In an interview with the Hill on Monday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) said that the party will not withhold financial support to anti-choice candidates saying, “There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates. As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”
Luján’s announcement came after several top Democrats slowly but surely hinted they no longer care to unequivocally protect abortion rights. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) claimed that Democrats are in less internal contention about abortion, telling the Washington Post in May that it is “fading as an issue.” Four months ago, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wielded the “big tent” argument on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” suggesting that in order to reclaim a majority in the House, Democrats would need as broad an appeal as possible. Sure. But Democrats didn’t lose in 2016 because of a white, working-class bloc; most of Trump’s voters were not working class. Democrats lost because of racism and xenophobia. Courting those mythical voters with the assumption that a softer stance on abortion will sway them won’t magically turn red districts blue.
Yet, it is curious that the hard-fought right to a ubiquitous, safe medical procedure that offers women autonomy over their bodies and their futures is the first thing Dems are willing to throw under the bus only a year after including the repeal of the Hyde Amendment as a cornerstone of the 2016 platform. To say this reversal alienates the party’s base puts it gently.
But after all, reproductive health — including abortion — is a women’s issue: perpetually debatable and dismissible, always “getting in the way.” Basic reasoning and math suggest that this is a dangerous electoral strategy, one that would very realistically open the doors to legislating away women’s bodily sovereignty.
Pro-choice women — especially low-income women of color — are the backbone of the Democratic Party. Taking their grassroots organizing, money and votes for granted is a fool’s errand, especially when abortion rights are far from safeguarded.
Over the last decade, red states introduced hundreds of statutes limiting access to reproductive health options, most notably by burdening existing clinics with medically unnecessary requirements that forced them to shut down. Mike Pence, notorious as governor of Indiana for anti-abortion policies, currently exercises a tie-breaking Senate vote and is a heartbeat away from the presidency.
This is no academic or strategic exercise; the Democrats are playing with women’s bodies like bargaining chips in a game they are destined to lose.