What all “pro-life Democrats” must do to earn my trust.

26 Apr 2017 06:18 pm
Posted by: Donna

Oh yes, am watching this tonight.

There’s been an uproar on the left the past week over Bernie Sanders giving a full-throated endorsement to a Democratic Omaha mayoral candidate with a troubling anti-choice record (warning: autoplays) while seeming to give the cold shoulder to, then finally endorsing after much criticism, pro-choice Georgia candidate for Congress Jon Ossoff.

What has emerged from it, among other things, is confirmation of what we pro-choice feminists have long suspected about the econ populist wing of the left: that they view our reproductive rights as dispensable and a bargaining chip to win white voters in the Heartland. Viewing repro rights as a distraction (the word often used) is an astonishingly ignorant and tone deaf position to take on purely economic merits, since babies cost a lot of money and having them can greatly alter women’s earning prospects.

But even worse, these perennial demands on Democrats to be more open to abortion and (increasingly) contraception restrictions and to anti-choice Democrats running for office reflect a profound misunderstanding of the character and intentions of the anti-choice movement. Put simply, the organized opposition to abortion and contraception is a hate movement, every bit as dedicated to their particular brand of rabid misogyny as other hate movements are toward homophobia or anti-Blackness or anti-Semitism.

That may seem to be a shocking comparison but I would suggest people miss the obvious similarities for several reasons, among them leaders in the anti-choice movement being clergy or in other trusted authority positions. Also, antis find a disheartening amount of support for many of their views in the general public. It’s not difficult to convince a populace already disinclined to trust women with sexual freedom that some sensible measures are needed to stop irresponsible women from (say it with me now!) “using abortion as birth control” or aborting healthy 8 month pregnancies for no reason, even if they don’t buy the whole anti-choice program.

Make no mistake, though, anti-choicers fully intend to deprive all women of reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy, while brutally punishing (up to and including death) those they can for the “crimes” of being sexually active and rejecting compulsory motherhood. If you don’t believe me I don’t have time to educate you on this. Go read their websites and the comments sections.

Democrats, when you compromise with this movement on anything (and I’m not saying that’s always avoidable) know that you are helping to perpetuate their hatred. This isn’t a debate over marginal tax rates. Please stop believing you will find the magic compromise sweet spot that will finally put the debate to rest because I can promise you a committed group of organized sex-obsessed misogynists will never fucking rest! That “sensible” 20 week ban will be used to push for earlier bans, and also to prosecute women. Parental notification laws are used to terrorize young girls. Cuts to Planned Parenthood have devastating (intentional) outcomes. Et cetera and so forth

Anti-choicers are well aware of the consequences to vulnerable people of their policies. They want them. Don’t find common ground with them if at all possible.

But there are people who identify as both anti-abortion and Democratic, some of whom are politicians. There are areas of the country where full-throated support of abortion rights could be a problem for Democrats trying to be elected. There are people of all political affiliations who are uncomfortable with abortion because the anti-choice movement has done a damn good job convincing them they should be and also we live in a shitty patriarchy.

What to do about it? Is there, as we’re so often asked, room for pro-life Democrats in the Big Tent™? Sure there is. But if you want me to trust you and see you as an ally, you need to do this one thing. And I mean after you express support for all the parts of the Democratic platform that are good for women (and men and children too), such as universal health care, education, social safety net, equal rights, environment, etc. You need to oppose all abortion restrictions, especially if they involve criminal penalties of any kind.

Democrats describing themselves as “personally pro-life” who are already doing this include people like Joe Biden and Tim Kaine. It’s possible for Heath Mello to make the transition from a guy who sponsors mandatory ultrasounds and other anti-choice bills to an acceptable Democratic politician on choice (in behavior if not rhetoric).

Those of you considering yourselves pro-life Dems who can’t make the no-bans conversion? Sorry, but no. I’m unimpressed with your sincere commitment to economic justice and to helping women “choose life”. There is no political will at the national or most state levels to implement the European-style welfare system you insist would ameliorate that bans you also insist must be in place. It’s dishonest to pretend they would coexist. And even under this (purely hypothetical at this point) generous safety net, there will always be women who choose to terminate. Please stop assuming the default state of all persons with uteri is enthusiastic motherhood. You may have the best intentions but what you are really doing is playing Ivanka Trump, softening the image of a bunch of nasty misogynists.

Don’t be Ivanka.

Most Americans, despite aforementioned sympathies with anti-choicers’ views on women, don’t want to live in The Handmaid’s Tale. They want the space to be able to express their discomfort with abortion (which is in most cases really a proxy for female promiscuity) and, in the less-liberal districts, to have Democratic politicians reflect it back to them. It sucks, I know, but changing hearts and minds is the job of the pro-choice movement, not Democrats in tough districts. Democrats in those districts need to learn how to say things like, “I understand abortion is a difficult issue but it needs to be treated as a personal health and economic matter, not a criminal one”. And then not vote with the anti-choicers.

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