While the Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures across the country are working to repeal and restrict a woman’s right to control her own body, the Democratic Party has decided not to “insist” that the right to abortion is a basic human right.
During the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton was criticized for choosing a Tim Kaine as her vice presidential running mate even though as governor of Virginia, he had supported several anti-abortion bills. Last winter Bernie Sanders and his coalition were criticized for backing Heath Mello, a Democrat running for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska, who co-sponsored the first statewide bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks and who voted for a bill to outlaw the “telemedicine” (speaking to a doctor via the internet) to monitor medication abortion when no local doctor will supervise it. Last week the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Ben Ray Luján, said the party would support anti-choice candidates. Senate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed with him that abortion should not be a litmus test.
And why not? Why should the Democratic Party have a “big tent” that includes those who deny a woman’s right to choose abortion? Do we have to keep reminding Democrats that a woman’s right to decide when and whether to have children is the baseline from which she will make every other decision in her life? Do we have to recite ad nauseum to the Democratic Party the ways in which the other party has made it more and more difficult for young women and poor women to get the abortions they want to have, leading to a rise in unplanned births?
Why does the Democratic Leadership not agree with Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood, that, “Women deserve access to safe, legal abortion no matter if their state is red or blue — it’s a constitutional right that can’t be traded away.” In fact, Democrats support a woman’s right to choose by a whopping 75% margin and there aren’t many anti-choice Democrats in Congress. So what is the big deal?
Some would say that those of us who are disappointed with the Democratic leadership are making a mountain out of a molehill. Wrong! The Democratic leadership is telling us that our rights are a molehill.
Why does the Democratic leadership continue to pander to the mythical white male voter (and his wife) who might return to the fold if only the Dems didn’t keep harping on the rights of everyone else?
Since the presidential election, I have read numerous articles attempting to explain that Trump voters are not really sexist or racist or homophobic or xenophobic. While the authors of these essays make important points about the loss of blue collar jobs which once enabled white men without a college education to support “their” families, they fail to address the deep roots of ideas about white male privilege and superiority that underlie white male anger.
Most of the authors I read conclude that Trump voters are not really racist. And even though many Trump voters hated Hillary Clinton with a vengeance, most of the authors do not even discuss the role played by sexism in the election. Nor do they consider the reasons white married women voted for Trump.
After the election I hoped that the Democratic Party might move in a progressive direction, which to me means underscoring its commitment to the rights of all of us who are not white male heads of households, while at the same time taking on the one percent and challenging the military industrial complex and the endless wars it creates. The real work does not involve pandering to the prejudices of white voters. The real work is to make it clear to everyone that we can work together to create a more just society that meets the needs of all of us.
The first protest against Donald Trump and the Republican Party that elected him, was the a-mazing Women’s March. The appropriate response to this is to harness the energy of all of those women (and the men who supported them) to run for office and to register the base–especially African American, younger, and unmarried women. Instead the Democratic Party slaps women in the face.
Reflecting on this situation, Katha Pollitt asks her readers to:
Imagine if Democrats, sick and tired of losing white votes in Mississippi, decided to nominate a segregationist for governor. Imagine if they found that LGBTQ rights turn off voters in Tennessee, so they ran one of those anti-same-sex-marriage Christian bakers. Imagine if they found that plenty of Oklahoma voters didn’t believe in climate change, so they ran a denialist. After all, why get hung up on one item in the long list of good things we all support when the important thing is getting back into power? Everyone has to take one for the team sometimes, right?
Don’t worry, Nation readers. These scenarios aren’t about to happen. Only women are expected to let history roll backwards over them. Only women’s rights to contraception and abortion are perpetually debatable, postponable, side-trackable.
Is the Democratic Party’s response to abortion a conscious or unconscious strategy to move women back to the margins? Is all of this hemming and hawing about abortion to be attributed to the fact that the core value of patriarchy is the control of female sexuality?
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Carol’s photo by Michael Honegger
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