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Was the issue of reproductive rights as motivating for Democrats as hoped?


We turn now to Laphonza Butler. She's the president of Emily's List, an organization whose mission is to elect Democratic, pro-choice women into office. Thanks so much for being here.

LAPHONZA BUTLER: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: I'm going to start by asking your reaction to the situation in Kentucky with that amendment - is this - even though it's too close to call, did you expect that?

BUTLER: Look, I think voters in Kentucky are still voting, and their - I'm sorry, their votes are still being counted - and so we don't want to get too far ahead of those counts. But I think it is clear that abortion was on the ballot in states all across the country and that voters are making it clear that this is a decision that should be made between a woman and her doctor. And I'm not surprised by the will of the American people showing up in places like Kentucky. I think the - poll after poll has shown that this is a position and a freedom that should be protected - that the majority of Americans feel that this is a freedom that should be protected.

MARTIN: Explain the amendment that has passed in Michigan and how you characterize that.

BUTLER: Well, I want to - the amendment in Michigan was to codify the protections for abortion - for abortion care in its state constitution. And, you know, having just been in Michigan just days before Election Day, the energy there was really strong. The fact that the - a historic number of signatures were gathered to put that measure on the ballot gave me all the confidence in the world. And I think the women that were elected in Michigan - the Democratic pro-choice women that were elected in Michigan were another - yet another opportunity where the voters in Michigan were making it clear that this was a right that they wanted protected, whether it was the election of Governor Whitmer or the re-election of Attorney General Nessel, who had made a commitment on how she would not enforce the 1931 trigger law if the amendment were not to pass. I think Michiganders have made it clear in many ways, but at the ballot, that this is a freedom that is essential to their dignity and to their future.

MARTIN: So it's part of your job to pay close attention to how congressional districts are drawn. How disadvantaged do you think Democrats were because of redistricting in some states?

BUTLER: Well, look, it's clear that there were some states - Florida in particular - where there was a real intention to gerrymander districts to ensure that Republicans were going to be gaining seats. I think the Republican Party was very clear about that. Governor DeSantis really forced his way into what traditionally was a legislative process, where negotiations had already happened between the Republican side of the legislature and the Democrats. And time after time, Governor DeSantis sent them back until they accepted his map, which surely drew lines to ensure that more Republicans were guaranteed to - or more likely to be elected in certain districts in Florida. And we saw that in states around - in some other states around the country. But I think that, you know, what is important to note in this moment is that votes are still being counted, and neither party has been declared in the majority of either chamber. And we should respect the vote of the American people and allow those votes to be counted.

MARTIN: So as the president of Emily's List, let me ask you this. I mean, there was a lot of animation, we should say - the Democratic base was really fired up after the Dobbs decision in the summer. And we know that it was one issue that Democrats in particular were voting on - not the only one. Inflation was top of mind for people in both parties. Where does your attention turn now, now that the midterm elections are over? You were placing a lot of emphasis on abortion. Where do you go from here?

BUTLER: Look, at Emily's List, as you noted, we - our work is to focus on electing Democratic, pro-choice women. We want to stay focused on this election and making sure that this election is one that - where the will of the majority of the American people is respected. And then we start to prepare for elections that are coming up in 2023 and 2024 and ensuring that we're working across communities to recruit, train and prepare authentic candidates who are Democratic...


BUTLER: ...Pro-choice women who are ready to run and protect that right.

MARTIN: Laphonza Butler of Emily's List, thank you.

BUTLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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