In the midst of a global pandemic, people worked hard — harder than they ever should have had to — to cast their ballots. When the counts were in, a record number of people eligible to vote turned out to make their voices heard. A record number of people turned out to choose a compassionate and scientific response to COVID-19, to say Black Lives Matter, to follow the leadership of Black, Indigenous, and people of color who organized to represent our communities in unprecedented victories. These victories help buoy us amidst the fact that a record number of voters also turned out to choose hate, to support a racist and xenophobic administration, and to support harmful policies that are literally killing people. We owe it to all of the people living in the United States to ensure that, whether they were able to cast their vote or not, they are represented by people chosen by their communities. We have so much work ahead.
In this election, the American people, by a closer margin than many of us are comfortable with, have chosen the Biden Harris administration. An administration that we’ll need to continue to push to the left. The results are not the end; they are the door that opens our possibilities to more effectively organize towards our vision for liberation. Voting is an exercise in self-determination; it allows us to chart our paths forward. We make our decisions based on our values, on what’s best for our families, on our economic realities and options, and after consideration of how our lives could change. Voting is also a decision point where we’re likely to encounter outright barriers to exercising our agency. People of color are still battling historical systems meant to diminish the power of our political will, built into legal structures where disenfranchisement has evolved into complicated systems of gerrymandering, voter ID laws, shifting and disappearing polling sites in our communities, and diminishing access to democratically sourced, non-partisan sources of accurate information. 70 million people also exercised their right to vote in support of hate. Our power is a threat to the oppressive systems, and those who benefit from those systems act accordingly to block our path forward.
It’s no coincidence that the people most likely to be disenfranchised from casting their vote, or who are most at risk of not having their votes counted, are the same people whose decisions and agency are threatened by barriers to abortion access and other essential freedoms. The roots of white supremacy, misogyny and sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia are an entangled mass that props up many of the institutional structures that govern our lives. It’s no surprise that the racist institutions and processes that hold people of color back, including voter suppression, police and state violence, and unequal access to healthcare, have culminated in a nationwide reckoning around racial injustice, and an uprising for Black lives.
We’ve made leaps and bounds in the representation that we see in our local offices. However, when 55% of white women still vote for four more years of misogyny and hate, representation is not enough. We need aligned community and coalitions as we illuminate and dismantle the intersecting oppressions in our lives. When we’re heard and our voices become policy, it’s a win for our communities. Tiara Mack won her election to become Rhode Island’s first “queer, Black, formerly low-income educator and activist” state senator, and brings abortion fund expertise gained through her experience as a Women’s Health and Education Fund board member. We celebrate the wins organized by advocates in Colorado, including NNAF member Cobalt, where a 22-week abortion ban was defeated, and paid medical and family leave will now be available to a much greater range of Coloradans. In Washington, advocates including NNAF member organization Northwest Abortion Access Fund, organized to ensure that comprehensive sexual education, inclusive of LGBTQ issues, will be taught in all public schools. In addition to these abortion and sexual health victories, we saw a vast culture change shift in the public’s expectation that candidates commit to public funding for abortion. “We are excited for people to support abortion rights, but we also know that rights alone aren’t enough…there are far too many hassles and far too much hustling that has to happen in order to get [an abortion],” NNAF Executive Director Yamani Hernandez stated during the primary season. Remarkably, organized public pressure forced Joe Biden to reverse his harmful position on the Hyde Amendment and he now supports ending the discriminatory policy. Almost every one of the 24 Democratic Presidential candidates explicitly committed to ending Hyde and supported public funding for abortion. Abortion funds, our partners at All* Above All, and allies across the Reproductive Justice movement organized for decades to accomplish this shift towards compassionate rhetoric and language and this substantive commitment to end Hyde. We’ll hold the incoming administration responsible for pressuring Congress to live up to their commitment. We’ve crossed a threshold and there will never be another election where people who support abortion access accept the Hyde Amendment as an acceptable compromise. You did that. We did that. An organized movement did that. These initiatives were fiercely and strategically fought for because we deserve access to healthcare and education.
Even so, many of us are feeling anxious about the uncertainty ahead — about the days leading up to inauguration, about our families’ safety, and about our ability to afford and access healthcare and other basic needs. This election wasn’t all wins — in Louisiana, the government continued their march towards eradicating the right to abortion by passing a resolution that declares there is no constitutional right to abortion. That sets the stage for abortion to become illegal if Roe v. Wade is overturned, a real possibility with the new conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court. New Orleans Abortion Fund needs your help more than ever.
“There is no doubt that the addition of Amendment 1 to Louisiana’s state constitution is a painful setback. But the truth is that access to abortion in Louisiana has not changed, and moments like this only strengthen our commitment to the health and dignity of our community. 775,000 people voted to protect abortion access in Louisiana. That is meaningful, that is powerful, and that is a growing movement. Our work now is the same as ever: to support people who have abortions, and to affirm their rights even, and especially, when politicians fail them.” — Steffani Bangel, New Orleans Abortion Fund Executive Director
Abortion funds know it’s real access that makes all the difference. Having a legal right without having the means or paths to access it only muddies the water and confuses the issues. That’s the point. When people oppose us exercising our rights, they can point to the fact that they’re “technically” legal. Anti-abortion and anti-voters’ rights narratives nefariously assert that it’s our moral failing to not be able to jump through all the hoops they’ve put into place to obscure and block us at every point. Voter ID laws, mail-in ballot restrictions, long wait periods to register to vote — all of these barriers to voting access have mirrors in the barriers to exercising our reproductive options, whether it’s having an abortion or choosing to grow our families.
Having our vote count, like access to healthcare, should never depend on where we live, our race, how much money we have, our country of origin, our chosen family, or whether our government agrees with our decision. No one should ever have to feel anxious about whether their vote has been counted, whether they can access an abortion, or whether they can afford to parent in safety and with support. We’re grateful to grassroots organizers aligned with the Movement for Black Lives who’ve organized in communities against the historic disenfranchisement of people of color — especially Black and Indigenous communities. Your local organizations, including abortion funds, need your support and resources to push a truly progressive agenda forward. We’re made for this moment because we hold a visionary stance that won’t be compromised, and we’re guided by it to build the world that we deserve. To do that, abortion funds and counterparts across progressive, aligned movements need to be resourced up to scale the heights of possibility that includes freedom for us all. Last year, we had 216,000 people call for help and our member abortion funds were able to help about a fifth of them. That resourcing includes money to hire staff representative of the communities they serve, accountability to reckon with historic organizational racism that affects funding security and institutional practices, and leadership development opportunities for people of color to sustainably organize for the very lives of local communities without burning out.
Liberation is possible if we recognize this unprecedented historic moment as a chance to act in collective power. Join us in our commitment to lean in to our political education opportunities, to redistribute wealth and power, and to organize towards an inspiring vision of justice.