Some people believe that abortion laws and pregnancy have nothing to do with one another. They have no idea what they’re talking about.
I found out I was pregnant in June 2022. My husband and I were thrilled—and at 42 years old, we understood that I was embarking on a high-risk pregnancy.
I was also leading the Democratic committee focusing on America’s state legislatures, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. We were working to defend our Democratic majorities and doing everything we could to win back legislative majorities in states like Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania—understanding that the president’s party typically loses seats in a midterm year. I certainly did not anticipate that my personal and professional worlds were about to collide in a historic political year.
Weeks after I learned I was pregnant, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, giving Republican-held state legislatures the green light to enact extreme abortion restrictions—a policy priority they’d worked toward for decades. Politically, it backfired on them. Democrats held every single legislative majority—a first for a president’s party since at least 1934—and flipped four chambers from red to blue.
Pundits, Republican strategists and even some Democrats argued that abortion rights wouldn’t matter. Perhaps what they missed is the experience that I was having alongside so many Americans: the plethora of medical complications that come with pregnancy.
Republicans are still attacking reproductive freedom in the new year and are showing no signs of slowing down. From Wyoming becoming the first state to ban abortion pills, to South Carolina lawmakers proposing a law that could make getting an abortion eligible for the death penalty, the Republican Party is clearly not abandoning their anti-abortion crusade any time soon. Will pundits miss the salience of this issue again? Will Democrats?
It would be a big mistake to—and here’s why.
Some people believe that abortion laws and pregnancy have nothing to do with one another. Those people have no idea what they’re talking about—and they’ve probably never been pregnant.
No two pregnancies are alike. But as any good mommy blog can tell you, there are communities for pregnant people to find comfort in shared experiences. From the moment Dobbs broke—those blogs were lighting up. Women from across the country posted about how Republicans’ new laws might impact their pregnancies.
By day, I’d watch pundits discuss whether abortion rights would trump economic concerns. And in the evenings, I’d talk to other pregnant women as they worried about which laws might harm them or their child.
Being pregnant means you are in a constant state of calculating risks. You think about how much caffeine you should have every day, what foods you can and cannot eat while pregnant. You receive all kinds of contradictory advice—it’s exhausting and all-consuming.
The Republican Party is clearly not abandoning their anti-abortion crusade any time soon. Will pundits miss the salience of this issue again? Will Democrats?
In October, I was visiting family in Missouri, a state that had passed a total abortion ban months earlier in June. There was a story about a pregnant woman in Missouri who could not terminate her pregnancy after doctors told her it was no longer viable. Missouri’s laws sent her on a wild goose chase trying to obtain care—with medical professionals telling her they legally could not act until it was an emergency. For those who may be unaware, medical emergencies when you’re pregnant often end in maternal death.
Sitting in Missouri, I thought to myself: What if something happened to me? Where could I go? Suddenly my risk calculations were political and geographic—a burden Republican lawmakers put on millions of other Americans.
And still, there was continuous, breathless coverage that other concerns would ultimately triumph over backlash to anti-abortion laws at the ballot box. I knew in my bones that they were wrong because my two realities couldn’t be so out of sync. I’d do a press interview about the danger of a GOP abortion ban, then head into a doctor’s appointment where my ob-gyn would cover what exactly could happen to me at this stage of my pregnancy. On my drive home, I’d think about how much more dangerous my pregnancy would be if Virginia Republicans were successful in passing an abortion ban.
State legislative Democrats never lost focus and never underestimated how angry the American public was that Republican lawmakers were trying to make healthcare decisions on their behalf. I imagine that’s because Democrats routinely have over double the number of women running and serving in state legislative office compared to Republicans. Some of us were experiencing pregnancy and the complications of it right alongside the voters we were trying to persuade.
Republicans forced pregnant women into a fight for their very lives, and they expected that to matter less than other issues of the day. Beltway types collectively minimized the quiet fury of people all across America who would not accept a country where the opinion of their Republican statehouse mattered more than theirs. Let us never underestimate their political power again.
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