Today’s Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center unravels the right to abortion Americans have known for decades.
In an opinion that closely matches the draft leaked last month, access to abortion care will effectively end in at least 26 states — upending life as we know it. Some 40 million people will lack crucial reproductive care in their home states. Over half of these residents will be forced to travel more than 150 miles farther for abortion care. Undocumented people, trapped by ICE checkpoints, and those without child care or paid time off work may be unable to make the drive at all. As patients flee to other states, standard wait times may stretch to three weeks or more — a devastating increase for a procedure in which every hour counts.
The stakes are enormous for every person in this country who can become pregnant. And the stakes are equally high for every person who cares about our democracy.
The Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson has been decades in the making. Right-wing extremists have long fought to end the right to abortion care, spinning their web of restrictions from state legislatures to the highest court of the land. Even now, these extremists are determined to illegalize bodily autonomy and human dignity in all its forms: from anti-trans legislation to voting restrictions that strip people of their right to duly elected representation.
Yet as they march forward, so do we. As a lifelong advocate committed to issues impacting AAPI and immigrant communities, I know that Roe v. Wade never guaranteed access to abortion for all people in the U.S. Rather, it was people building power — organizing their communities and leveraging influence over decision-makers — who advanced progress for the most vulnerable among us.
Today, we must double down in this fight — and engage more people in community organizing and at the ballot box. Despite federal inaction and gridlock, voting remains a powerful tool to shape regional and statewide lawmaking. By expanding the electorate, we can chip away at right-wing gains and enable decisions made by, and for, the people.
Threats to abortion and voting rights endanger the same populations: low-income people, immigrants, and people of color. Studies show that Black and Latinx communities have the highest abortion rates of any demographic group, as well as the steepest barriers to voting. Americans living in poverty are disproportionately unlikely to vote and likely to seek abortion care — even as the Hyde Amendment bars Medicaid from covering most abortions. And many immigrants face difficult hurdles to both voting and healthcare.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders sit at the intersection of these communities — and face many of these same obstacles.
Although we are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the United States, the AAPI community historically votes at a low rate, with less than half of all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders casting ballots from 2008 to 2016.
Meanwhile, the path to abortion is arduous for the AAPI community — filled with language barriers, cultural stigmas, and low rates of insurance coverage for our most vulnerable members. And that’s if Asian Americans, who are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and the immigrant community, can even travel for care.
Yet the AAPI community also count among the strongest supporters of abortion rights and access. Eighty-five percent of AAPI women support reproductive freedom.
Tackling the barriers that keep AAPI voters from the ballot box is essential to combatting abortion restrictions. For example, mobilizing AAPI voters in three key states — Texas, Georgia, and Florida — and developing multilingual volunteers trained in voter engagement will reach 100,000 AAPI women voters this year.
Volunteers like these will secure AAPI women’s commitments to vote, help them make concrete plans to cast their ballots, and connect them with local resources to make sure their ballots are counted.
Increasing the turnout of AAPI women voters in Georgia, Florida, and Texas by 20 percent from 2020 can be enough to affect the outcomes of key races down the ballot across the South.
To be sure, voting alone won’t save our democracy. As Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, put it, “We cannot out-organize voter suppression.” And the past two years have shown us that voting is one strategy of many we must employ — and it can fall painfully short of the transformative change we envision.
Yet by making states responsible for abortion rights and access, the Supreme Court has ensured that the battle for reproductive care rests partly on our state representatives and policies. Voting for politicians who support abortion rights can help legislators secure abortion justice for their communities — like Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani, who has led her state’s fight against anti-abortion legislation, or State Sen. Michelle Au, who is working to protect medication abortion for the people of Georgia.
And the AAPI community can play a decisive role in that process. When more Asian Americans vote, we can elect more leaders who will champion the policies we need — including affordable and accessible abortion care for every person in the United States. And we can lay the groundwork to help low-income people and people of color elect representatives who will actually represent them at every level.
But this wave requires collective action. You can become part of the movement by registering and making plans to vote — and helping your family, friends, and elders do the same. If you live in Texas, Georgia, or Florida, find ways to get involved with outreach and voter education work.
The fight to defend and expand abortion access has always been and will continue to be a long struggle that requires us to collectively organize our communities now and through the future. Together, we can enshrine protections for our fundamental rights into law. And we can strengthen the checks and balances that preserve our democracy — for our generation, and generations to come.
Will you join us?
Last modified: September 7, 2022