Fed Up And Fired Up: The Stakes Are High As Women’s Rights Ascend To The Top Of The 2024 Political Agenda

By Cynthia Horner

While the presidential election still grabs headlines, the June 25 primary elections in New York City are still crucial as incumbents and newcomers face challengers and challenges alike. Abortion rights, reproductive justice, birth justice, and pro-choice issues have accelerated to the top of political agendas. Needless to say, female voters are fed up, fired up, and passionate about effecting change.

In a conversation with Right On! Digital, New York-based lawyer Yveka Pierre, who has worked with If/When/How: Lawyering For Reproductive Justice, acknowledges that women are uncertain if they are being heard, and at this point, no one can extinguish the flames. “I think reproductive rights and justice, of which birth justice is a subset, will affect state and national elections. People are living in states where they are losing access to adequate maternal health care, and the cost of care, even when offered, can make access hard or impossible. In those circumstances, of course, people will lobby their representatives to listen. Whether those cries are being listened to, we will see.”

The number of Black-eligible voters in the United States is projected to reach 34.4 million in November 2024 after several years of modest growth.  While the presidential election still grabs headlines, the June 25 primary elections in New York City are still crucial as incumbents and newcomers face challengers and challenges, alike. 

We saw the importance of the Black vote in this primary during a  standing room-only crowd at a town hall meeting held at the Black Spectrum Theater on May 10, where U.S. Congressman Gregory Meeks invited New York State Attorney General Letitia James to share her thoughts on the topic, “The Black Vote: What’s Next.”

James,  the first woman and the first Black woman to hold the position of Attorney General in New York, had just announced that on May 6, she  sued anti-abortion group Heartbeat International, Inc. (Heartbeat) and 11 self-professed “pro-life pregnancy organizations. This latest lawsuit is just one of many legal actions James has taken to bring women’s rights and needs to the forefront of public attention this election year.

67th New York Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James courtesy NYC.gov


Enthralled by James’ appearance, the audience intently listened as she affirmed her mission: the importance of voting in the upcoming elections. “I am continuing to focus on reproductive rights, protecting women’s rights here in the state and across this nation. And I will continue to stand up to politicians who believe that they’re in control of my body. It’s my body and my choice.” 

James added: “The stakes are high, but so is our will… And right now, given those historic cases, I’m on a winning streak. So, together, we can make this happen. And together, we will win.”

Given the strength of the Black vote and its tradition of voting for Democratic party candidates, “winning” is more than just a fleeting possibility. According to Pew Research, the number of Black eligible voters in the United States is projected to reach 34.4 million in November 2024 after several years of modest growth. 

Nina Saxon courtesy photo

Harlem Community News recently spoke with Nina Saxon, a candidate for a District Leader position in East Harlem. A District Leader is an unpaid elected position in a designated area of the city -in this case, Assembly District 68. The grassroots organizer, whose interest is in issues such as gun violence and birth justice, fights vigorously for her community.

One part of reproductive justice, birth justice is a movement that “believes when birthing people recognize their innate power to make the best health decisions for themselves and their families during all stages of the pregnancy, birth, and the post-birth period, that power will have a transformational impact on their family and community,” per the nonprofit Voices for Birth Justice. 

“In 2024, the voices of Black women matter in the face of equality and justice. As we deal with rollbacks on our fundamental rights and freedoms, it’s clear that we must harness the power of our ancestors’ struggles,” she said. Saxon was referring, in part, to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in June 2022, nearly 50 years after it set a precedent for protecting abortion rights.

Natashia Conner, CEO/Founder of the BLACK Collaborative, a racial justice and birth equity group of which she’s a pioneer advocate, agreed that women must assert their rights regarding their bodies. She also advocates for those in the BIPOC communities, including men, as she declared: “It is not just a women’s health issue; it’s an ‘us’ issue in 2024.”

In addition to reproductive rights, abortion access, and birth justice,  the foster care system’s ability to be viewed as a viable option for women who choose to give a child up for adoption have also come to the political forefront. 

Dr. Cookie Humphrey courtesy Compulsive

Dr. Cookie Humphrey, publisher of the New York-based lifestyle publication Compulsive Magazine, is a product of the foster care system and as a former foster child, in the context of the 2024 elections, birth justice can influence voter attitudes and priorities in several ways. Firstly, candidates’ positions on reproductive rights and access to healthcare, including maternal healthcare, may sway voters who prioritize these issues. Policies related to Medicaid expansion, funding for reproductive health clinics, and access to contraception and abortion services can all impact the reproductive rights and health outcomes of marginalized communities, including individuals involved with the foster care system,” adding that she hopes birth justice can be a priority issue voters and candidates alike consider this election season.

Vice President Kamala Harris, the most prominent and visible advocate for women through her position as the second highest elected official in the United States, continues to shed context on the plight of women, often touching on health care disparities and racism as she makes stops in key cities along the campaign trail.

On February 22, she kicked off a roundtable conversation on the “National Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” Tour in Grand Rapids, MI, where she stated to the attendees: “Freedom is fundamental to the promise of America. And what we saw over a year ago is the highest court in our land, the United States Supreme Court — the Court of Thurgood and RBG [Ruth Bader Ginsburg]— took a constitutional right that had been recognized by the people of America from the women of America. 

“We have seen laws being passed that make no exception even for rape and incest, which means these so-called leaders who are extremists are telling a survivor of a crime of violence to someone’s body — a survivor of a violation to their body that they — that survivor — have no right to make a decision about what happens to their body next, which, in my opinion, is immoral.”

Saxon urges voters, especially Black women, to show up en masse to the polls. “Voting is not just a right but a sacred responsibility to honor those who fought for our liberation. We assert our present perspectives and demands for a more just society by going into the booth and casting our ballots. Let us rise up and claim our rightful place. The voices of Black women must be heard,”  she concluded.

This story was produced as part of the 2024 Elections Reporting Mentorship, organized by the Center for Community Media.