Democratic Congresswomen Wear White to Symbolize the Struggle for Women's Rights

Democratic Congresswomen wore white this year to highlight the struggle for reproductive freedom.


Mar. 8 2024, Published 11:07 a.m. ET

Democratic Congresswomen wearing white at the 2024 State of the Union.
Source: Getty Images

The 2024 State of the Union was at turns combative and somber, and the various camera people were working overtime to make sure that those watching at home got to see the reactions inside the Capitol at various critical moments. If you were watching, you likely noticed a sea of white outfits, specifically on the Democratic side of the chamber.

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This isn't the first time that Democratic Congresswomen have decided to wear white to a major address of this kind. Following this latest example, though, many wanted to know why white seems to be the color of choice so frequently, and what it might symbolize.

A shot of the State of the Union in 2024 from the back.
Source: Getty Images
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Why do Democratic Congresswomen wear white?

Democratic Congresswomen wear white to major events like the State of the Union because it is the color the suffragettes once used in their fight for the vote. The Democratic Women's caucus announced the move in advance of the speech, and also said that they would be wearing pins that said "Fighting for Reproductive Freedom" on there, making it clear that the outfits were impart meant to protest the overturning of the constitutional right to abortion.

“Our message is clear: women must be able to access the health care they need to control their own lives and futures,” Rep. Lois Frankel said in the statement. “That means women, not politicians, should be in charge of whether, when, and how to start or grow their families.”

Although the exact cause that the white represents has changed from year to year, the consistent throughline has been the struggle for women's rights.

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This year, the focus was on reproductive freedom and abortion, and on the related issue of in-vitro fertilization.

President Biden's speech also touched on these topics quite explicitly, and several of the guests that he had in attendance were people who had been affected by the rollback of reproductive rights across the country.

He highlighted Kate Cox, a Texas woman who needed an abortion to protect her own health, but couldn't get one because of a restrictive Texas law.

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IVF has also come to the fore in recent weeks thanks to a decision from the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that an embryo is a human life, and entitled to certain protections as a result. That decision shut down a number of IVF clinics in the state, who suddenly feared that if the embryos were destroyed either inadvertently or on purpose, they could be held liable as a result.

Abortion is likely to be an incredibly salient issue throughout the 2024 campaign. Biden has already promised that if he has the votes in Congress, he will enshrine Roe v. Wade as the law of the land, and his opponent Donald Trump has privately said that he favors a 16 week abortion ban.

Of course, as the State of the Union made clear, the election will be fought on a wide array of different grounds. Abortion has remained a salient issue for voters, but it's just one of many ways they make of their minds.

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