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Op-Ed: Amid Roe Furor, Dem Women of SB County Mark 50 Years with Rep. Katie Porter's Call to Action

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

By Suzanne Cohen and Laura Capps

Rep. Katie Porter, the whip-smart, whiteboard-wielding Democrat from the longtime Republican bastion of Orange County, came to Santa Barbara on Sunday to join in an historic occasion: the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County.

For five decades, this grassroots, all-volunteer organization has impacted local politics, registered voters and helped dozens of women run for, and win, elected office. While our focus for 50 years often has been support for Democratic candidates, the organization also has been deeply involved in collaborations with values-aligned community partners to advance important issues like gun violence prevention, the Equal Rights Amendment, social justice policies, voting rights, marriage equality and protecting a woman’s right to choose

The timing of the gathering, which brought 300 community members together at the Hilton Beachfront Resort, could not have been more congruous and urgent: Two days before, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, rolling back the rights of women by half-a-century.

Congresswoman Porter, the keynote speaker at the commemorative event, delivered a tough but motivating message, pushing us to hold our leaders and people in power continually accountable by asking tough questions and demanding more than the status quo.

“Not good enough,” is the mantra that drives her agenda.

Porter regaled the crowd by recounting how she took on the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimond, merely by asking him during a congressional hearing how a teller in one of his thousands of banks could live off of the paltry salary -- $16.50 per hour -- he pays them.

His honest but shameful answer: He didn't know.

Her response: “That’s not good enough.”

In 2020, Porter's relentless line of "not-good-enough" questioning of the then-Director of the Centers for Disease Control led to free Covid-tests for all Americans, as detailed by the Washington Post.

On the Roe v. Wade decision, the Harvard Law graduate and UC Irvine law professor reminded us that as devastating and deadly the ruling is, the Supreme Court did not ban abortion but rather ruled that it is up to us in the states to forge the rights we believe are constitutional.

The responsibility now is on state and local governments to expand access to reproductive services to those beyond our borders -- while taking bold measures to strengthen long-settled rights which now are in jeopardy, such as gay marriage and access to contraception.

The overarching message for the hundreds of members of Democratic Women: as proud as we are of the progress we’ve made, our work is far from complete. In fact, it is now more important than ever.

We stand on the shoulders of many consequential and dynamic leaders and mentors, many of whom joined on Saturday, including state Senator Monique Limón (who introduced Porter) ; and former Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who emceed -- and some of whom have passed on: Mary Jo Miles, Sarah Shoresman, Betty Stephens, Harriet Phillips, Selma Rubin, Gary K. Hart, Ghita Ginsberg and Naomi Schwartz.

There is one message we carry forward into the next 50 years, inspired by Katie Porter and determined to protect and expand the rights of women and all people:

“Millions of girls and women will one day carry the banner, proving once again, one woman does make a difference, two women can cause a helluva commotion, and united we will be heard, we will be seen, we will not be stopped!”

Join the movement, all are welcome. We need you. More information on our website.

Suzanne Cohen is President, and Laura Capps Vice President, of Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County.

Image: Rep. Katie Porter speaks to Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County (Marian Shapiro)

More photos of the 50th anniversary event, by the indefatigable Marian Shapiro, may be found here,

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