Real Representation Is the Key To Protecting Our Reproductive Freedom

Our only shot at fighting for our civil liberties is electing leaders to public office who are reflective of the constituents they set out to represent.

Abortion rights activists on July 13, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (John Parra / Getty Images for MoveOn)

Reproductive freedom in America is under renewed attack, as the Supreme Court has just ended nearly 50 years of legal precedent enshrined in Roe v. Wade—rolling back a generation’s efforts to protect women’s rights and sparking an avalanche of new state laws that have already begun to gut abortion rights across the country.

But the current situation is not just the result of a conservative Supreme Court. At the heart of this problem are legislative bodies at the local and state levels of government that are not representative of the American people. Harmful legislation—whether abortion restrictions, voter suppression or efforts to ban curricula that are inclusive of all people—often originates at the local level.

Our best (and only) shot at fighting for our civil liberties and protecting people is electing leaders to public office at the community, city and state levels who are reflective of the constituents they set out to represent.

Before last month’s Supreme Court decision, we were already living in a reality where it was difficult or impossible for many to access reproductive healthcare in many places due to local legislation. Over 20 states have measures in place that severely restricted and regulated abortion access for two years or more. Of those states, 13 had trigger laws in place to ban abortion outright within a month of the June 24 decision; so far, abortion is now banned in at least eight states. Beyond these clear bans, TRAP laws in states with legal abortion access also make it almost impossible to access healthcare—especially for already targeted communities, including low- and middle-income families, immigrants, people of color, and those facing a language barrier.

Immigrant communities also often face cultural and faith-based stigmas and stereotypes that make it even more difficult to talk openly about reproductive healthcare, and especially abortion, leading our communities to be stamped as culturally conservative and anti-abortion.

The myth of the anti-abortion, socially-conservative immigrant is just that: a myth.

In reality, immigrants and minority communities are supportive of reproductive freedom—even more so than many white communities. Three-quarters of Asian adults (74 percent), more than two-thirds of Black adults (68 percent), and six out of ten (60 percent) of Hispanic adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to Pew—all higher than white adults (59 percent).

While attitudes based on immigration background vary, the state with the highest immigrant population confirms these findings—while recent immigrants are evenly divided on the issue, second- and third-generation immigrants overwhelmingly support abortion. The myth of the anti-abortion, socially-conservative immigrant is just that: a myth.

We know that when one of our rights is attacked, all of our rights are at risk. That’s why we are not standing on the sidelines to protect reproductive freedoms. We are leading the fight.

In Florida, first- and second-generation elected officials have been at the forefront of the fight to repeal dangerous and harmful abortion bans. As one of the states most hostile toward abortion access, bodily autonomy and other foundational freedoms like LGBTQIA rights, it has seen New American candidates campaign on reproductive freedom, and win. Red states like North Carolina and Georgia are no different—with candidates from Black, Brown and immigrant communities across the map openly campaigning on abortion access and winning their races to boot. These seemingly small wins will continue to amount to huge victories for targeted communities being harmed by the onslaught of dangerous legislation we’re seeing across the states.

We must continue to build the bench and form diverse coalitions to create a more representative democracy because abortion is not just a women’s issue, and this Supreme Court ruling isn’t the end—it’s just the beginning. Reproductive freedom is an issue of economic justice, racial justice, an LGBTQIA+ rights issue and an immigrant issue. And it’s an issue that starts in our state and local politics.

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

Up next:


Ghida Dagher is the president of New American Leaders, a nonpartisan organization that empowers new Americans and immigrants to run, win and lead at every level of government, and New American Leaders Action Fund, an advocacy organization that supports New American candidates, engages immigrant voters and expands New American civic engagement to create a more inclusive democracy.