Republicans Are Winning the Fight Against Abortion. Where the Hell Are the Democrats?

Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republican Texas House candidate David Lowe wants you to know that he isn’t a fan of the death penalty. But he’s willing to make an exception for women who receive abortions.

“Do we all agree that abortion is murder?” Lowe asked a crowd at a recent event. “There should be consequences for it.”

Lowe is speaking the love language of a toxically Trumpified GOP.

Extremist state lawmakers around the country no longer want to stop at banning abortion. In their twisted morality, a woman should be publicly shamed and hauled into court for even daring to exercise their constitutional right to get an abortion. If passed, nightmarish legislation would put these red states on par with repressive regimes like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

The fight for abortion rights is embedded deep in the Democratic Party’s DNA. At least, it should be.

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In practice, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single senior Democrat willing to talk about abortion on the record—or back calls to make abortion rights a major issue in the looming midterm elections. What the hell happened?

Listen, I understand the prevailing Beltway consulting wisdom. These bills will blow over. It’ll be challenged in court, make a stand then. And yes, It’s tempting to think that common sense and cooler heads will—must—prevail on an issue so fundamental as a woman’s freedom to exist. But that’s a fantasy in an America where Republicans command majorities in 30 states, and in 23 states the GOP holds entirely unified control of state government. Insulated from political challenges by gerrymandering and voter suppression, state Republicans have taken off their masks to introduce a horror show of anti-abortion legislation.

Just last year, Texas State Rep. Bryan Slaton introduced HB 3326, which would have allowed prosecutors to seek the death penalty for women who seek abortions. This year, red states’ Republican supermajorities are debating bills that restrict women’s freedom of movement, criminalize miscarriages, threaten doctors jail or women with execution, and ban abortion in open defiance of federal authority.

The same Republicans who shouted that electing Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (a Muslim immigrant from Somalia) would bring “Sharia Law” to America are now building their own radical fundamentalist state governments.

What you won’t see is President Joe Biden addressing this unprecedented assault on women’s rights with a major public address. After all, Biden has made it over a full year into his presidency without giving a single major speech about abortion. He even studiously avoided the word during his State of the Union address, giving an hourlong speech that spared only two sentences for the GOP’s national war on women.

“Democrats love to bargain away the lives of marginalized people in an effort to appeal to ‘real Americans,’ which is a big problem in terms of values but also in terms of electoral math,” Amelia Bonow, founding director of Shout Your Abortion, told The Daily Beast. “A quarter of us have had abortions. Abortion rights are supported by 70 percent of Americans, and there isn’t majority support to overturn Roe in a single state. When it happens anyway, Democrats who enabled this cataclysmic failure will pay with their careers.”

The common, dismissive response among centrist Democrats is that Biden is, You know, busy preventing World War III with Russia. That’s undeniably true, and America’s homegrown humanitarian crises may seem small compared to Biden’s responsibility to address the powder-keg situation in Ukraine.

But Biden also commands the massively powerful machinery of the executive branch, and his presidency should be judged on how effectively he wields that machinery to solve multiple pressing problems. That includes ramping up the Department of Justice to aggressively fight states that are knowingly, flagrantly violating women’s abortion rights—as with Missouri’s illegal push to strip Medicaid reimbursement from Planned Parenthood.

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What Biden and national Democrats must do is amplify the grassroots work of state Democratic parties.

Texas is in dire need of both Democratic National Committee support and a national platform that only Democrats in Washington can provide. The same goes for Missouri, where Republican lawmakers are debating a staggeringly repressive bill that would allow private citizens to haul women into court for traveling out of state to receive an abortion. Missouri’s proposal casts a wide net: the Uber driver who transported the woman across state lines could be sued, too, as could the friend who helped her make the appointment. The Taliban, who recently mandated that all Afghan women be “accompanied” by male chaperones, would be proud.

Just because Congress can’t enshrine abortion rights into federal law doesn’t mean their voices aren’t essential to curbing the democracy rot now spreading through red states. But can we expect Americans to view abortion rights as a crisis when our elected leaders don’t seem worried? For activists and the Democratic faithful in Idaho, which recently introduced an outright ban on abortion after just six weeks of pregnancy, national recognition of their fight would be both a much-needed morale boost and a gift to fundraising and organizing momentum.

The expanded GOP war on women is an imminent threat not only to abortion rights as defined in Roe, but to the broader privacy rights that made Roe possible. And with Republicans building repressive, authoritarian fortresses in states they control, a lack of Democratic urgency now will mean a more costly, more dangerous fight in 2024.

In an era of steadily advancing GOP lawlessness, Democrats can no longer afford to remain silent on abortion.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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