This is the story of two worlds in the U.S. — where the power to decide what happens to your body, your life, and your future depends on the state you live in, who you are, and how much money you earn. We are cisgender heterosexual women of color, representing two of the fastest-growing groups in the American electorate. As a Latina and an Asian American woman, we know the right to live free from discrimination goes beyond who we elect to the White House. We are freedom-fighting activistas who carry light-skinned privilege, and know our votes are bigger than our individual stories.
As a New Yorker, one of us benefits from state leaders who protect the right to an abortion, no matter who sits in the White House or on the Supreme Court. Yet not everyone in New York has equal access to that right. Even if you can find money for the abortion — a big “if” — you may not be able to take time off from work or afford childcare or transportation.
By contrast, one of us lives in Missouri, where there is only one abortion provider in the entire state because politicians have eroded abortion access. Senior Missouri health officials even admit to tracking our menstrual cycles on a spreadsheet to control our access to health care — the latest in a long history of surveillance of our reproductive health choices. If you have the means, sure, you can hop over to Illinois or another neighboring state for an abortion. But the gap between rights and access — rooted in systemic racism and misogyny, and fueled by white supremacy — respects no borders.
The right to access abortion — particularly for many of our friends and family who are black, Indigenous, people of color, transgender, or gender non-conforming — is a right in name only, no matter which state they live in.
This tale of two worlds is created by who we elect to state houses and who holds the governor’s veto power. It’s the state politicians behind voter suppression, racial gerrymandering, so-called sanctuary cities and bathroom bills that target black and brown voters of all gender identities. Those same politicians are also responsible for passing laws meant to take control of our reproductive health care decisions.
This is not a coincidence. Abortion restrictions are also inherently racist and designed to work in tandem with other oppressive policies to disenfranchise people of color — people like us.
A staggering 480 state abortion restrictions enacted since 2011 effectively amount to abortion bans for people with low incomes, people of color, and young people who cannot afford to travel long distances or pay out-of-pocket for care. The very politicians who built our country’s racist and oppressive systems, and then dismantled inner-city and rural infrastructure, targeted these communities in a game of power and control.
This November, our lives are on the ballot. For people in black and brown communities, this election is critical. And it’s time to send a message to the white-supremacist patriarchy, hellbent on taking away our rights and freedoms: Your time is up. Our collective ability to be equal, live freely, and achieve our dreams starts with our ability to secure reproductive freedom. Yes, that means voting Trump out of office. It also means changing the face of power in our state legislatures and governors’ offices.
That’s why Planned Parenthood advocacy and political organizations and Planned Parenthood supporters are organizing this year at the local level to flip our state legislative and governor seats in favor of reproductive health champions who will actually fight for, and expand, our rights. State leadership is vital to our future. In Illinois, pro-reproductive health majorities enacted laws to protect abortion rights for generations, regardless of who sits in the White House. In Virginia, decades of harmful abortion restrictions are now wiped from the books. This is the world we’re fighting for.
Forget the stereotypes you’ve heard. Latino and Asian Americans, the rapidly growing 43 million eligible voters, recognize that we are stronger when we stand in solidarity with Black and Indigenous people — some of whom face struggles for reproductive freedom that we don’t.
Our ballots will look different in every state, but one thing will be the same: our responsibility. We must be armed with the knowledge of who will fight to protect and expand access to reproductive health care in our state houses, and who won’t. We cannot accept a political system divided into two worlds, in which zip codes, state borders, or skin color determines rights and freedoms. This November, we decide.
Amanda Matos is the director of Constituency Campaigns at Planned Parenthood Votes, and Bonyen Lee-Gilmore is the director of State Media Campaigns at Planned Parenthood Votes.