“Our decision returns the issue of abortion to those legislative bodies, and it allows women on both sides of the abortion issue to seek to affect the legislative process by influencing public opinion, lobbying legislators, voting, and running for office. Women are not without electoral or political power.”
Among the many conclusions Justice Alito shared in the Supreme Court majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, one of the very few that rang true for me was his observation that “women are not without electoral or political power.”
Last night, I attended the 50th anniversary party for Ms. Magazine. Attendees included women who were there at the founding, women who have written for the magazine, and women who have been featured in the magazine over the years. We reminisced about the events that brought Ms. into being, the progress made since, and the recent backslide in women’s rights. We also talked about women and power, and the importance of women to speak out, support women and men running in the November election who are fighting for women’s equality, and to vote.
It brings to mind an observation once made by one of my personal heroes, Rep. Bella Abzug, who wrote, “Women are still regarded by many male politicians and the media as a special-interest group, as if we were peanut or chicken-feed lobbyists. That description makes me angry. Let us remember who we are. We are a majority of this nation.”
Not only are we a majority of the population. We are also the majority of voters. In 2020, 74.1 percent of women in the United States were registered to vote. This is higher than the share of men, 71.2 percent, who were registered to vote in that same year.
A new Pew Research Center poll last week showed abortion rocketing up as a priority for Democratic voters — from 46 percent in March to 71 percent today. Add to that a recent Gallup poll that found 55% of all Americans identify themselves as “pro-choice.”
Since the preliminary Dobbs opinion was leaked in May, the number of women registered to vote has been growing. Women — particularly young women — have responded by registering to vote in record numbers.
“Among many pro-abortion rights women, particularly those of child-bearing age, ‘there is sense of direct threat to their lives, literally deciding for them and having a direct impact on their reproductive rights,’ said Kelly Dittmar, research director for the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.” [Yahoo! News]
Earlier this week, Tom Bonier, a Democratic political strategist, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times entitled “Women Are So Fired Up to Vote, I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It.” “In my 28 years analyzing elections,” he writes, “I’ve never seen anything like what’s happened in the past two months in American politics…
“Women are registering to vote in numbers I’ve never witnessed. I’ve run out of superlatives to describe how different this moment is, especially in light of the cycles of tragedy and eventual resignation of recent years. This is a moment to throw old political assumptions out the window and to consider that Democrats could buck historic trends this cycle.”
What’s more, the uptick in registration is happening overwhelmingly in states where abortion is, or will likely soon, be banned. Women in Kansas, Idaho, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio top the list, all states where abortion is either already banned or at risk of being banned.
Already in Kansas we’ve seen the power of women exercising their “electoral power.” After the Dobbs leak, registration among women spiked there, “at one point accounting for more than 70 percent of new voter sign-ups.” In a landslide vote that shocked pundits in August, Kansans rejected a ballot initiative that would have stripped residents of abortion rights.
“National Democrats are counting on that energy in this November’s midterm elections, particularly in Senate races in states such as Nevada, New Hampshire and Wisconsin,” writes Shefali Luthra at The 19th News. “It could also hold sway in Kansas, where Gov. Laura Kelly — a Democrat who has vetoed abortion restrictions — is in a tight race for reelection.”
This November “there’s an unprecedented number of abortion-related questions on the ballot this year with voters in at least five states set to decide on varying proposals,” reports NPR. That number grew to six on Thursday when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that an abortion-focused measure in Michigan will be on the ballot in November.
In the essay I quoted earlier, Abzug went on to explain the link between voting and achieving true equality in America.
“Participating in politics, registering, and voting are the minimum that we can do,” she wrote. “It is an opportunity that millions of women and men in many other nations do not have. Some have died for this basic democratic right. You don’t have to die for it. You just have to walk into a voting booth in your neighborhood and pull the lever.
That is . . . the first and easiest step toward making possible our dream of equality for women in a more peaceful world.”
It’s still true today. Take that step. Vote in November.
Pat Mitchell is a lifelong advocate for women and girls. At every step of her career, Mitchell has broken new ground for women, leveraging the power of media as a journalist, an Emmy award-winning and Oscar-nominated producer to tell women’s stories and increase the representation of women onscreen and off. Transitioning to an executive role, she became the president of CNN Productions, and the first woman president and CEO of PBS and the Paley Center for Media. Today, her commitment to connect and strengthen a global community of women leaders continues as a conference curator, advisor and mentor.
In partnership with TED, Mitchell launched TEDWomen in 2010 and is its editorial director, curator and host. She is also a speaker and curator for the annual Women Working for the World forum in Bogota, Colombia, the Her Village conference in Beijing, and the Women of the World (WOW) festival in London. In 2017, she launched the Transformational Change Leadership Initiative with the Rockefeller Foundation focused on women leaders in government and civil society.
In 2014, the Women’s Media Center honored Mitchell with its first-annual Lifetime Achievement Award, now named in her honor to commend other women whose media careers advance the representation of women. Recognized by Hollywood Reporter as one of the most powerful women in media, Fast Company’s “League of Extraordinary Women” and Huffington Post’s list of “Powerful Women Over 50,” Mitchell also received the Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Leadership. She is a contributor to Enlightened Power: How Women Are Transforming the Practice of Leadership, and wrote the introduction to the recently published book and museum exhibition, 130 Women of Impact in 30 Countries. In 2016, she served as a congressional appointment to The American Museum of Women’s History Advisory Council. She is writing a memoir, Becoming a Dangerous Woman: Embracing a Life of Power and Purpose, that will be published in 2019.
Mitchell is active with many nonprofit organizations, serving as the chair of the boards of the Sundance Institute and the Women’s Media Center. She is a founding member of the VDAY movement and on the boards of the Skoll Foundation and the Acumen Fund. She is also an advisor to Participant Media and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Mitchell is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia and holds a master’s degree in English literature and several honorary doctorate degrees. She and her husband, Scott Seydel, live in Atlanta and have six children and 13 grandchildren.