I’m 19 and I Just Voted for the First Time—to Defend Reproductive Rights

People cast their votes at a polling place in The Ohio Union, a student activity center at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 8, 2022. (Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

When I was younger, I attended a fundraiser with my mom at an abortion clinic in Cleveland. We donated money, met organizers with ProChoice Ohio, and I became inspired to fight for reproductive justice. Now, I’m 19 years old, and I just voted in my first midterm election to defend reproductive rights.

Living as a queer person in Ohio—a state considering a six-week abortion ban—is frightening. Though I’m alarmed and infuriated, I’m also inspired by the work that organizers and advocates have done on a daily basis leading up to the election to engage young voters and mobilize communities to vote with reproductive rights in mind. This is the work that I have been involved in since my first internship with ProChoice Ohio, and today, as vice president of the Cleveland State University chapter with URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity

I voted and encouraged my friends to do the same. As it turns out, voters across the country believe just as strongly in abortion access and reproductive freedom as I do: In all five states where abortion was on the ballot, people voted in favor of keeping abortion access in place.

From Kentucky to Michigan to California—in red, purple and blue states—the power of voters did not waver. This news gives me fuel to continue fighting to protect my reproductive freedoms from being so easily stripped away by those who should have no say in the decisions I make about my body.

In June, when the Supreme Court took the devastating action of overturning more than 50 years of precedent by striking down Roe v. Wade, it was easy to feel hopeless. We might not be able to directly vote out anti-abortion justices. But we can still create impactful change through the power of our vote—because the people and measures we vote for will have a direct impact on our day-to-day lives. 

Here’s why it’s so important to fight for reproductive rights: In the first two months since Roe fell, there were 10,000 fewer legal abortions.

The implications of this are extremely dangerous. Abortion bans can result in people obtaining unsafe abortions or being forced to carry their unwanted pregnancies to term, potentially putting their lives in harm’s way. This disproportionately impacts young people, people of color, immigrant communities and low-income individuals who may not have the resources to travel for an abortion or people who are too far along in their pregnancy due to their extensive search for a solution.

Our lives are at risk if we don’t elect candidates who are abortion-positive. 

Unfortunately, anti-choice elected officials on both sides of the aisle dance around the topic of abortion and refuse to even say the word, hindering our ability to create real change. It’s an uncomfortable conversation for a lot of people, and I understand that a lot of it has to do with stigma and misinformation. However, you can’t call yourself liberal, be pro-LGBTQ+, pro-raising the minimum wage or pro-environmental justice if you are not actively working to ensure reproductive justice for all. There is great intersectionality among our country’s most pressing issues, and the people we just elected need to acknowledge that with the way they legislate and govern. Don’t forget: Once they are sworn in, they work for us. 

Most of the folks in governor’s mansions, in Congress, at state capitols and in city halls are of a different generation than I am. My life experiences may be different from theirs and are likely more limited, but I need to know that the people representing me understand my position as a young queer college student growing up in unprecedented times—times that force me to fight for the right to simply make my own decisions about my own body. Accepting the status quo has not worked, and it clearly is not working now. I don’t think the electoral system in this country is perfect, but voting remains one of the best ways to advocate for ourselves and make our voices heard. 

It’s important to remember that our work doesn’t end here. The meaning of our democracy is that we will continue to have even more chances to vote for change. Until our next election and far beyond, I will remain laser-focused on the issues I care most about, and I hope you’ll join me.

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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.


Giana Formica is a student at Cleveland State University and Vice President of CSU’s chapter with URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity.