Democrats should not compromise on abortion

Democrats should not compromise on abortion
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No one wants to counter Trump’s agenda and see Congress and state legislatures advance progressive policies more than I do.

But the notion that to do so, candidates and the Democratic party must abandon support for abortion access is both inhumane, and a surefire path to defeat. 

We don’t advance “agendas on poverty, immigration, income equality and racial justice,“ as David Brooks claimed in his recent New York Times piece, by selling out access to abortion.


We do so by developing common solutions and not by creating a wedge that drives them apart.

After all, these are not separate agendas. A woman’s need and right to control her body and determine her future is not separate and apart from her immigration status, her financial security or her community’s need for just treatment.

Women experience simultaneous and overlapping needs, we must develop solutions that address them.

Our thinking must not be siloed; the fact that fewer women have abortions after 20 weeks does not mean we should jettison them from our priority list.

It means we should recognize and respect their circumstances and ensure that they — and the right to abortion access — are not traded away for the illusive hope of a few votes. 

Who are these women? They’re women like Erika Christensen who, after learning near her 24th week that her baby would not be able to survive outside the womb had to travel nearly 2,000 miles - from New York to Colorado to end her pregnancy.


Together with Erika, we are working to reform the laws in New York State to ensure no woman has to go through this unimaginable hardship or isolation when all she needed was access to care and support. 

Women like Erika don’t owe Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Kyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two MORE, David Brooks, or any of us an explanation or apology. Rather, we owe them support, dignity, and the ability to make the decisions that are best for them. 

And research shows voters support that.

Nearly 70 percent of American voters support Roe v. Wade. And the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) found that more than 70 percent of voters believe that once a woman has decided to have an abortion, her experience should be safe, supportive, respectful, and without pressure.

In fact, in public opinion research commissioned by NIRH, we found that voters are shocked and angered by at least 1,000 anti-abortion laws that state legislatures have passed since Roe v. Wade.

When shown that more than a third of those laws were passed just since 2010, the majority of voters think that America is headed in the wrong direction with this trend.

More importantly, they are outraged by anti-abortion laws like mandatory delays, state-mandated medically inaccurate scripts, regulations designed to close down clinics — and yes, abortion bans after arbitrary cut-off points.

That’s because voters can see these laws for what they are — part of a concerted effort to push abortion out of reach. Death to women’s autonomy by a thousand cuts.

As one focus group participant reaction to Ohio’s 20-week ban summarized:

“Now it’s 20 weeks. In five years it’ll be 15 weeks. And then in ten years it’ll be 10 weeks. They’re just going to continue to lower the number to the point where it’s too late and women have no time.” 

This voter didn’t know how prescient she was; Mississippi passed a 15-week abortion ban on Friday, and Ohio’s House is teed up to vote on a bill that effectively bans abortions after 13 weeks.

Instead of focusing on Democrat’s support for women who have decided to have an abortion, what would it look like if the political pundits’ critical gaze was directed at Republicans?

It might discover that by laser-focusing on obliterating access to abortion — one restriction at a time over the last 45 years — the Republican party has been hijacked by a myopic agenda that speaks to a slim minority of voters. They have done this by alienating the wishes and better judgment of large swaths of their base.

Maybe there would be a refreshing new storyline, suggesting they’d pick up more votes if they dropped the attempts to control women’s bodies and lives. After all, polling indicates they would.

As elections over the last year have shown, the path to victory relies on staying true to our core values and standing up for the people — however few they may be — who need our compassion, the law’s protections, and access to care the most.

That’s how progressives can truly stand as an alternative to Trump’s divisive, destructive, and damaging agenda and win in the 2018 midterm elections.

Andrea Miller is the president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund.