How the Anti-Choice Movement Is Using Voting Rights to Consolidate Power

Anti-choice extremists know that voting is critical to electing leaders who share the values of the majority of us who support the legal right to abortion.

Photo of people holding signs at a voting rights rally
We cannot allow bad actors and the elected officials who prop them up to thrive in the shadows. We must protect our democracy. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was a horrifying attempt to dismantle our democracy to advance an extreme right-wing agenda, but it didn’t happen in a vacuum. The same radical right that has been working for decades to erode our democratic institutions and impose their ideological agenda of power and control has also been fighting to strip away our freedom to decide if, when, and how we have children and form our families.

What we saw a year ago today and are seeing in the anti-choice movement now is the culmination of a decadeslong effort by forces hostile to social progress. The anti-democracy and anti-choice movements embrace disinformation at every turn, and their most extreme elements have often turned to violence. Anti-choice extremists were openly complicit in Trump’s efforts to undermine our democracy and regularly played an essential role in the disinformation networks that led to this moment.

And this isn’t new for them—when it comes to inciting right-wing violence, the anti-choice movement wrote the playbook. It’s no surprise that anti-choice elected officials, leaders, and activists helped promote and, in some cases, participated in the insurrection. To be clear—they are all part of the same movement.

Not only that, the legal right to abortion is hanging on by a thread. The U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade in the coming months and, if they do so, we will likely be living in a world where 26 states ban abortion outright. But make no mistake, this plan is already in motion in some states. Take Texas, which has devised an end run around the Constitution in the form of a vigilante-enforced ban on abortion, Senate Bill 8. Just last month, the Supreme Court refused to block SB 8, rendering Roe effectively meaningless in our nation’s second-largest state. Now, 14 other states are clamoring to follow suit by enacting their own copycat bans on abortion.

At every turn, anti-choice lawmakers are emboldened and champing at the bit to outlaw abortion or push it as far out of reach as possible. How did we get here?

Trump and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell solidified an anti-choice supermajority at the Supreme Court through the confirmations of Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, endangering our fundamental right to abortion. The ramifications of this hostile supermajority will continue for decades to come. Hoping to continue Trump’s dangerous presidency, anti-choice leaders and news outlets amplified conspiracy theories and disinformation about how the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump and promoted the now-infamous “Stop the Steal” rally that resulted in the insurrection.

Then, they turned up at the Capitol a year ago. Abby Johnson, an anti-choice leader and a speaker at the 2020 Republican National Convention, proudly photographed herself in the front row of the January 6 rally and described being on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Elijah Schaffer, who broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, was reposting anti-choice disinformation just days before the riots. Known abortion clinic harassers Tayler Hansen and Derrick Evans were documented inside the Capitol during the insurrection.

In addition to joining in on the deadly attack, the anti-choice movement has also been working to dismantle voting rights at every turn. Anti-choice extremists know that our freedom to vote is critical to electing leaders who share and represent the values of the majority of us, the 8 in 10 Americans who support the legal right to abortion. They know they can’t win on the merits of their unpopular policies, so they attack the right to vote itself by creating barriers to accessing the ballot box. Anti-choice groups like Susan B. Anthony List and Republican state legislators are trying to dismantle our democracy and enact legislation to disproportionately strip the core freedom to vote from all Americans, particularly Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, and all people of color.

We cannot allow these bad actors and the elected officials who prop them up to thrive in the shadows. In the year since the insurrection, we’ve seen the anti-choice movement successfully attack not only abortion access and our right to vote but diversity in education, the transgender community, and many other issues supported by the majority of people in this country. It is clear from their actions that their vision for our future is white supremacist, patriarchal minority control.

January 6, 2021 marked a terrifying chapter in American democracy, but we can prevent this extremism from further taking hold. We must protect our democracy by immediately passing the Freedom to Vote Act, the Protecting Our Democracy Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act through any means necessary. And then we must hold our elected officials accountable. In the midterms, we will be pulling out all the stops to vote out those who threatened American democracy and allowed January 6 to happen, and we will continue exposing the tactics and bad actors in this movement until they are brought to justice.