Column

Abortion Needs to Be Democrats’ Litmus Test

There is no space in the party for candidates who don’t take a pro-choice stance on abortion

OnOn Monday the Democratic Attorneys General Association announced it would become the first national party organization to only financially support candidates who are explicitly pro-choice.

It’s about time. Abortion should be a litmus test for Democrats, on all fronts. Because there is nothing controversial or debatable about women being human beings with a right to bodily autonomy and the ability to decide if and when to become parents.

A person who doesn’t support abortion rights is a person who believes in forced pregnancy — a view that has no place in the Democratic Party. Despite what some powerful people may say about Democrats taking a “big tent” view of potential candidates and voters, it’s either a party that believes in women’s human rights or it’s not. There is no in-between here.

For too long, women’s rights have been used a bargaining chip on the left, another issue politicians will cave on to gain broader ground. In 2017, for example, Bernie Sanders campaigned for Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello, who opposes abortion. When Sanders was taken to task by NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue, he replied, “The truth is that in some conservative states there will be candidates that are popular candidates who may not agree with me on every issue. I understand it. That’s what politics is about.”

There is nothing controversial or debatable about women being human beings with a right to bodily autonomy.

But without abortion rights, women have no real economic justice, no medical privacy, and no expectation that their health and humanity will be valued or even acknowledged. Abortion is not just an “issue,” it’s everything.

The same is true for feminism: As the movement for gender equality has gained momentum over the last 10 years, conservative women have gone from deriding feminism to co-opting it. Most notably, they want to call themselves “feminist” while working to dismantle reproductive rights. When the Women’s March rescinded an invitation to an anti-abortion group, for example, organizers were accused of not being “inclusive” — as if feminism was simply a coalition of women rather than a movement for justice.

We know what needs to be done. Full-throated support of abortion rights is more important than ever. The Trump administration has emboldened anti-abortion lawmakers, who are whittling away at abortion rights state by state. Just last week, Ohio lawmakers once again proposed a bill that would ban the procedure outright — along with a line that mandates doctors who end an ectopic pregnancy to save a woman’s life try to “reimplant” the fertilized egg in a woman’s uterus. No such procedure exists.

There is no good reason to support candidates who aren’t wholeheartedly pro-choice. Besides the fact that it’s smart politics — Americans overwhelmingly support abortion access — it’s just the right thing to do. Are Democrats going to be the party of old white men who believe they know what’s best for women’s lives and bodies? Or are they going be the party that trusts women to make their own life and medical decisions?

It shouldn’t be a difficult decision, especially right now.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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