On the campaign trail through five swing states, Kerry Washington is rallying voters while warning that women’s personal freedoms are in danger.
A committed activist in the “Roevember” movement ‑‑ to support pro-choice candidates and fight recent restrictions on abortions rights ‑‑ Washington does not mince words.
“The U.S. Supreme Court decision on Dobbs will have lasting effects, not only on reproductive and abortion rights but on so many other rights — on privacy, autonomy and individual freedoms,” the actress told TheWrap. “This is a battle that we must continue to fight on many fronts.”
She’s part of a team of Hollywood figures stumping for these personal rights in battleground states right up to Tuesday’s election.
“I don’t think there is a quick fix, but I know we can use our voices to stand up for reproductive justice and educate folks on what this election is really about,” Washington said Sunday from a rally in Michigan.
Roevember started as a backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision in June, reversing nearly 50 years of abortion rights under the 1973 Roe v. Wade case. The coalition of groups seeks to vote in pro-choice candidates and fight restrictions state by state.
Washington said she is energized from meeting with voters in the last week from Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Her main message is simple: Vote, or you surrender your voice in America.
“It is really important that we do not forget about our power,” she said. “Elected officials work for us. We pay their salaries with our taxes, and we have to hold them accountable. If we don’t show up to vote, then we’re kind of asleep at the wheel of our own day-to-day lives.”
Washington said she especially enjoys connecting with young people just starting their voting lives.
“This is such an exciting moment for them — and terrifying. But young people can be part of the solution in this democracy, by participating and contributing to the voices that are leading this country,” she said, adding that she tries to get people to connect politics to their everyday lives and to habitually become more involved.
Meeting with church congregations, business groups, and students on college campuses, Washington said she has discussed topics such as the economy, education, voting rights and immigration. But the dominant topic has been abortion rights, since they are shrinking after the court’s ruling. She said she hopes voters will support candidates who are pro-choice both in policies and in court appointees.
“I am really concerned about reproductive rights, but also voting rights and democracy in general,” she said.
Growing up in a politically active family, activism was in Washington’s DNA before her success as an actress, producer and director. She said she decided to take her starring role in “Confirmation,” about the appointment of Justice Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court, because she remembers following those hearings with her parents while growing up.
“That issue was one of the first moments when I saw my parents disagree on something political,” she said. “My dad was shocked that they would treat a very successful black man like that. My mother was very concerned about the treatment of Anita Hill.”
Washington played the part of Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of sexual harassment in the workplace, in the movie. Now in real life, she is herself battling Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion in Hobbs.
She has her father’s support. Washington said her father “always wants to make sure people know that he’s a feminist and he doesn’t agree with Thomas’s stances today.”
Washington said watching the Thomas confirmation hearings with her parents was “a pivotal moment in my life, and my first awareness about my own intersectionality as a woman and a person of color.”
Now making it her cause to combat Thomas and other conservatives seeking to end all abortion rights, Washington said it starts on Tuesday and it’s all about turnout.
“This fight is not going to be easy. Midterms historically have not had a big turnout. Part of the reason I’m so passionate and out on the road is because some of these races could be lost by a single vote,” she said.
“This is a moment when we all need to be on our text threads and email chains, and ask people if they have voted, or what their plan is to vote,” she said. “We can’t take for granted that people already know what to do.”
For more information on how to vote, she encourages voters to visit www.vote.org.
Other celebrities joining Washington in the Roevember campaign include Alicia Keys, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mishel Prada and Tatyana Ali. They have been holding video discussions about voting and the current political climate on social media with advocates from groups like Planned Parenthood, National Network of Abortion Funds, and SisterSong.