The head of the Democratic National Committee on Wednesday suggested that women in their 20s and 30s have become complacent on the issue of abortion rights, allowing the fight to fade into the political background.
“Here’s what I see: a complacency among the generation of young women whose entire lives have been lived after Roe v. Wade was decided,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in an interview with The New York Times Magazine.
The Florida Democrat is referring to the 1972 landmark Supreme Court case affirming a woman's right to an abortion.
While abortion opponents have made little headway against that decision federally, dozens of GOP-led states have passed laws restricting access to abortion.
There is some evidence that support for abortion rights has dipped over the last decade: The number of people in the U.S. who consider themselves “pro-choice” has fallen from 56 percent in 1995 to about 50 percent in 2015, according to Gallup data.
Hours after the interview posted, the DNC distributed a seven-sentence statement clarifying Wasserman Schultz's comments on abortion.
“We need women of every generation — mine included — to stand up and speak out, and that is the main message I sought to convey in that interview," it reads.
"For many in my generation who lived the majority of our lives with the right to make our own health care choices, there wasn’t a sense of urgency after Roe v. Wade settled our right to a safe and legal abortion. Since then, opponents worked aggressively to chip away at women’s reproductive freedom and they have awakened a sleeping giant in the millennials leading the fight in defense of the progress we’ve made," she said.
Women, particularly younger women, are still more likely than men to support abortion rights.
Over the past year, anti-abortion activists have focused on Planned Parenthood and controversy over its fetal tissue donation program. And a shooting in late November at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic drew more national headlines.
The House is expected to pass a bill on Wednesday that would halt funding for the organization, though President Obama is expected veto it.
Abortion opponents are expected to take a more aggressive approach ahead of the 2016 elections, particularly with a Supreme Court decision on Texas’s restrictive abortion facility law coming this summer.
Wasserman Schultz also weighed in on gender politicking, another issue that is expected to get extra attention in 2016 with the potentially ground-breaking presidency of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE.
The DNC chairwoman said female politicians are sometimes expected to have a different leadership style. She said she and others have been repeatedly hit by criticism that they are “ambitious” or make decisions on their own, comments she said would be considered compliments to men.
“I don’t usually see sexism around every corner, but the criticism I’ve noticed of me over the past couple of years has absolutely zeroed in on qualities that, for a man, wouldn’t even be considered fodder for criticism,” Wasserman Schultz said.
She also declined to comment on how the committee handled claims that Democratic candidate Bernie SandersBernie SandersIn Washington, the road almost never taken Don't let partisan politics impede Texas' economic recovery The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble MORE's campaign improperly accessed voter data. The Sanders campaign has sued the DNC after it cut the campaign off from its shared database.
"Quite honestly, we are putting this behind us. The American people deserve an intelligent debate, and this isn’t one," she said.
—Updated at 6:28 p.m.