EMILY’s List, the national organization that trains, fundraises for, and supports Democratic women candidates who identify as “pro-choice,” will no longer endorse Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, it announced on Tuesday. The reasoning behind the decision should be fairly obvious to anyone who’s been forced to follow along as Sinema has clung on to relevance through her nonsensical support for keeping the filibuster—an archaic Senate procedure that purports to maintain bipartisanship, but in practice, just means minority rule and stagnation.
At present, the filibuster is perhaps best known for directly standing in the way of enacting voting rights legislation, as state-level voter restrictions that primarily target people of color surge in state legislatures across the country. In Sinema’s all but meaningless word vomit, she may claim to support voting rights, but her support for the filibuster says otherwise. And relevant to the work of EMILY’s List, supporting the filibuster renders her diametrically opposed to reproductive rights—and all while state abortion bans proliferate, and the Supreme Court seems poised to end Roe, too.
In 2018, Sinema received nearly $2 million from EMILY’s List to narrowly win a tight race, meaning come 2024, she’ll likely be down a sizable chunk of funding. The women’s political fundraising group holds significant influence; the New York Times called it “the political equivalent of the old-fashioned Good Housekeeping seal of approval” in 2018. And as of late last year, EMILY’s List is hardly the only women’s group advocating reproductive freedom that’s criticized or put pressure on Sinema over her stance on the filibuster.
Almost any issue you can name is inextricably bound to voting rights, and with them the filibuster, by nature of how legislation is shaped by who can and can’t vote. But reproductive rights are particularly impacted by voter suppression, which is a major factor in why widely unpopular abortion bans keep getting passed. It’s worth noting in the states that are often dismissively written off as “red” states, where abortion bans are supposedly just predestined, bans are deeply unpopular there, too. But gerrymandering, voter restrictions, and other tactics systematically suppress the votes of marginalized people in these states.
Georgia is a key example of this. In 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law a near-total abortion ban, shortly after the state had purged 1.4 million people, who were primarily people of color, from the voter rolls between 2012 and 2016, and shut down hundreds of polling places. The extent of gerrymandering in the state, made possible after Republicans won control of the redistricting process in 2010, is underscored by how Kemp narrowly won his seat in 2018 with 50.2% of the vote, but Republicans retained nearly 60 percent of Georgia’s legislative seats, which were subsequently used to introduce and pass the ban.
It’s also worth noting that voting and reproductive rights are both deep-seated racial justice issues that carry disproportionate impact for people of color, and particularly women and those who can become pregnant. Women of color, for instance, are more likely to work low-wage, hourly jobs, and struggle to access a whole range of basic needs like child care or time off, which can make it especially difficult to vote. All of this is compounded by racist voter ID laws, restrictions on voting for incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people, and other barriers that purposefully target immigrants and voters of color.
Similarly, people of color are more likely to be harmed by abortion bans and restrictions. The majority of people who seek abortion care are people of color, and on top of the inherent violence of being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy, if they’re unable to access abortion care, they’re more likely to be pushed even deeper into poverty, or experience long-term domestic abuse.
The bleak reality is that Sinema’s pronounced role in advancing white supremacy, or at the very least derailing any meaningful legislative attempts to address white supremacy, shouldn’t be particularly surprising. There’s a long history of white women claiming feminism or liberal politics, while wielding their identities to advance white supremacy.
Historically, white women won the vote for white women in 1920 by colluding with male white supremacists, assuring them that extending the vote to more white people would further advance white power. They weren’t exactly wrong: Throughout most of modern history, the majority of white women have voted for Republican candidates, including President Trump, who repeatedly assured “suburban housewives” he would protect them from terrifying, racially coded threats, like low-income housing projects and crime.
White femininity has often been leveraged and weaponized against communities of color, even if this phenomenon may assume subtler and more insidious forms in 2022 than in 1920. Sinema may hold a 100% on her scorecard from NARAL—a scorecard that doesn’t necessarily embody the full range of stances that affect people’s reproductive freedoms—but there’s no longer much difference between her and the likes of Govs. Kay Ivey, Kim Reynolds, or other prominent white women politicians who have advanced abortion bans and restrictions. They’re all white women wielding their power and white privilege to punish and control people of color, especially women of color—or, at least for Sinema, to sit back and allow this to happen in the name of “bipartisanship.”
EMILY’s List is the first national women’s group that had once endorsed Sinema to now pull its endorsement over her filibuster stance, but it shouldn’t be the last. Any group that claims to champion women and pregnant people should also champion those of color—at this point, support for the filibuster flies directly in the face of this.