Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chair Ben Ray Luján has announced that the organization will not withhold funds for candidates who opposite abortion rights. His statement, which comes amidst a spike in attacks on women’s reproductive rights in Congress, compelled lawmakers and activists alike to speak up and demand that politicians stand firm on a woman’s right to abortion access.
“Democrats have a lot of work ahead of us if we want to take the House back in 2018,” Rep. Luján stated in an interview with The Hill. “As you are aware, Republicans control both chambers in the Congress. We will have to win in very tough, diverse, swing Republican held districts across the country. Ultimately, the people in districts across the country will determine who will take on the Republican incumbent.”
“We do not have to make compromises on protecting women’s health to win back the House or Senate,” Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) posted on Twitter shortly after the statement. “Ignoring women’s fundamental freedoms and equality to win elections,” Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, wrote on Twitter, “is both an ethically and politically bankrupt strategy.”
“At the core of the Democratic Party is our commitment to a better economic future for the working people of our country,” Leila McDowell, a spokesperson with EMILY’s List, told The Hill. “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. It’s also why we recruit pro-choice Democratic women and work tirelessly to elect them—because they stand up for that critical choice.”
Luján later posted on Facebook that he is “pro-women pro-choice and fully respect[s] the connection between a woman’s health, her economic future and the future of our country.”
The DCCC announcement followed the reveal of the Democratic Party’s new policy push, “A Better Deal,” which outlined a variety of economic policies but never once mentioned abortion rights. As Democrats prepare for the 2018 midterm elections, they have faced divisions around identity and social issues. A new focus on economic issues, however, should not and does not have to come at the cost of a commitment to women’s rights. “There is no economic equality without the ability to terminate a pregnancy,” Lindy West wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times. “What good is an economic opportunity if large swaths of the population can’t access it? Telling minority groups that it’s their responsibility to sit back and wait, to subordinate their needs for the good of the party—that implies that ‘the party’ is not theirs as much as everyone else’s.”
The Democratic Party platform in 2016 stated that “we believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion-regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured.” In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s historic bid for the presidency, party leaders have come under fire for pivoting away from issues of gender.
A recent study showed that the Rising American Electorate—unmarried women, millenials and people of color—are the key to winning seats in the 2018 midterms. Ms. polling in the 2016 election showed that more voters than ever identify as feminists. A majority of Americans support abortion rights. “[Only] a small minority of voters vote strictly on an anti-choice platform,” NARAL’s Mitchell Stille told The Hill. “Those same voters just aren’t going to vote for Democrats anyway.”
Women are under attack. From the White House and Congress to state legislatures and Governor’s Mansions, women are facing an all-out assault on their reproductive health and rights. Even women around the world are impacted by anti-choice policies in the U.S., and by the actions taken under the Trump administration to expand them. Women’s lives are on the line—will Democrats stand firm in saving them?