Anger. Sorrow. Fury.
The annual EMILY’s List gala is usually a glitzy moment of celebration and self-empowerment, and this year it was supposed to be honoring the first female vice president.
But when a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion showed the court plans to end the national right to an abortion, the dominant feeling at the nation’s largest group supporting Democratic women who back abortion rights was outrage—and fear that the worst was yet to come.
“Now we enter a new phase. There is nothing hypothetical about this moment,” warned Vice President Kamala Harris during her speech to the gala. “How dare they? How dare they tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body?”
St. Louis Democratic Mayor Tishuara Jones said she was “angry and pretty pissed off.” Former Florida gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink told VICE News she was “utterly devastated.” Phoenix Democratic Mayor Kate Gallego told VICE News the leaked ruling “felt like a gut-punch.”
“I am pissed. I am furious. I am still trying to get my emotions right and how to direct this,” said Kansas Democratic state Rep. Christina Haswood.
Democratic candidates and elected officials from around the country told VICE News they were worried about what was to come next in their states once the Supreme Court ends national voting rights protections.
“We are a state where if we don’t show up, things will get worse,” warned Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who’s running for secretary of state.
Georgia Republicans already passed a law to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, and Nguyen warned that they would likely push for a complete ban. She said that could happen even if Democrats win the governorship this fall, if they call a special session and ram through the legislation.
Florida Republicans recently passed a law banning abortion after 16 weeks of pregnancy, but Sink predicted if they win in this year’s midterms, “they’ll come right back and make it even more restrictive, I guarantee.”
The news convinced EMILY’s List Executive Director Emily Cain to change her daytime outfit to a more somber all-black ensemble topped with a “pro-choice” t-shirt.
“I had a different dress picked out today. It was bright orange, I thought it would match perfectly,” Cain said onstage Tuesday afternoon, gesturing at the jewel-toned pink stage. “And then I just got too mad—and I decided to wear the 'pro-choice T-shirt.”
The event’s organizers and activists predicted a harsh backlash against Republicans at the ballot box. Polls show that majorities of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, and Democrats are hopeful that the results
“Outrage at rolling back our rights will close the democratic enthusiasm gap. Midterm elections are all about turnout,” EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
But the harsh reality is even if their best-case scenario plays out and the end of national abortion protections give Democrats a badly needed boost for the midterms, the damage of the decision itself will be nearly impossible to reverse. Twenty-six states are certain or likely to ban abortion if Roe falls. And Republicans are gearing up to try to pass a national abortion ban.
“We can have conversations about how galvanizing this is. But everybody who does this work, everybody who wants to see Democrats elected, fundamentally wants to see these things protected. So when those protections go away, that is extremely terrifying,” said Democratic pollster Molly Murphy. “It's grief—but with resolve. I just think that you can't take it lying down.”