While canvassing for her district in Seminole County, Florida, which is outside of Orlando, Sarah Henry had two very similar conversations with voters about the fight for reproductive rights that stuck out to her. “I can think of two older women—people with kids or grandkids—who said to me that they never imagined they would live in a world where their granddaughter had fewer rights than they did growing up,” she told HollywoodLife in an EXCLUSIVE interview. Henry, 26, was campaigning for political office for the first time. As the Democratic candidate prepares for the Florida State House election, Henry spoke to HL about her campaign and what issues members of District 38 are passionate about, ahead of the State House election on August 23.
Originally from Indiana, Henry said she’s been interested in politics for most of her life, coming from a family that “chatted about wage issues and fair labor and voting rights at the dinner table.” With her first run for political office, she revealed that a lot of the voters she’s been speaking to while going door-to-door are happy to share their concerns with her. “We hear at least once or twice every single canvas: ‘A politician has never come to my neighborhood. A politician has never asked me what keeps me up at night. What am I concerned about?'” she explained. “We’re out there getting support, but we’re also there because there’s no better way to know what folks are struggling with than to ask them.” As a first-time candidate, Henry has also received support from Run For Something, a Democratic organization, which offers assistance to progressive candidates making their first run for local office.
While her campaign has addressed a number of issues, including public education and environmental issues, she said that Roe v. Wade being overturned was a “huge concern” to members of her district. “I have worked in reproductive rights organizing, and I was an abortion clinic patient escort, and I know how crucial that right to safe, accessible, affordable reproductive care is, and we hear about that a lot at voter doors when we’re talking to folks. People are really fired up,” she explained, pointing to the vote to protect abortion rights in Kansas. “Folks of every political stripe are furious that something so personal is being taken away.”
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law banning abortions after 15 weeks following Roe’s reversal. The law had provided no exceptions for victims of rape, incest or trafficking. Shortly after signing the bill, it was blocked by a judge, per Politico.
Henry has been an outspoken pro-choice candidate, and following the Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs V. Jackson case, she encouraged voters to donate to local abortion funds. “The importance of putting pro-choice women in office has never been more obvious. I will not back down as the right to abortion is handed to Florida’s state legislature to decide,” she said in a statement on her website.
Having volunteered as an abortion clinic escort in high school, Henry recalled “brutal” experiences being screamed at by anti-choice protesters. After Roe was overturned, she said she felt “anger” at first, but with more time, she also felt sadness. “My second reaction and certainly the longer-term reaction is sorrow,” she said. “That this fundamental, personal decision and bodily autonomy is treated just like a political pawn by folks who either have not necessarily experienced it, or won’t necessarily experience it, or don’t care about people who need that kind of health care.”
While Henry is clearly motivated to keep up the fight for reproductive rights, her campaign has also focused on many other issues that Seminole County is facing, like a housing affordability crisis, which also ties into environmental issues. She explained that there are concerns over “how quickly development is taking over natural spaces,” while there are many local residents who can’t afford to live in the properties being built. She said she wants to work with both environmental groups and the affordable housing community to “make sure what goes in is what’s needed.”
Towards the end of our conversation, Henry encouraged young people to be active in politics and community organizing, as new laws continue to affect them. “We are living in a world where the effects of the legislation being passed today—it’s going to be our burden to bear,” she said. “It’s crucial that people get involved when they can as soon as they can.”
Nationwide midterm elections are Tuesday, November 8. Find out how to register to vote here.