Midterm Voters Are Calling the Shots on Reproductive Freedom. Black Women Lead the Charge.

The organizing led by Black women in states like Michigan and Kentucky makes it clear that we as voters are the face of hope in our country—not lawmakers or the elite few. 

A rally in support of abortion access outside the Kentucky State Capitol on June 26, 2022. (Twitter / Protect Kentucky Access)

This past July, people across the country were left disheartened by the Supreme Court’s decision to revoke the right to reproductive freedom. But even before the Dobbs decision, some state lawmakers worked tirelessly to shut down clinics, in an attempt to leave their constituents stranded without abortion care—an action that particularly hurts Black communities.

The results are devastating:

  • 13 states now have outright bans on abortion.
  • Georgia banned abortion after six weeks.
  • Four states have banned abortion at 15, 18 or 20 weeks.
  • Ten more narrowly blocked abortion bans.

To see the real-world implications of abortion bans, look no further than the story of a 16-year-old girl in Florida who was deemed too immature to decide whether or not to have an abortion, but mature enough to be forced to bear a child.  

With the power to strip our reproductive rights concentrated in the Supreme Court and our statehouses, it may seem on the surface that nothing can be done—but this is far from the truth. This November, voters are calling the shots. The organizing led by Black women in states like Michigan and Kentucky makes it clear that we as voters are the face of hope in our country—not lawmakers or the elite few. 

Reproductive freedom is personal to me and it includes more than abortion. As a Black woman, our post-Roe reality is startling. I feel enraged whenever I think about an outside interest having control over my body or the body of anyone else. I think of my mother and how growing up, she worked with sexual assault victims to help them find safety. I think about how many people I know—family and friends—whose hands I’ve held through abortions. I think of my loved ones who have dealt with cervical cancer, and I think about myself and my own journey with infertility. We all deserve freedom over our bodies and affirming care.

Fighting for these fundamental values has always been important to me. I’ve been an activist since I was in college, when I mobilized students across my home state of Wisconsin to push for investment in our schools, students and educators. Since then, I have dedicated my life to building people power on the path toward a more equitable future.

This led me to State Voices, a coalition guided by a simple mission: harnessing data and technology to fuel people-powered campaigns and build a multiracial democracy that allows everyone to thrive and live in their full dignity. In 2020 alone, we made over 228 million contacts with voters, contributing to the highest voter turnout our nation has seen since 1968. 

Our organizers are on the frontlines in their local communities, where they’re hearing just how important the freedom to decide is for folks. But as we’re seeing across the country, lawmakers are taking it upon themselves to interfere in reproductive decisions, and communities of color are most at-risk. In fact, Black communities across the U.S. are the most hurt by SCOTUS’ Dobbs decision. 

We have incredible examples that show us what’s possible when voters take charge. This November, abortion is on the ballot, and organizers are wasting no time to ensure their communities are educated, informed and ready to vote to keep their rights in place. Across the country, voters get to decide whether reproductive freedom remains. And in all of these states, Black women are leading the charge. 

A Reproductive Freedom For All rally in Lansing, Mich. (Courtesy of Darci McConnell)

In Michigan, Sommer Foster and Tameka Ramsey of Michigan Voices are organizing with their partners to educate voters on the Reproductive Freedom For All ballot initiative, a measure that would protect Michiganders’ right to decide. In 2022 alone, Michigan Voices and its partners have made over 3.25 million calls, sent over 286,000 mailers and 645,000 texts, and knocked on over 230,000 doors.

We look to our neighbors in Kentucky, where Alicia Hurle and the Kentucky Civic Engagement Table have joined their partners to support Protect Kentucky Access. Protect Kentucky Access is a collection of organizations from across the state that are coming together to defeat a ballot initiative that, if approved by voters, will amend the state constitution to permanently ban all abortions, with no exceptions. In 2022 alone, Kentucky Civic Engagement Table’s partners have reached over 311,000 Kentucky voters, while Protect Kentucky Access has reached over 288,000 to educate and mobilize them on this ballot measure.

Voters can make a difference on these ballot measures. They already have earlier this year.  Look no further than Kansas, where Kansans fought back a measure that would’ve stripped the freedom to decide enshrined in the state’s constitution. This form of direct democracy is our way forward while there is a vacuum of moral leadership from our federal leaders on the SCOTUS bench and in the halls of Congress. 

It’s time to take this organizing and replicate it across the country until we secure our full reproductive rights. Power is, as it always should be, with the people. 

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Alexis Anderson-Reed is the CEO of State Voices, a coalition of advocates, activists and organizers committed to a multiracial democracy. State Voices plans to contact over 25 million voters ahead of the 2022 midterms, and invests in states like Michigan and Kentucky for long-term change. She serves on the boards of the Alliance for Youth Organizing, Analyst Institute and the State Innovation Exchange (SiX).