Are women capable of making their own health choices?

Francis Rivera

Reproductive rights advocates are used to facing down attacks on many fronts, but in July Democrats dealt us an unexpected blow that has left me reeling. In an interview with The Hill, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) stated, “There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates.”

I have been a Democrat all my life. Never before have I seen this kind of dog-whistling to court anti-choice voters. And for what?

{mosads}Women are the backbone of the Democratic party — particularly women of color. Fully 95 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Women are not only the face of the resistance, but the heart and soul, too.


This powerful movement came to be after millions of us marched and protested and rallied the day after the election. And six months later, it’s women who are leading the new Indivisible chapters by a 2:1 margin, organizing the grassroots across the country. And who has made the majority of calls to Congressional offices, opposing the Muslim ban, decrying President Trump’s dangerous cabinet picks and putting the pressure on lawmakers to defeat efforts at healthcare repeal? That’s right: women.

And women who are a major base of the Democratic Party and support legal access to abortion by 85 percent. And they’re not alone. Seven out of 10 Americans support this right.

Newsflash: White working class male voters didn’t vote for Trump because he was against abortion. As NARAL Pro-Choice president Ilyse Hogue wrote recently, “we’re pretty sure offering men who want jobs and relief from opioid addiction fewer abortion clinics is not a winning strategy.”

What is a winning strategy? To me, it’s clear. Respect your base and respect their beliefs.

Ed Kilgore’s recent piece in New York Magazine underscores this point, “Democrats don’t need a ‘litmus test’ on abortion. But respect for women should be mandatory.”

That’s what the Democratic Party has always stood for and that’s why the litmus test comment made so many pro-choice Democratic women angry. Why is it that women’s choices are the ones that sit on the chopping block? Would the rights of any other Democratic constituency, let alone one that does so much daily for the good of the party be treated this way?

As my mentor, reproductive justice champion Dr. George Tiller, always said, we need to trust women. Being willing to throw away women’s choice is the peak of disrespect and misogyny. After Dr. Tiller was shot and killed in his church by an anti-choice activist, I founded my organization and called it Trust Women, because I was determined to start a series of abortion clinics in areas where there was little to no access.

Like Dr. Tiller, I believe that women are capable of making their own reproductive decisions and I am committed to fighting for them to maintain this access. I will fight for this at the ballot box, at the grassroots and as a strong ally in the resistance.

In the end, the litmus test isn’t really about abortion, it’s about whether Democrats value, respect and trust women.

Julie A. Burkhart is the founder and CEO of Trust Women Foundation. Trust Women opens clinics that provide abortion care in underserved communities so that all women can make their own decisions about their healthcare. Follow her on Twitter @julieburkhart

 The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill. 

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