Abortion laws give Republican politicians what they crave — control

Somehow, even though Roe v. Wade has been in place for 46 years, and even though the majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal, and even though the data is clear that criminalizing abortion is not an effective and safe way to reduce abortions, we are still on the brink of witnessing abortion rights in America disappear. 

Just last week, more than 200 mostly white male members of Congress submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court advocating for the reconsideration and repeal of Roe v. Wade. 

This is because it never was, and never will be, about sound policy for them. Instead, it is about what keeps politicians in power. Abortion is simply the vehicle that gives Republican politicians what they crave —  control. 

And right now, it is delivering.

As conservative states make increasingly brazen moves to ban abortion, the internet is flooded with heart-wrenching stories from women trying desperately to convey why abortion access is so important. Women who wanted a child but were told it would not live. Women who want to live but were told having a child would kill them. 

Women who maintain what is becoming) a radical belief that they, not the government, are best suited to make decisions about their bodies. Advocates of reproductive rights work tirelessly to convey the nuance of the circumstances, the horrors of criminalization, the extremism of forced birth, all in hopes that the other side will come around. 

They will not. 

This is because, for the Republican party, abortion is not personal; it’s business. Republican politicians puff their chests and claim to be “pro-life.” Still, we know that not to be true because they have no interest in passing legislation to create programs that support life. The restrictive laws they do support does not improve the levels of care and safety for women. 

They do not favor welfare for people out of a home, food stamps for people who are hungry, or health care for those without insurance. They scoff at subsidized prenatal care and universal free pre-school. Indeed, the states with the most restrictive abortion laws also have the highest infant mortality rates. Now and then, they even admit that anti-choice rhetoric is just business

Republican politicians do not care about life; they care about power. To get the votes, they need to stay in control; they exploit an issue that costs them nothing — abortion. Forcing women to have babies while ensuring that the state pays for no associated expenses is a win-win for them. 

There are surely anti-choice voters who do care about supporting women and children, just as there are fiscal conservatives who believe in choice. Still, as long as both groups keep giving their votes to the party that wants to force women to give birth while at the same time railing on necessary social services, politicians have no incentive to change course. 

Democrats need to understand that telling stories is not enough — we must form and execute a political strategy to protect reproductive freedom. Unfortunately, we’re late to the game. 

For the past decade, Republicans have been systematically taking over state legislatures, gerrymandering voting district lines to keep themselves in power, and then passing unconstitutional state laws prohibiting abortion to satisfy their base. 

At the same time, they have stacked the judiciary with right-wing ideologues, including two on the Supreme Court, where the plan has always been to overturn Roe. We are witnessing the late stages of a strikingly effective Republican political strategy that has been in place for half a century. 

So what can we do? We can’t change the composition of the Court. We can’t rely on our dysfunctional congress to pass even bipartisan legislation, let alone anything pertaining to the polarizing issue of women’s rights. But we can elect progressive legislators in all 50 states to change the laws that are heading to the Supreme Court, all of which originate in the states. 

The Supreme Court is poised to eliminate protections with breakneck speed, not just on abortion but on every policy issue from health care and voting rights to the environment and gun violence prevention. It is time for us to recognize what the GOP has known for a long time: state elections are the key turning the tide.  

Next, we overwhelm with our voice. We must educate our communities with facts, put our stories front and center, and, most importantly, make clear that we are mobilizing to the ballot box. 

If Democrats voted consistently, we would win every single election (not an exaggeration). Politicians rarely change their minds because of personal stories, but they do tend to have epiphanies when they think they are going to lose. 

Finally, we fight like hell. There is no room for compromise: either we trust women, or we don’t. We cannot let Republicans continue their assault on reproductive rights through policies, lawsuits, and organizations like Americans United for Life. Democrats can never resist when Republicans bait them to the middle, and then the conversation moves to the right. 

Many have watched in anguish as Alabama scrambled to be the first (but not the last) state to pass a law essentially outlawing abortion, a position that was considered radically fringe just a few years ago. 

Republicans don’t just want to overturn Roe; they want a federal and constitutional ban prohibiting women from making decisions about their bodies. If we don’t draw a bright red line, they will continue to move the goalposts. 

Don’t let this be our fate. 

There is still time, and it starts in the states. Remember this: politicians don’t care about the issues; they care about getting elected. So our job is to make sure that the way to get elected is to support reproductive freedom. 

The irony, of course, is that there is nothing as personal as the decision about whether or not to have a child. But in politics, it’s just business, and Democrats need to get in the game. 

Rita Bosworth is the founder and executive director of the Sister District Project, a women-led grassroots group that organizes volunteers to elect Democrats to state legislatures.

Tags Abortion in the United States Abortion law Feminism Reproductive rights Roe v. Wade Sexual revolution Women's rights

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