‘We must stand up’: Democrats slammed for inaction on abortion | Democrats

SShortly after the Supreme Court’s draft opinion quashing Roe v. Wade was released to the public, California Governor Gavin Newsom condemned conservative attacks on abortion rights and promised his state would be a “sanctuary” for those seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

But Newsom also directed some of his more pointed remarks at fellow Democrats.

“Where the hell is my party? Where is the Democratic Party? Newsom said. “This is a concerted and coordinated effort, and yes, they are winning. They are. They were. Let’s recognize that. We have to wake up. Where is the counter-offensive?

Even as Democrats denounced the court’s interim decision to overturn Roe and pledged to defend abortion rights, their efforts at the federal level have largely failed to live up to their rhetoric. A vote last Wednesday in the Senate to codify Roe and protect abortion rights nationwide was again stalled, as Democrat Joe Manchin joined 50 Republican senators in opposing the bill.

The failure of Democrats in Washington to defend abortion rights, even as they control the White House and both houses of Congress, has complicated the party’s message to voters about Roe’s likely demise. Some frustrated Democrats are instead turning their attention to state and local policies that could protect reproductive rights even if Roe falls.

Abortion-rights supporters’ frustration with Democrats’ inaction at the federal level has been on display since the draft advisory was leaked earlier this month. At a protest outside the Supreme Court last week, abortion-rights protesters chanted, “Do something, Democrats.”

People rally for abortion rights in Washington DC on May 10. Photography: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Progressive members of Congress have also advocated for the urgent need to pass federal abortion rights legislation, calling on senators to amend the filibuster to pass a bill.

“People elected Democrats precisely so we could lead in perilous times like these – to codify Roe, hold corruption accountable, [and] having a president who uses his legal authority to break the deadlock in Congress on issues ranging from student debt to climate,” progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted on Twitter.

The stakes for Democratic inaction are high, as abortion is certain or likely to be banned in 26 states if the court follows through on Roe’s overturn. Last weekend, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that Republicans could go even further if they regain control of the White House and Congress, floating the idea of ​​a nationwide abortion ban.

Republicans would likely face widespread public outcry if they proposed a nationwide ban. A %09https:/www.monmouth.edu/polling-institute/reports/monmouthpoll_US_051122/”> poll released by Monmouth University last week found that only 9% of Americans support the idea of ​​a nationwide ban, while 64% support keeping abortion legal However, abortion rights advocates warn that the threat of a nationwide ban will be real if Republicans regain Congress and the White House.

“Republicans definitely pass a national abortion ban once they have the power to do so,” said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of reproductive rights group UltraViolet. “They signaled that they were going to pack the Supreme Court in order to overthrow Roe. I don’t think people took them seriously enough. And so people really need to learn the lesson here and take them very, very seriously on this point.

Progressive groups like UltraViolet have called on Democrats to change the Senate filibuster, which would allow a bill codifying Roe to pass through the upper house with a simple majority of support. But Manchin and fellow Democrat Kyrsten Sinema have made it clear they won’t support a filibuster exclusion, and last Wednesday’s vote failed to even draw the 50 votes that would be needed if Senate rules were modified.

“Our constitutional right to abortion must be more important than their loyalty to arcane Senate procedures that aren’t even law,” Thomas said. “People watched them take down the filibuster to raise the debt ceiling. If they can do it for this, they should be able to do it for this.

Democratic congressional leaders have encouraged members of their party to direct their criticism at Republicans rather than at each other. In a “Dear Colleague” letter to House Democrats last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned of Republicans’ desire to ban abortion nationwide and said their policies could even “criminalize contraceptive care, in vitro fertilization and post-miscarriage care”. .

“Make no mistake: once Republicans give up precedent and privacy by unseating Roe, they will be aiming for additional basic human rights,” Pelosi said.

Nancy Pelosi speaks at an event on protecting abortion rights on Capitol Hill on May 13.
Nancy Pelosi speaks at an event on protecting abortion rights on Capitol Hill on May 13. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Christina Reynolds, vice president of communications at Emily’s List, which promotes pro-choice women candidates in the election, insisted that voters who support abortion rights will hold Republicans accountable in the midterm elections. in November. “Republicans got us here in a lot of ways,” Reynolds said.

But Democratic candidates running for office this fall will need to paint a longer-term picture of how the party plans to protect abortion rights, even if they can’t stop the court from overturning Roe.

“The Democratic Party needs to get away from this message about how we can fix everything right away,” said Kelly Dietrich, CEO of the National Democratic Training Committee. “This is the fight of a lifetime. The government is tough. We will need you to vote in November, next November and every November after that because the people who want to take away your rights are not going to stop.

In the meantime, Democrats have an opportunity to turn their attention to state and local offices that might be able to help protect abortion rights if Roe falls, Dietrich argued.

“The struggle for the next 10+ years will be at national and local levels,” he said. “It’s going to be in the state legislatures. It will be in city councils and in all the different local government forums that we have across the country that aren’t big and sexy.

Some of these efforts are already underway across the country.

In Michigan, where a 1931 abortion ban is still in effect and could come back into effect if Roe is overturned, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has filed a lawsuit to block enforcement. Several county prosecutors also signed a statement saying they would not pursue criminal charges related to the 1931 law.

One of those prosecutors was Democrat Karen McDonald of Oakland County, Michigan’s second-largest county. She said that despite her despair over Roe’s likely end, she was committed to finding ways to secure the rights and access to health care for her neighbors.

“It’s a sad and tragic moment,” McDonald said. “But I’m not going to spend a minute of my energy letting this take me away from what I think is absolutely essential right now, which is that we all need to be careful, support, fund and help. elect [those candidates] who want to protect our right to choose.

Oakland County was once a republican stronghold, but it has become increasingly democratic in recent years. McDonald said she heard from members of her community who previously supported Republicans and are now rethinking their policies in light of the Supreme Court’s expected ruling.

“I know a lot of women who voted for Trump who are now saying I will never, ever vote for a pro-life candidate. They just didn’t think it would happen,” McDonald said. “So I think that really upsets politics.”

Thomas agreed that many Americans who support abortion rights appear to have been surprised by the tentative decision to overrule Roe, even after Republicans won a 6-3 majority in court. Conservatives have also been calling for an end to Roe for decades, and Trump has promised to appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court.

“I don’t think it’s surprising that people have had to see it to believe it, although they have heard it, especially from black and brown women who have long borne the brunt of these attacks on the level of the state,” Thomas said. . “As an organizer, I tell you, it’s never too late to fight. And now is the time.

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