Pro-choice voters won, now let's get to work

Pro-choice voters won, now let's get to work
© Getty Images

Tuesday was the first chance for the entire American electorate to cast their vote on the Trump-Pence agenda. And in historic, overwhelming numbers they showed up to cast their ballots and emphatically rejected two years of the Trump-Pence administration’s destructive agenda.

President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpMichelle Obama says not always easy to live up to "we go high" Georgia certifies elections results in bitterly fought governor's race Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny MORE and his allies tried to ban abortion; they tried to defund Planned Parenthood; they tried to erase the transgender community; they embraced racist and discriminatory policies and the American people firmly said no. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Now that voters have taken their seats at the table, they expect their elected representatives at all levels of government to fight hard against Trump’s agenda and expand access to care.

Voters flipped the House to a pro-reproductive health-care majority — winning 26 seats and counting. They elected more women to the House than ever before in history. That includes electing the first two Muslim women, the first two Native American women, the first Latina women from Texas. All in one day.

These historic wins defied the significant structural barriers that favor anti-reproductive health politicians, including the most gerrymandered congressional maps in decades, the traditionally low voter turnout of the midterms and rampant voter suppression.

But the enthusiasm among voters overcame the hurdles, as the latest estimates for voter turnout show. Over 114 million people cast ballots in 2018, compared to just 83 million in 2014, the last midterm election. 

The most important issue mobilizing those voters was health care. Candidates ran on health. Some Republicans lied about their record on health care to make themselves more appealing to the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe all people should have access to care. In race after race, voters sided with candidates who want to expand health care, not restrict it.

For example, at the state level, voters flipped six state legislative chambers and close to 300 state legislative seats — ushering in majorities who will protect and also expand reproductive health care. And voters in Idaho, Utah and Nebraska voted to expand Medicaid. Maine elected a governor who will push Medicaid expansion forward.

Now, Congress’ work has to be about health care, including access to birth control and abortion. Planned Parenthood is looking forward to working with our champions in Congress to meet voters’ expectations to undo the harm of the Trump-Pence agenda.

Champions like Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyDem women rally behind Pelosi Lawmakers say California will eventually get emergency funding for fire relief On The Money: Amazon taps New York, Northern Virginia for new offices | What it means for the DC area | Dems target vulnerable commerce chief | Earmarks look to be making a comeback MORE (D-N.Y.) and the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus to fight back against the Trump gag rule, which would block providers in the Title X program — the nation’s only program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care — from referring their patients for safe and legal abortion.

As she put it in an interview with Politico, “Instead of partisan riders that limit access to reproductive health care, we will provide a check on the Trump administration's effort to defund Title X health clinics that provide critical access to care for low- and middle-income families.”

In January, Rep. Lowey will have dozens more members fighting alongside her. 

Because of last night’s victories, we have a chance to not just protect but expand access to reproductive health care. We already know the hunger for this exists in states. In the first half of 2018 alone, advocates enacted more than 75 measures to expand reproductive health and rights at the state level, compared to 21 measures to restrict abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute

Now we need to take that initiative to the federal level. We need get back to the business of the people. The work of the 116th Congress must include providing needed oversight to the administration, holding hearings to inform science and evidenced-based policy-making and advancing proactive legislation to expand care and block the Trump-Pence administration practices that harm the people that the administration should serve. 

Even though we’ve seen a victory, we know the threats to the essential care people need will not stop. Planned Parenthood will never back down, no matter what attacks the Trump-Pence administration or other politicians may throw at us.

Make no mistake: it is the destructive policies coming out of the White House and Congress that fueled this victory. Over the past two years we’ve seen this administration and Republican leadership try to eliminate access to health care and Planned Parenthood, ignore and mock survivors of sexual assault, attempt to erase the existence of transgender people, embrace racist and discriminatory policies, attack immigrant communities and force through a Supreme Court justice who would gut Roe v. Wade and who had been accused of sexual assault.

The American people have been pushed to a breaking point and we’re seeing the results. Planned Parenthood will work hand in hand with our champions in Congress to drive the bold agenda that the American people expect to see.

Dana Singiser is the vice president of public policy and government affairs at Planned Parenthood Action Fund.