How many of your state’s lawmakers are women? If you live in the Southeast, it could be just 1 in 5

How many of your state’s lawmakers are women? If you live in the Southeast, it could be just 1 in 5

by Jennifer Berry Hawes

ProPublica

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London Lamar rose from her chair in the Tennessee Senate last spring, stomach churning with anxiety as she prepared to address the sea of men sitting at creaky wooden desks around her. She wore a hot pink dress as a nod to the health needs of women, including the very few of them elected to this chamber, none of whom were, like her, obviously pregnant. She set her hands onto her growing belly.

The Senate clerk, a man, called out an amendment Lamar had filed. The Senate speaker, also a man, opened the floor for her to speak. The bill’s sponsor, another man, stood near her as she grasped a microphone to discuss the matter at hand: a tweak to the state’s near-total ban on abortion access for women.

Lamar glanced around at her fellow senators, three quarters of them men. The imbalance was even more stark in the state’s House of Representatives, where almost 9 in 10 members were men. And Tennessee is no anomaly. Across much of the Southeast, state legislatures are more than 80% male.

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