Don’t Lose Hope: You Can Save Roe v Wade at the State Level

Anne Gunderson
Anne Gunderson
Published in
3 min readJul 13, 2018

The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Kennedy’s retirement has left uncertainty about the fate of Roe v. Wade and women’s rights to safe and legal abortion. However, some are predicting that Roe v. Wade won’t be overturned but instead gutted. The decision prevents states from placing an “undue burden” on women seeking access to abortion services, but fails to specifically define what is considered an undue burden. With a right-leaning Supreme Court, this means that states could outlaw abortion and close clinics claiming that women can simply go to another state for such services.

While we all know that this would effectively restrict access to abortion for millions of women, it does create an opportunity for women’s rights activists to bring the fight to the state level where individuals have a bit more power to influence policy change.

Illinois, for example, anticipated this threat to abortion access last September and passed a law that allows state insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortion. This legislation also removed language in Illinois law that would criminalize abortion if Roe v Wade was overturned. While democrats hold a majority in both the Illinois House and Senate, the bill was signed into law by a Republican (albeit pro-choice) governor.

So what does that mean for you as you read this in a state held by Republicans in both branches? Well, state politics are much more fluid than federal politics as long as you pay attention and organize. This year, over 80% of all state legislative seats are up for election, which means that it’s a great time to get to know your state representatives and senators. There are also 36 gubernatorial seats up for election, so don’t hesitate to get a new governor while you’re at it. Ballotpedia is a good place to start to find out what’s going on in your state and when.

I know people are always telling you to pay attention to local and state elections, but maybe we’ll really do it if we have a specific goal in mind. Anti-abortion activists are extremely well organized and passionate about their position and they will not lose this battle to a bunch of people who make Handmaid’s Tale references all day and call it activism. In order to put up a fight, those who believe in a woman’s right to an abortion need to focus on achieving this by challenging their state legislators to protect it.

How do you do this?

Find a coalition. If one doesn’t exist, form a coalition. And no, I’m not talking about joining the Women’s March mailing list. I mean talking to your neighbors and friends who also care about protecting abortion access and creating a plan to achieve it. Helpful hint: start with your local preschool and childcare centers. They’re sometimes supported by larger organizations who are dedicated to supporting women and they tend to have more resources and a larger reach.

Talk to the people running for office. Their whole job right now is to talk to you and secure your vote. That’s it. Go to the front runners and tell them that there exists a community of people in their district that cares about maintaining access to abortion and protecting women from the actions of the federal government. Tell them that other states have accomplished this and how. Then them that they won’t be receiving your vote or the votes of the members of your coalition unless they pledge to do this.

There is no better time than now to stage an organized and effective counterattack to those who want to restrict our rights. We have the solution. We just have to get to work.