Why Reaching Out to Anti-Choice Democrats is the Wrong Strategy
Support for choice should be a non-negotiable litmus test for Democratic candidates. Yet male Democratic party leaders are increasingly cozying up to anti-choice Democrats. A few weeks ago, it was Bernie Sanders. Now it’s Tom Perez. The new DNC chair will meet with representatives of Democrats for Life as part of an “outreach campaign.” It’s just one in a series of moves that suggests the party still doesn’t understand the role of its progressive female base.
When Do Women Get an Outreach Campaign?
In 2016, Bernie Sanders surged in popularity because of his unapologetic progressivism. Hillary Clinton was roundly criticized for not being progressive enough. Many progressive saw Perez’s selection as DNC chair as a slap in the face. His decision to meet with anti-choice Democrats has confirmed what many feared: the Democratic party is not heeding the call to move left.
What’s more, the move is a direct affront to women, who have long been among the party’s staunchest supporters. Despite this, the party continues to ignore the role of abortion rights in women’s health and well-being. To be fully equal, women must be able to control their bodies. Yet Democrats treat this right as if it’s something shameful. Sure, they’ll allow women to have it, but they don’t want to talk about it. They certainly don’t want to talk about it. And they’ll even leave space for politicians who don’t support that right.
Choice rights are inextricably linked to women’s well-being. Female Democrats must force their party leaders to support this right, or punish them for their failure to do so. A party that embraces anti-choice Democrats is not a big tent party at all. It’s one that treats women as second-class citizens.
Anti-Choice Democrats: Just Republicans in Disguise
Supporters of anti-choice Democrats claim that they embrace a kinder, gentler approach to abortion rights. There’s nothing kind or gentle about telling a woman what she can do with her body. A recent investigation by Rewire also found that anti-choice Democrats engage in the same dishonest tactics that anti-choice Republicans have long embraced:
- They’ve claimed that fetuses feel pain by 20 weeks–a claim undermined by virtually all available medical research.
- They support crisis pregnancy centers that lie to women about the risks of abortion.
- They don’t work with women actually facing crisis pregnancies to see what they need.
- They often fail to support rape and incest exceptions to abortion bans, or demand that rape survivors formally report their rapes to get an exemption. Reporting a rape can upend a woman’s life, and even put her in danger.
A Reminder of What Happens to Women When Abortion is Banned
Anti-choice Democrats support a world in which women are second-class citizens. We already know what happens when women are denied abortions, thanks to research in the U.S. and in nations that have banned or restricted abortion. Some of the disturbing highlights include:
- Domestic violence increases, and women are more likely to remain in abusive relationships.
- Suicide becomes a leading, or even the leading, cause of death among pregnant women.
- Abortion doesn’t decline; it just becomes less safe.
- Poverty, dependence on government assistance, and child abuse increase.
- Women report more mental health issues.
That’s what anti-choice Democrats are gunning for, and they must be stopped.