Friday, August 18, 2017

The Democratic Party must honor its pro-choice platform



My initial reaction was disbelief when I read that Bernie Sanders and new leadership of the Democratic National Committee Tom Pérez and Keith Ellison took their “Unity Tour” to Omaha to rally for Heath Mello, a mayoral candidate with a record opposing abortion rights. As a Nebraska state senator, Mello co-sponsored some of the worst restrictions on abortion rights in the country. According to Jodi Jacops' post in Rewire: “Those laws remain in place, and Mello has neither denounced them nor made clear whether he now understands why they are so damaging." For an in depth analysis of the anti-abortion rights legislation Mello sponsored, see Jacobs' article in Rewire.

The pro-choice community denounced the Democrats' support for Mello, with Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, calling it a betrayal, especially of the women who have fueled the resistance against Trump.

Faced with an onslaught of criticism from pro-choice activists, Pérez apparently backed down from his previous position that “that the Democratic Party should not “demand fealty” on every issue, including abortion.” Perez issued a statement affirming the Democratic Party’s unequivocal support for the party’s pro-choice platform:
“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” the chair said. “That is not negotiable.” He added: “We must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice."
I thought the Democratic Party had come to its senses but then the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Ben Ray Lujan announced that the Party would not withhold financial support for candidates who oppose abortion rights. In an interview with The Hill, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) said “there will be no litmus tests for candidates as Democrats seek to find a winning roster to regain the House majority in 2018.”

The Hill also reported that Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer have both argued against party litmus tests, saying there's room for people with different opinions on abortion.” Nancy Pelosi?

Pro-choice advocates continued to push back, insisting that abortion rights are a fundamental human rights issue and an economic issue. Leila McDowell, a spokeswoman with EMILY's List, told The Hill:
"At the core of the Democratic Party is our commitment to a better economic future for the working people of our country. Reproductive choice is fundamental to our platform. One of the most important financial decisions a woman makes is when and how to start a family…Democrats don't need to choose between coal miners in Ohio, nurses in Georgia, or home healthcare workers in Arizona. This isn't a choice Democrats need to make. It's a coalition we need to win."
Katha Pollitt in The Nation says it best:
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, while those who insist on upholding the party platform—and the Constitution—are dismissed as rigid ideologues with a “litmus test.”
Incoming National Organization for Women President Toni Van Pelt in her press release “Urgent Message to Democratic Leaders: You Can’t Have Economic Justice Without Reproductive Justice” has called on “grassroots activists across the country to march into their Congressional Democratic offices and make their voices heard, and to work at the local Democratic party level–as individuals, or with their NOW chapters. … The Democratic Party cannot and should not take us for granted. Party leaders must think again, and get it right this time.” As a longtime feminist and committed NOW activist, I intend to heed Toni Van Pelt’s call to action.

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