Voting Rights are Women's Rights

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Photos: CBS News
By Nina Jacinto

Women of Mississippi may have been able to rest just a bit easier last night, as Initiative 26, the measure that would have included a fertilized egg under legal “personhood status,” has been defeated. While the media documented the terrifying possibility of the personhood amendment passing, the mobilization of pro-choice activists has spoken for itself. Through the collaboration of local and national organizations including SisterSong, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and Planned Parenthood of Mississippi, the calls, knocks on doors, and exposure to the dire consequences and implications of this ultra-conservative legislation led to a tremendous victory.

I don’t want to take away from the glow of the immensity of this win, but let’s not forget about a critical loss for our movement as well: Mississippi voters passed Initiative 27, which requires government-issued identification for voting.

I’m having some trouble accepting these polarized results –are the voters who understand that a personhood amendment would limit our fundamental human right to make decisions about our own bodies really the same voters who allowed a discriminatory and constitutionally unsound amendment to pass?

We talk a lot about culture shift here at the office. As the Strong Families Initiative continues to grow, we have a deep understanding that in order for there to be genuine change around how people think and feel about families, there needs to be a shift in culture. And right now, I’m seeing that a loss in the racial justice and immigrant rights movement is not being recognized as a loss for the reproductive rights movement.

Could we have mobilized for both initiatives side by side, educating voters to see how silencing the voice of thousands of people of color, immigrants and transgendered folk may make it more difficult to shut down future initiatives that limit choice? Could we have framed the conversation and mobilized funds to generate anger and shock around new definitions of “person” AND of “eligible voter”? What would it have looked like to commit a reproductive justice lens around Mississippi’s election? Better answer these questions now, because this isn’t going to be the last anti-choice or racist amendment that makes it to our states’ ballots.

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