Every Voice, Every Vote and Reproductive Rights Update

May 17, 2022Barbara Weinstein

On Tuesday evening, we launched the Reform Movement's Every Voice, Every Vote campaign, our nonpartisan initiative to strengthen democracy by encouraging and protecting voter participation. As if this effort was not urgent enough already, the leaked draft Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization made clear that every issue of importance to our Movement is on the ballot this year, including abortion rights.

Roe v Wade and Casey v Planned Parenthood are on the verge of being eviscerated by the Court, but in truth, abortion rights in the U.S. are already severely restricted. The Guttmacher Institute reports that in the 49 years since Roe, over 1,330 state abortion restrictions have been enacted, including parental consent laws, waiting periods, gestational limits, inaccurate counseling, and ultrasound requirements. This year alone, 536 abortion restrictions have been introduced in 42 states. And today, almost 90% of counties in the U.S. lack an abortion provider. The impact is felt most harshly by people of Color, as it is in so many areas from health care to climate change to wage disparities.

Our advocacy around abortion access is inspired by the Jewish value of kavod ha'briyot, respect for individual dignity. Banning potentially life-saving medical procedures and interfering with a patient's decision-making and moral agency runs contrary to the Jewish commandment to protect life as well as the biblical and rabbinic emphasis placed on human dignity.

What the draft Supreme Court decision, if mirrored in the final decision, will mean is that the gap that already exists between individuals with means and individuals without will become a proverbial Grand Canyon. Those who cannot take time off work to travel to another state, those who cannot afford to stay in a hotel, those who have no one to care for the children they have while they abide by mandatory waiting periods, among others, will be severely harmed. In short, the impacts of this decision, if final, will be felt by those who are already the most vulnerable: poorer, under-resourced, and people of Color.

Justice Alito's draft also includes this ominous line: "We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision…" There are many rights we hold that are not referenced in the Constitution, and this is the one the Court is determined to eviscerate today. But tomorrow, the Court could make a similar determination about same sex marriage or interracial marriage or access to contraception.

We know the best way to combat attacks on bodily autonomy, as well as white supremacy and antisemitism, is by having a diverse, invested, and engaged electorate. Those who show up as voters will help shape what is possible and what is a priority for Congress and state legislatures.

By providing training and resources to thousands of volunteer leaders across the country, Every Voice, Every Vote will empower local communities to drive voter mobilization and education; remove barriers to help enable people and communities to access voting resources and support; and strengthen our democracy by ensuring the electorate reflects the population that it serves. We will do all of this with national and local partners in communities of Color, mobilizing voters in communities most impacted by voter suppression to ensure that people show up in record numbers as voters committed to a democracy that works for everyone.

In the immediate term, we will also continue the work of lifting our faithful voice in support of abortion rights, advocating against state and federal laws that seek to circumscribe that right, and providing resources for our congregations that want to support individuals seeking abortions in their state or arriving from out of state in need of care. I hope you'll join the RAC, WRJ, and CCAR on May 26th at 6 PM EST for a Zoom meeting to learn more about what you and your congregation can do in this pivotal moment for abortion rights.

There is much work to be done to ensure the future health of our democracy and its people.

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