As Democratic leaders search for ways to win in 2018, some have recently suggested that women’s rights and reproductive health care are dispensable. They say the party should consider abandoning these values for votes.
Such a strategy would not only betray what it means to be a Democrat, it would also be destined to fail.
First and foremost, access to abortion, birth control and other reproductive health care is the foundation of economic security for all women and families. How else can women control the most important financial decision they will ever make – if, when and how to raise a family?
For women, this isn’t some abstract debate. It’s a bread-and-butter issue that affects our ability to continue our education, rise up in our careers and plan for our future.
If she chooses to have a child, the ability to decide when increases financial stability. This helps build stronger families who can be more resilient in times of economic downturn. In fact, the majority of women who choose abortion are mothers already.
Our system already disproportionately penalizes women, especially women of color, who make a fraction of what white men earn. We’re also punishing single mothers and mothers of color whose wages, job opportunities and economic advancement are hit by the “motherhood penalty.” To take away these women’s ability to control when to raise their family would be a betrayal of our core values as Americans.
Also, to activate the grassroots energy needed to win elections, the Democratic Party must stand firm on its principles.
We don’t have to abandon reproductive rights to regain power. Although it’s been called a “wedge issue” or “litmus test” by some, access to abortion is very popular with voters. Seven in 10 Americans support keeping abortion legal and accessible – a majority that crosses state and party lines. This includes Americans who believe abortion is morally acceptable, as well as those who may not believe it is right for them, but who would never deny that right to others.
Recent polling by Priorities USA showed that respect for a woman’s right to choose abortion is one of the top issues that motivates the key “drop-off” voters whom Democrats need to win to take back the majority in Congress.
Of course, we also know that women are essential to the power of the Democratic Party. NARAL Pro-Choice America and the grassroots organizations that are the core of the resistance to President Donald Trump – staging marches and packing town halls – are firmly united in our belief that reproductive freedom is a fundamental value of Democrats. We know that supporting anti-choice candidates is bad politics that will lead to worse policy.
In California, the most pro-choice state in the nation, we must continue to hold our elected officials accountable for respecting reproductive freedom in word and in deed. All Democratic candidates need to understand that women’s control over their own bodies is not an electoral bargaining chip but a fundamental right that they compromise at their peril.
Amy Everitt is the state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.