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A century after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote, women’s rights remain the nexus of contentious debate with many advocates convinced that women are under renewed assault.
In this episode of Common Ground with Jane Whitney, an all-star panel discusses the current status of women and what feminism means to a new generation of rights crusaders. But a special focus of the forum will be how the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the issue of abortion regulation to elected officials, has changed life for the majority of Americans and transformed the country’s politics.
Fatima Goss Graves
Fatima Goss Graves, a nationally recognized leader in the fight for gender justice and an expert in law, policy and culture change, is president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center and a co-founder of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund.
Goss Graves focuses on a broad set of interrelated women’s issues, including reproductive rights and health care, child care, education access, income security, and workplace justice. Under her leadership, the National Women’s Law Center has filed amicus briefs affirming the right to access reproductive health care and launched a campaign to rally labor and worker justice groups to fight for abortion rights.
A frequent guest on television talk shows, Goss Graves also has personally criticized the Supreme Court in numerous interviews and, in a Vanity Fair interview last year, condemned the Dobbs decision as growing out of 19th century norms when “women in this country were not allowed to vote, weren’t allowed to own property, weren’t allowed to even practice law.”
She has appeared as a legal and social commentator on CBS, MSNBC, BBC, CNN, PBS,
and NPR and has been published and quoted in numerous outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BET, Fortune, and The Atlantic.
After a record number of women took House seats in the 2018 midterm elections, the political organizer and Shaker Heights mother Katie Paris saw an unsettling irony: the “year of the woman” had come and gone without having mobilized fellow suburban women in her home state of Ohio.
An experienced activist, Paris responded the following year by founding Red Wine & Blue, a civic engagement organization mobilizing women on “personal” issues pertaining to their bodies and their families, especially reproductive rights, the freedom to parent, book bans, and diversity education.
Now a key voter mobilizer in several swing states, Red Wine & Blue boasts 300,000 members, many of whom are newcomers to politics and, as Paris told The New York Times, are “relatable” because they “didn’t look or sound like a political activist that you would typically think of.” The organization focuses on fighting anti-abortion laws proposed in state legislatures since the fall of Roe vs. Wade, and their campaign, “The More you Roe,” provides education on the fundamentals of reproductive choice, alerts people to efforts to curtail it, and explains how their voice creates change.
A veteran in political messaging, Paris previously held senior positions at national liberal organizations like Media Matters and Shareblue Media. This communications expertise made Red Wine & Blue one of Facebook’s 10 most active groups amidst the 2020 elections and also enabled the Ohio-based group to expand to key swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and North Carolina.
Gretchen Sisson is a leading American voice on adoption and the politics of motherhood.
A sociologist at the University of California at San Francisco, she wrote the forthcoming Relinquished: The Politics of Adoption and the Privilege of American Motherhood, which describes a ground-breaking study of the experiences of hundreds of women who gave up their babies for adoption.
Sisson’s research, which also examines how women make adoption decisions after being denied abortions, is widely considered the standard and was cited by Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor in their dissent in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. She became a sought after commentator during the case’s oral arguments and wrote pieces for major media outlets, including the Washington Post and The Nation.
A powerhouse on the women's rights stage whose work informs how abortion is portrayed on television, she also is a philanthropist and an activist in organizations such as the Women's Donors Network (WDN), a group of women who utilize their wealth to create civic change. In addition, she serves on the board of Emerge America, an organization that supports and trains female Democratic candidates to run for office.
Alice Stewart is a CNN pundit and Republican strategist who helped write the conservative
playbook on how to discuss abortion in 21st century politics.
A communications aide on five presidential campaigns, Stewart helped turn abortion from all-
but-taboo to a main talking point with messages about humane treatment of life beginning at
conception. A spokeswoman on the campaigns of Michele Bachmann, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee – all of whom supported abortion bans and resisted exceptions for rape and incest – Stewart modeled how to portray candidates as people of faith who still cared for pregnant women.
After leaving Cruz’s presidential campaign in 2016, she became a commentator at CNN, where she is often a solitary voice for conservative positions on the divisive issue. While she doesn’t reject abortion in all cases, she describes herself as a “pro-life social conservative” who believes the procedure constitutes taking a life and should be regulated at the state level. Stewart is also the network’s interpreter for Republicans’ abortion-related statements and scandals.
An Emmy-winning journalist and former surrogate for the Republican National Committee,
Stewart has broken rank in several op-eds warning about the direction Donald Trump is taking the party in. She wrote in a 2022 CNN op-ed that her begrudging vote for Trump was justified when the justices he appointed overturned Roe V. Wade but, in light of several indictments against him, now urges Republicans to “turn the page” on his leadership.