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Union leader named as first woman of color to lead Emily’s List

EMILY’s List, the Democratic fundraising behemoth that supports women candidates who back abortion rights, named veteran union leader Laphonza Butler as its new president Monday. 

Butler is the first woman of color and first mother to helm EMILY’s List and becomes the group’s leader as abortion rights advocates face their most critical challenges in decades. 

The challenges come in the form of a new Texas law effectively bans abortions after six weeks that other states with GOP governors are seeking to replicate. A more conservative Supreme Court that includes three appointees of former President Trump is also raising questions about whether there could be a decision to strike down the Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion across the country.

Butler will take the helm at EMILY’s List ahead of a midterm cycle in which Democrats will be trying to cling to their narrow majorities in the House and Senate. Some Democratic candidates are already leaning into the issue of abortion rights.

Prior to joining EMILY’s List, one of the nation’s powerhouse political action committees that says it “has raised over $700 million to elect Democratic pro-choice women candidates,” Butler spent nearly 20 years as president of SEIU California, during which she advocated for such policies as raising the minimum wage. She later became a political consultant. 

“As someone who has spent her entire career empowering women, I am excited to continue that work as the leader of an organization that has changed the face of American politics at all levels. As the first woman of color and first mother in this role, I am proud to bring my lived experiences along with my organizing and political experiences to the job,” Butler said in a statement. 

“I look forward to working with the organization’s talented and dedicated staff and partners to write EMILY’s List’s next chapter. That chapter will be about expanding our base even more, from our members and donors to our candidates and our voters. We want to ensure that more young women and women of color are bringing their political engagement to EMILY’s List and helping us do what we do best: WIN.”

Butler’s role will put her atop an organization with one of the most prominent brands in politics. EMILY’s List is known for vastly expanding an endorsee’s fundraising pool and beefing up campaign infrastructure. Its power grew among anger among Democratic women during the Trump administration. 

In an interview with The New York Times, Butler said the efforts to restrict abortion access would energize the Democratic base and that EMILY’s List would pressure Republican candidates to clarify their stances on abortion.

“We think that every Republican running for office has to make their intentions known to voters about where they stand on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions and Roe v. Wade,” she said. 

Tags Abortion-rights movements Donald Trump EMILY's List Laphonza Butler

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