Dear Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,
For days I’ve been at a loss for words to describe the profound sense of betrayal I feel after learning of the DCCC’s Chair, Rep. Ben Ray Jujan (D-NM)’s, statement that you will consider supporting anti-choice candidates for public office. In my opinion, the only saving grace is that at least it was a man who made this abhorrent proclamation. When women act against women’s interests—thus aiding and abetting the patriarchy that runs our society—my feelings of betrayal run especially deep. Yet, I’ll be honest: This was still very hurtful. After thinking about it, here’s why I feel so strongly.
I’m wondering how a political party that prides itself on being socially progressive can support political candidates for office who believe that the “rights” of an embryo or a fetus are more important than the human and civil rights of actual women?
How does a political party that claims to recognize the separation of church and state nonetheless embrace a candidate who apparently has adopted a religious viewpoint regarding what constitutes a “life” anyway?
And how can a political party that claims to believe that equality in our society is an ideal to work towards achieving (and, to that end, that we all have the right to access to affordable healthcare, a living wage, equal pay for equal work, paid family and sick leave, and affordable childcare), in the same breath support the undermining of women’s rights?
For make no mistake about it: the right to reproductive freedom is an essential human and civil right. The choice of whether to bear and raise a child goes straight to the heart of women’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that white men have always held onto primarily, if not solely, for themselves.
Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s shocking loss in the Electoral College to a known misogynist knocked many women (myself included) off their kilter, yet I saw a glimmer of hope. The Women’s March, which followed soon after, brought together a diverse populace across the country, of women, men, and children who all seemed to coalesce behind a few simple, yet powerful, concepts. Among them was the principle that women have control over our own bodies, as succinctly, yet thoroughly, set forth in the Women’s March’s own mission statement:
We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.
While there were a few disgruntled women, conservative enough to be against this principle, yet who still wished to attended the March, alongside their more progressive peers, the vast majority of marchers knew what the vast majority of American women surely know: Simply put, there can be no freedom without the freedom to choose when to bear children.
I know this because I was there and I saw the countless signs touting women’s rights and the right to reproductive freedom, such as the one that crudely but aptly said “IF I WANTED THE GOVERNMENT IN MY WOMB, I’D F_____ A SENATOR.” And I will always remember the one chant I heard that made my heart swell with pride and hope for the future of our country. A group of tireless marchers, who had gathered after dark near the White House, seemed to truly understand how uniquely female is reproductive freedom. I heard young women’s voices shouting, “My body, my choice” with the strong refrain from the many young men beside them, “Your body, your choice.” If only all men understood and respected women in this way.
If only the DCCC did.
I haven’t forgotten, of course, that so many young people (“Millennials” as they are called)—including many young women—didn’t get with the program to support the only candidate running for the presidency in 2016 who really and truly understood the meaning of the term “women’s rights.” Indeed, many had come to expect and even take for granted, the progress and advances that had come about during eight years Barack Obama was president, as well as the hard work of trailblazing women who had come before them. Many embraced an older white man (Bernie Sanders) whom they suspected would be far more progressive than an older white woman, not knowing somehow that Hillary Clinton had done so very much for women, children, and families in her lifelong devotion to public service. Sanders may have promised them free college education (what young person can’t get behind that ideal), but he also publicly dissed Planned Parenthood.
It is the relatively rare white man who champions women’s rights because most white men believe that for any other group to get a fair chance means that their own interests will be undermined. It is relatively rare, yes, but not unique. Men have mothers, and sisters, and daughters, and girlfriends or wives, and some men understand that these women or women generally are equally deserving of a shot at the American dream. In other words, they know that women enrich society and lift us all up, and are just as entitled as men. Some of these “enlightened” men are even politicians, and virtually all of these male politicians who stand up for women’s rights are Democrats. Women notice these things, DCCC.
Of course, the 2016 election was a disaster by any measure for Democrats, but thanks to groups like Emily’s List, pro-choice women like Kamala Harris, Catherine Cortez Masto, Tammy Duckworth, and Maggie Hassan were elected to the U.S. Senate. Harris in particular has emerged as a rising star of the Democratic party—with the grit and determination and brilliance to rival her male counterparts. Her experience as California’s attorney general more than prepared her to interrogate forcefully witnesses like U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions despite being labeled “hysterical” and interrupted repeatedly by—who else—white men. And sadly, some so-called progressives feel the need to tear her down.
One positive by-product of Donald Trump’s election is the scores of women of all ages who are now energized either to run for public office themselves or support candidates who represent their values and interests. Thankfully, many women who were complacent following eight years of progress under President Obama are now “woke.” (Sometimes it takes a catastrophe to bring us into action. We women are pretty busy, you know—working and raising the nation’s children and all.) With more women running for office, it goes without saying that more elected officials will have women’s interests in mind as they make laws and govern. “Representative government” will have more meaning once half of the population is no longer severely underrepresented in legislatures and governors’ mansions throughout the country.
Now, as for reproductive freedom and women’s rights, DCCC, some facts and statistics are in order:
According to the United States Supreme Court, as recently as June 2016, women have the right pursuant to the Constitution to choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. This remains the case, despite religious and other conservatives doing everything in their power in an effort to infringe upon this basic legal and human right.
Abortion rates are at an all-time low since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Why? Apparently improved access to affordable birth control has decreased the number of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. (Thanks ACA and Planned Parenthood!)
With respect to public opinion, the majority of the American people believe that women should be entitled to terminate a pregnancy in at least some cases. Of Democrats, including moderate or conservative Democrats there is no contest: the vast majority of liberal Democrats support legal abortion (91%) as do six-in-ten (61%) conservative and moderate Democrats.
And you know what, DCCC? It’s bad enough that Donald Trump, conservatives, and the GOP have thrown women under the bus.
Et tu, Democrats?
We all know that conservatives who claim to be “pro-life” are often really not. How is it “pro-life” to want to strip millions of Americans of their healthcare insurance? How is it “pro-life” to greedily deny the downtrodden among us even the most basic of human dignities? How is it “pro-life” to continue to support the proliferation of killing machines like assault-style weapons and large capacity magazines?
Conservatives wish to deprive women of services like Planned Parenthood, which provides birth control and other services to millions of women that cut down the number of unwanted pregnancies. If the GOP truly cared about preventing abortion, they would be the first to advocate for improved access to affordable and effective birth control. If they truly cared about preventing abortion, they would be the first to argue that sex education in public schools must take into account reality and teach much more than simply: Hey kids, don’t have sex, k?
I am a proud Democrat because the party, while not perfect (nobody’s perfect though, right?), claims to share many of my values, among them, equality and justice for all of us, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender. I am also a proud Democrat because, most of the time, I feel the Democrats strive to do what they can to achieve progress in this country, reaching out to create a more perfect union. Yes, they often fall short, but that is to be expected when there is another powerful political party that is just as vehement about opposing such policies. But at least I do believe that Democrats care, and they try.
So, I have tried to explain in this letter my feelings of betrayal, though I am but one woman, one Democrat. An anti-choice candidate is an anti-woman candidate, an anti-equality candidate, and an anti-progressive candidate. Of that I am certain.
DCCC—you are better than this. We must do better than this.
Jennifer Rand/The FeMOMist