Cecile Richards supports Hillary Clinton for president.
Cecile Richards supports Hillary Clinton for president. Ovidiu Hrubaru/Shutterstock

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Shortly after news broke yesterday that Republican frontrunner Donald Trump believes women should be punished for having abortions (a statement he later walked back), Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards spelled out the stakes of this year's election to a crowd in Seattle.

"We're in the most momentous election in terms of reproductive rights that most of us have seen in our lifetime," Richards told a room of supporters at the Washington State Convention Center, where she praised Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the state's Democratic senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. "Lives are at stake in this election."

Planned Parenthood's political arm has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. In an interview with The Stranger before her speech, Richards was hesitant to criticize Clinton's Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, and acknowledged his "very good voting record on reproductive issues." However, she said, "I have no experience with him in terms of leading on any of these issues... [Clinton] is just head and shoulders above anyone who's running for president."

With the Supreme Court currently considering a hugely important Texas case about abortion restrictions, progressives have made SCOTUS nominations a big focus of the presidential election.

Those nominations are "critical," Richards said, but pro-choice voters must also be thinking about down-ballot races. Members of Congress have "passed more restrictions on reproductive access in the short time they've been in office than any Congress I've known of," Richards told me. "I think Roe v. Wade is literally on the ballot this November."

It's worth remembering: State lawmakers may be even worse. According to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, state governments have passed more restrictions on abortion access in the last five years than in any other five-year period since Roe v. Wade. Seriously, just look at this graph:

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Abortion restrictions since Roe v. Wade.
State abortion restrictions since Roe v. Wade. guttmacher institute

Washington has historically been a good state for pro-choice advocates, but Republicans will change that if they can.

As Democrats work to keep the White House and take back the U.S. Congress, they must also retake state legislatures across the country. Let's start with the Washington State Senate.