How to support reproductive rights on your ballot this Election Day

Election Day is Tuesday, and if you haven’t already voted, here’s something to keep in mind: even though reproductive rights might not directly be on your ballot, they still kind of are. Laws and policies regarding reproductive rights are rarely voted on, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a say. You can support reproductive rights on your ballot this Election Day through the elected officials you choose to represent you on a state and national level.

As you’ve probably heard a thousand times at this point in the election cycle, the president gets to nominate Supreme Court justices who will go on to make critically important decisions about reproductive rights and could potentially go so far as to overturn Roe v. Wade. So, depending on how much you value bodily autonomy and your ability to choose if/when you want to become a mother, one easy way to act on those values exists in who you vote for president, as both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump have been more than clear about where their ideal justices stand on abortion.

But outside of landmark Supreme Court decisions, many of the increasingly nuanced policies concerning abortion are made in Congress or state legislatures, and signed off on by governors. For example, consider Texas’ House Bill 2, which inspired the Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt case, which required clinics offering abortion to adhere to medically unnecessary requirements, resulting in many closing.

Pro-Choice Supporters Rally In DC Against Restrictive Abortion Laws
CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Think about South Carolina, where Republican Governor Nikki Haley signed a 20-week abortion ban infringing on women’s right to abortion until fetal viability earlier this year. Gubernatorial elections will only be held in Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia this year, but it’s worth noting that all kinds of terrifying legislation related to abortion, like a law that would have literally punished doctors offering abortion passed by the Oklahoma state legislature, wouldn’t become laws with governors signing off.

Who you vote for on a state level, and who you send to represent you in Congress, matters. It’s your way of expressing support for reproductive rights on your ballot.

Laws surrounding abortion, reproductive rights, and access to birth control and health care have become increasingly complicated. Evaluating the stances of those running for office is no longer simply a matter of whether or not they identify as “pro-choice,” as the dialogue surrounding abortion is no longer merely about whether or not abortion should be legal, but how to protect the accessibility of clinics, stances on second trimester abortions, accessibility of birth control, and where candidates stand on mandatory waiting periods and anti-abortion “counseling.”

Since finding out who you’re even voting for can be hard enough as is, thankfully, Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America have evaluated, run background checks, and made dozens of endorsements and campaign efforts. On its website, NARAL neatly breaks down their endorsements by state and office, whether it’s the presidency, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or any other relevant race, and you can click on their names to read up on their track records concerning reproductive rights. Similarly, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund also breaks down its endorsements by state and race, offers bios about their candidates, including gubernatorial endorsements.

Reproductive rights played a critical role in the dialogue this election, which is hardly surprising considering one of the two main candidates for the presidency is, for the first time, a woman. From the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado last year that revealed the dangers of politicizing and stigmatizing the procedure, to recurring suggestions that we punish either the doctors who offer or the women who receive abortions, to the groundbreaking Supreme Court victory against TRAP laws in June, no other election cycle has seen so many and such powerful incidents pertaining to abortion.

But even if you hate both candidates for president and can’t bring yourself to vote for the lesser of two evils, it’s important to vote for state and local positions that could also impact your reproductive rights.