In 2018 midterms, Democrats must stop sidelining abortion

In 2018 midterms, Democrats must stop sidelining abortion
© Getty

Is America pro-choice nation? Many believe that we’re not, because conservatives have dominated the conversation around choice for years.

The truth? Seven in ten American voters support a woman’s right to choose. That’s right — our country overwhelmingly supports reproductive freedom. Yet as conservatives threaten our reproductive freedom in state after state, many Democrats are treating abortion like a live wire; a “single issue”; necessary, but something to be avoided and definitely not discussed. The left has largely stopped championing reproductive freedom — and in response, conservatives have been rolling back our reproductive freedoms at lightning speed.

ADVERTISEMENT
Since January 2011, conservative legislatures in over 27 states have enacted more than 400 laws to deny or limit access to abortion and reproductive health services, according to a report by the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute. These politicians have effectively forced 162 abortion clinics across the country to close and caused immense barriers for thousands of women, even those seeking basic reproductive health care. At this point, 58 percent of American women now live in a state considered hostile to abortion rights. Now more than ever, we need leaders on the left championing choice and refusing to allow conservative leaders to take control away from our bodies.

 

Instead, many professed progressives and centrists continue to ignore abortion, or worse — support anti-choice candidates. The left hasn’t just fallen asleep at the wheel — we’ve actively chosen to avoid the issue. Last year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced that support for reproductive freedom would not be a required litmus test for candidates — even though the Democratic Party platform is thoroughly and completely pro-choice. And they’ve followed through on this perverse promise.

In Nebraska, pro-choice congressional candidate Kara Eastman just won her race in the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District, but the DCCC backed Brad AshfordJohn (Brad) Bradley AshfordEx-Dem lawmaker: Russians hacked my email in 2016 In 2018 midterms, Democrats must stop sidelining abortion Election fears recede for House Republicans MORE, a former Republican who supports some restrictions on abortion. In New York, pro-choice congressional candidate Dana Balter has strong grassroots support — but the DCCC is instead backing anti-choice candidate Juanita Williams. In Illinois, the DCCC backed anti-choice incumbent Dan Lepinski over pro-choice candidate Marie Newman. And in Pennsylvania, a DCCC operative allegedly urged pro-choice congressional candidate Susan Wild to drop out in her run against John Morganelli, who describes himself as “a pro-life Democrat”. The list goes on.

In race after race, Democrats have thrown in the towel — buying into to the conservative claim that abortion is a losing issue for the left. It’s time for the Democratic Party and progressives overall to stop sidelining or ignoring abortion. America overwhelmingly backs a woman’s right to choose. And as we saw in Ireland’s abortion referendum last week, when choice is on the ballot, voters head to the polls in droves.

As co-founder of national pro-choice organization #VOTEPROCHOICE, I work to put reproductive freedom front and center in elections up and down the ballot. We provide endorsed candidates with widespread campaign support, and we provide voters with the first nationwide pro-choice voter guide — indicating candidates’ positions on choice in elections across the country.

Every day, we work to transform the conversation around reproductive freedom and make clear that — despite conservatives’ claims — America is a pro-choice nation and we will vote like one.

Now, it’s time for Democratic leaders on the federal, state and local level to get on board. Stop backing anti-choice Democratic candidates. Start championing reproductive freedom as a central tenet of the progressive agenda and a winning issue. This is, quite simply, a battle for control over women's bodies. And right now, conservatives are winning. It’s time to fight back.

Heidi Sieck is CEO and co-founder of #VOTEPROCHOICE is a national organization that identifies and supports prochoice champions up and down the ballot by connecting the nation's prochoice majority with prochoice candidates. Follow her on Twitter @HeidiSpeaks.