Editor’s note: This article has been updated with a response from Sen. Sinema.
The abortion rights group NARAL said Tuesday it will no longer back candidates who don’t support Democratic efforts to pass federal voting rights legislation, just hours after the similarly aligned Emily’s List said it will pull its endorsement of U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema if she does not reverse her opposition to changing Senate filibuster rules that have stymied those efforts.
The moves — which came as President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders are at a critical juncture on voting rights, with Senate votes slated for this week that are expected to fail — show that abortion rights groups increasingly see the two movements as interwined.
NARAL President Mini Timmaraju said in a statement that the group will not endorse or support any senator “who refuses to find a path forward on this critical legislation.”
“Without ensuring that voters have the freedom to participate in safe and accessible elections, a minority with a regressive agenda and a hostility to reproductive freedom will continue to block the will of the majority of Americans,” she said.
Abortion rights groups’ focus on flailing Democratic efforts to get voting rights legislation through the U.S. Congress put Sinema in the crosshairs. Emily’s List, which backs Democratic women who support abortion access, said it would no longer endorse the Arizona lawmaker, who is up for reelection in 2024, if she did not back changes her party is seeking to the Senate filibuster.
“Electing Democratic pro-choice women is not possible without free and fair elections. Protecting the right to choose is not possible without access to the ballot box,” Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler said in a statement Tuesday.
Sinema is an original co-sponsor of a voting rights bill, but has nevertheless said she opposes her party leaders’ push to change filibuster rules so that election legislation could pass the chamber by a simple-majority vote instead of clearing the typical 60-vote threshold.
As Biden came to the Senate last week to talk to Democrats about voting rights, Sinema reiterated her opposition to filibuster changes in a speech on the Senate floor, saying the “harried discussions about Senate rules are but a poor substitute for what I believe could have, and should have, been a thoughtful public debate at any time over the past year” about how to pass a voting rights bill.
The next day, more than 70 Arizona women asked Emily’s List — a top donor to Sinema’s Senate and House campaigns — to make a “public demand to Senator Sinema to support ending the filibuster.”
The call was heeded on Tuesday when Butler said that the country is at an “inflection point in the fight for voting rights and reproductive freedom” and that the group’s “mission can only be realized when everyone has the freedom to have their voice heard safely and freely at the ballot box.”
“So, what we want to make it clear: if Sen. Sinema can not support a path forward for the passage of this legislation, we believe she undermines the foundations of our democracy, her own path to victory and also the mission of EMILY’s List, and we will be unable to endorse her moving forward,” Butler said in a statement.
Sinema said in a statement to The 19th that the Senate filibuster “has been used repeatedly to protect against wild swings in federal policy, including in the area of protecting women’s health care.”
“People of good faith can have honest disagreements about policy and strategy. Such honest disagreements are normal, and I respect those who have reached different conclusions on how to achieve our shared goals of addressing voter suppression and election subversion,” she added.