Conservatives refuse to give up their fight to pass legislation that affects women’s health, bodies, and civil rights, and after an election year when women of color turned out in force for Democrats, electing more of them to state offices.
Restrictions on abortion and voting rights are the two most high-profile instances of Republican-supported policies that end up having devastating effects on women, and it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the governors signing these laws are white men. As host Melissa Harris-Perry and her guests discussed on Saturday’s show, combating these policies will require a push to recruit and promote women in politics. As Louisiana state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson said on the show, while only four of the state’s 39 senators are women, “we wonder why policies that come out of bodies like this are so horribly impactful for women.”
The situation in Louisiana is similar to that in North Carolina, a state that just passed a series of restrictions on abortion, cut social services medical benefits, and education funding; there are only eight women in the 50-member state Senate there.
The fact that the demographics of state governments aren’t more diverse doesn’t mean there are no representatives fighting against conservative policies. Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner has been a fierce opponent of efforts by Republican Governor John Kasich and his fellow conservatives to put into place some of the nation’s most draconian abortion restrictions.
In Wisconsin, Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor has been a key player in the fight against right-wing attacks on unions, voting rights, and reproductive rights. During a speech she gave before voter ID restrictions passed in 2011, Taylor said, “This is voter suppression. It’s voter disenfranchisement. This is voter confusion. This is voter restriction. This is [a] voter discouragement bill. That’s what it is.”
msnbc host Alex Wagner pointed to one possible reason why there are so few elected officials like Turner and Taylor: women too often wait to be asked to run instead of just doing it. How does that change? Start small and local.
“We need more women elected to carry the torch,” Karen Carter Peterson told Harris-Perry. The wide variety of women’s experiences should also be an asset, Anthea Butler said, because “Republicans are going to put women out there that are a lot of show and no tell,” but the experiences of single mothers like Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis “are pluses, not minuses.”
See the second half of the discussion below.