A How-To on Reproductive Rights Victory

After Roe sat down with Katie Paris, founder of Red Wine and Blue, an organization that mobilizes suburban women to change the future of their communities and country. We discussed Red Wine and Blue’s work in Ohio on Issue 1, The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety. The interview has been condensed for length.

After Roe: Let’s start by focusing on your work to mobilize suburban women. How does abortion move and engage this community? 

Katie Paris: It really started when the Dobbs decision first leaked. It was like a lightning bolt through our community, which was already hundreds of thousands of women strong. Now, it’s half a million women strong. Thousands of women started sharing abortion stories. It created a sense of kinship with women across the country around this issue that has turned into a tsunami of motivation. This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s a deeply personal one that crosses partisan lines. Our community is about a third Independent and Republican women, and they’re totally unified on this issue.

After Roe: How do you turn that outrage, collective concern, anger, and fear into political action?

Katie Paris: Stripping abortion access represents a total lack of control, taking away the control that we need for our families to succeed. We like clear direction and a way to impact our own destiny. We like to have our hands on things and be able to have control over our own lives.

In Ohio, the clear direction was to move forward with a citizen-led ballot initiative. We knew that we had to get over 400,000 verified signatures, which meant collecting over 700,000 signatures. It was a pretty tight timeframe, with just three months to collect the signatures. But it was one of the hardest and most inspiring things I’ve ever participated in.

It was incredibly galvanizing to have something to do to take control of our own destiny and ensure that reproductive rights would be on the ballot because we know that the majority supports us.

After Roe: Are there specific barriers that you’ve been able to overcome in the lead-up to the election?

Katie Paris: At every single stage of the process, there are maximum barriers. Ohio is controlled by politicians who do not believe that women and their families should be able to make these most personal decisions.

The disinformation that is coming directly from our state government is an enormous obstacle. Our big task is making sure that people know what the constitutional amendment says. We are making sure that people have access to good information.

By nature of working in the suburbs, these are sort of the last purple places in America. Women have access to these cross-partisan networks. When people have the information and feel empowered, they can activate their networks with competence and really be advocates for their wants and needs. It’s really important not to repeat disinformation but to address it, find shared values, and continue to have this conversation on factual terms so we remain confident and motivated.

The task is very clear in front of us. We know that if people understand what they’re actually voting for, the ballot initiative will pass.

After Roe: How do you get someone from “I really care about this issue” to being an advocate?

Katie Paris: The first step is getting rid of the feeling that you are alone, or that you’re going to be the only one talking about these things. Everything we do is based on peer-to-peer learning and creating a sense of community. The second step is seeing someone else do it and be successful. It creates the permission structure of okay, maybe I can do this. Our model of change is centered on building community and making political engagement transformational rather than transactional.

After Roe: What lessons can other states learn from the advocacy in Ohio? 

Katie Paris: It’s really about empowering volunteers. The signature collection validation rate is much higher for signatures collected by volunteers rather than paid collectors. Empowering people isn’t just a warm and fuzzy thing that feels nice. You’re actually going to get a better result.

Women are so motivated by this issue. We understand the work ahead, and we’re up for it.