Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Women's reproductive rights should be the hill Democrats are prepared to die on

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 27:  Pro-choice activist, Jaimie Ermak, 24, from Washington, D.C., waits for rulings in front of the U.S. Supreme Court  on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. A ruling is expected in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a Texas case the places restrictions on abortion clinics, as well as rulings in the former Virginia Governor's corruption case and a gun rights case. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
This essay, unsparing and terse, by Elie Mystal, for The Nation, puts the ball on women’s reproductive rights squarely in the Democrats’ court. The stakes are now as high as they will ever get. There is simply nowhere to run or hide now. The war is upon us.

Multiple generations of women (and men) have grown into and through adulthood benumbed with the implicit assumption that no matter how difficult Republicans made it to obtain an abortion, through innumerable restrictions, obstacles, and high-handed, so-called “moral” shaming, that the Constitutional right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy would somehow survive. But the legislation just passed in Alabama, and now, Missouri, criminalizing all abortion and turning doctors who perform it into felons, shows that assumption no longer holds true.

The reality is that it hasn’t been true for some time.
Roe, in spirit, has already been defeated in vast parts of the country. Roe does not guarantee access to an abortion to anybody if there are enough Republicans in their state legislature, and it hasn’t for some time. It is a shell that has been systemically hollowed out on the inside. Smart Republicans like keeping Roe around because they know it works as an effective boogeyman that keeps some segment of their Bible-thumping base voting against their own interests. Meanwhile, even though 67 percent of the country (including 73 percent of independents and a whopping 81 percent of Democrats) don’t want to see Roe “overturned,” as long as Roe is not “overturned,” they seem to think the right to choose is more or less secure. Roe gives false hope to its supporters—not all, but enough—and inspires committed activism from its enemies.
That assumption was grounded in a universal, almost subconscious understanding that owes itself more to privilege, particularly the privilege of relatively wealthy, white women and men, than we who call ourselves Democrats and the Democratic Party that represents us, would prefer to admit. Because over the past three decades while the anti-choice movement threw their resources into co-opting legislators and judges to propagate their agenda, we were distracted by comforting illusions like this:
Rich white women will still be able to fly to Los Angeles or New York or London to get an abortion when they need to. Even if a state only has one functional abortion doctor, rich people will find a way. GOP sugar daddies will still be able to coerce abortions when they want to.
Republicans will still have an issue to prattle on about when the usual inducements, tax breaks, and bigotry fail to churn up enough votes.
That illusion is now shattered. Because. Elections. Matter. And now, not suddenly, but suddenly apparent, we find our very lives subject to the whims of these monsters.
That is what was happening before Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was replaced by Brett Kavanaugh. Now that the Republicans have successfully forced an alleged attempted rapist onto the Supreme Court, the surgical approach has been discarded. In its place, red states have adopted a sneering, combative attack on women’s rights befitting the man they hope will support them. It’s not a coincidence that the Alabama legislature passed a bill forcing rape victims to serve as unwilling incubators only now that a man accused of attempted rape sits on the high court. Kavanaugh’s personal controversy has always been a feature, not a bug, for these terrible people.
In Mystal’s view the time has long since passed for Democrats to come to terms with this issue, to  take its meaning to heart, and to stand and fight, or die trying, as a Party. Because once the fanatics who dominate the Republican Party in this country have ripped away a woman’s right to control her own reproductive destiny, there is no limit to what they will seek to control.
For the real Democrats, this is the hill we fight on. This is the hill we die on, if it comes to it.
Republicans have shown that there is no more room for compromise. Democrats must see that there is no more room for retreat. Every single vote for a Republican at the local, state, or national level is a vote to reduce born women to the status of medical incubators with mouthparts.
Democrats who are unwilling to make the case need to get out of the way and make room for a woman who can.
Republicans have ripped off their own masks. They don’t care about the health of the mother. They don’t care about victims of rape or incest. They don’t even care about the “unborn,” as evidenced by their stubborn refusal to provide nationalized and free prenatal care. All they care about is controlling women’s bodies. Limiting reproductive choice is a way to control women, that’s all they’re in it for.
As Mystal points out, this is no longer “Planned Parenthood’s” or “NARAL’s” issue. Or a “women’s” issue.

It is our issue. All of us who call ourselves Democrats.

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