But until Congress passes a law restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade to secure access to abortion care, President Joe Biden is constitutionally constrained to issuing marginal executive actions to shore up existing federal laws and regulations.
The fact that the president signed an executive order today to improve access to birth control is a case in point on how few bites are left at the apple after the first two orders he signed to expand and protect abortion care.
What the White House lacks in legislative capital though, they make up for with the size of its bully pulpit.
This afternoon, the top four principals — President Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff — will join the Democratic National Committee for a special event with PPFA, NARAL, and EMILYs List to mark one year since Dobbs. (Ahead of the event, the three groups endorsed President Biden and Vice President Harris for re-election, key pickups to add to his recent affirmations from top labor unions and environmental justice groups.)
On Saturday, the actual Dobbs anniversary, Vice President Harris will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to give a major speech in a state that recently overrode its governor’s veto to enact a 12-week abortion ban that is currently under a court challenge.
It’s no surprise Harris was tapped for this important assignment: She quickly established herself after Dobbs as the administration’s most effective messenger on reproductive rights, often drawing a connection between the states with the strictest abortion bans as also having the highest maternal mortality and speaking of the implications for other privacy rights at risk in a post-Roe America.
Though less political than her husband and his running mate, Dr. Biden is a convincing surrogate as well, focusing on the human impact of abortion restrictions. During a conversation with four women from across the country who have been denied abortion care on Tuesday, one started crying while telling her story. The first lady grabbed her hand and spoke of the emotional connection she felt after listening to the experience.
“Joe is doing everything he can do,” she said at the start of the conversation.
The events this weekend come on the heels of the White House last week convening more than 80 state legislators from 41 states who are at the frontlines of the fight for reproductive rights.
One in four Americans says state efforts to impose strict limits on abortion care following Dobbs made them more supportive of abortion rights, according to a recent USA Today poll. The shift is most pronounced among Black respondents, of which almost a third said they had become more supportive of abortion access in the past year.
Perhaps most problematic for the anti-abortion movement: 80 percent of those surveyed opposed a federal abortion ban, including 65 percent of Republicans and 83 of independents. 53 percent said they support a federal law ensuring access to abortion.
According to recent polling from Gallup, almost seven in 10 Americans think first-trimester abortion should be legal, a record high. 52 percent say abortion is morally acceptable, matching last year’s all-time high and up 10 percentage points above the historical average since 2001.
And although inflation, immigration, threats to democracy, and gun violence prevention rank higher as more important than abortion, one in five Americans said it would be the single-most issue and three in four said abortion would be an important issue.
These data points — and the electoral success pro-abortion candidates and ballot initiatives enjoyed last year — explain why Democrats and reproductive rights groups plan to keep abortion rights front and center through next year’s campaign where control of the presidency and Congress is at stake.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the House Democrats’ election arm — announced a new microsite and three digital ads in an early effort to educate voters and hold the 31 vulnerable anti-abortion House Republicans the DCCC has targeted accountable.
“We will ensure that we disqualify each and every Republican in these states for their stances on abortion,” Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), chair of the DCCC, said to reporters this week. “Voters want representatives that will fight for their reproductive freedom.”
The DNC launched a six-figure national and local ad campaign to highlight the stakes of the presidential election on reproductive freedom that includes digital spots and billboards in several battleground states, including
“I've got a message for these Republicans: We’re just getting started,” DNC chair Jaime Harrison said this week, “The American people have repeatedly rejected these extremists, this extreme MAGA agenda and they will do it again in 2024, regardless of who is the GOP nominee, and continue to elect Democrats up and down a ballot who will fight tooth and nail for the freedoms that we hold dear to our hearts.”
And although Senate Democrats are facing a top map next year, Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the guy responsible for helping his party pick up a seat last midterms and doing so again next year, said suggested the issue is bullish that abortion cost Senate Republicans in 2024.
“It’s very clear to Americans: If you’re voting for a Republican for the United States Senate, they are likely to push a national abortion ban, which will have an impact on you regardless of the state in which you live,” he said. “We will not let Republicans run from this issue.”
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Welcome to Supercreator Daily, the indispensable guide to the politicians, power brokers, and policies shaping the American creator experience. It’s Friday, June 23, 2023. I hope this weekend is everything for you!
TODAY IN POLITICS
All times Eastern
9 a.m. The House will meet with first and last votes expected at 10:45 a.m. Legislation under consideration: A bill to roll back changes made by the Federal Housing Finance Agency to the fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for a conventional single-family mortgage and restricts future fee adjustments.
10 a.m. President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing.
11:45 a.m. The president and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India will meet with senior officials and CEOs of American and Indian companies to discuss tech innovation, investment, and manufacturing.
12:50 p.m. Vice President Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host a luncheon in honor of Prime Minister Modi at the State Department. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend.
3:45 p.m. The president, first lady, vice president, and second gentleman will leave the White House to go to The Mayflower Hotel.
4 p.m. President Biden and Dr. Biden will participate in a special event at the Mayflower with the DNC and reproductive rights groups, including EMILYs List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund. The vice president and second gentleman will also participate.
5 p.m. The president and first lady will leave the Mayflower and return to the White House at 5:05 p.m.
The Senate is out.
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