If you care about abortion, local elections matter
If you care about abortion access, you are probably still reeling from the predictable but still shocking Supreme Court decision to take away the right to control our bodies. You turned your rage into donations to Planned Parenthood and pro-choice Congressional candidates. Or maybe you are volunteering on the Yes on California Proposition 1 campaign, enshrining the right to reproductive freedom in our state. But if you care about abortion access, you also have to care about local elections - city council, school board, and county board of supervisors.
Why aren’t our national and state-level efforts enough to ensure our reproductive health needs are met? As current and former city councilwomen and a current school board member, we know first-hand the power of local electeds to protect or undermine access to reproductive health care and information. From zoning to books, local electeds play a key role in the lives of people every day - including reproductive health services and education.
All we have to do is look at the book banning happening in states across the country. Who’s making those decisions? Local school board members. School board members also make policies that affect students’ ability to leave campus for medical services, access health care services on campus, or have comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education taught (a law in California). In 2018, Fremont Unified school board members voted 3 to 2 to eliminate medically accurate sexuality education for 4th and 5th graders that, among other topics included addressing the emotional aspects of sex and sexual activity as well as inclusive LGBTQ lessons. In that case, if just one seat had been held by a pro-choice board member, thousands of students would have received health education that complies with state law and recognizes the needs of students.
City councilmembers also play a role in ensuring access to reproductive health care. Consider zoning and parking regulations for example. When Planned Parenthood Mar Monte wanted to locate a new health center in Redwood City years ago, they weren’t able to get past the planning regulations and had to find a different location. Most recently Fresno city councilmembers voted to override the mayor’s veto of allocating state dollars to support a Planned Parenthood clinic in Fresno. Without a staunch pro-choice majority on the Fresno City Council, Planned Parenthood would have lost out on $1 million to provide their community with healthcare services including abortion.
In addition to zoning and planning, county supervisors oversee health services. What health services are offered and how money is allocated determines the access to and quality of reproductive health services. In anticipation of the reversal of Roe v Wade, this June, our San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approved $1M to bolster the 30 Planned Parenthood health centers in Northern California serving Redwood City, San Mateo and South San Francisco. Would an anti-choice representative vote to increase abortion care capacity in our County?
Our local elected officials are critically important to protecting our communities and our children. They make the decisions that affect us every day and these same people also run for higher office. All the evidence you need is on your ballot this November with the state assembly race and the race for Congress. In a post-Roe world the question is, could we unknowingly vote for an anti-choice city council member, school board trustee, or county supervisor who will make decisions that affect our access to reproductive health care and education? And who one day may become our state representative and strip away our rights?
So if we care about keeping access to abortion legal, about protecting reproductive health care, and about ensuring our children are equipped with the information they need to make healthy decisions, we need to care about local elections and pay attention to our candidates’ commitment to reproductive health care access.
We are part of the ProChoice San Mateo County Initiative, a multi-faith, intergenerational coalition of leaders who have come together to bring visibility and transparency to this issue. Every voter deserves to know the positions of the over 100 candidates running for local elected office in San Mateo County this November. Every candidate received a simple questionnaire which will allow them to identify whether they are pro-choice and give them the opportunity to share their views on the right to abortion and California Proposition 1.
You can view their answers (or perhaps their silence) at www.prochoicesmc.com and vote accordingly.