Thursday, April 27, 2017

Women's Choice Is Not A Cultural Issue Democrats Are Allowed To Compromise Away


The less bad anti-Choice candidate in Omaha?

Activist Jodi Jacobson, founder of Rewire, was one of the people who rang the alarm bell on many elements within the Democratic Party for seemingly giving anti-Choicers a wink and a nod recently. There's a lot of misinformation floating around about the Democratic candidate for Omaha mayor, Heath Mello, and the circumstances of the hubbub around his relationship to the party. Yesterday Jodi endeavored to straighten it out and make it all clear and understandably. Let me just reiterate what I've already said: Blue America doesn't endorse anti-Choice candidates and we didn't endorse Mello. "Mayoral candidates also don’t normally draw national headlines," wrote Jodi, "but Mello did, because the endorsements also shed a glaring light on his past anti-choice record. Although he is running as a Democrat and lauded for progressive positions on numerous issues, as a Nebraska state senator, Mello co-sponsored and helped pass some of the worst state-level restrictions on abortion care in the country."
Those laws remain in place, and Mello has neither denounced them nor made clear whether he now understands why they are so damaging. His elevation to a national stage has opened old and new wounds, once again raising the issue of whether the Democratic Party, and progressives writ large, truly understands the intrinsic connections between the most fundamental rights of women and the ostensible goals of a progressive agenda. It underscores the persistent but erroneous idea that abortion rights are just a “cultural issue” that can be subject to “beliefs,” rather than facts, medical evidence, and public health goals. It promotes the notion that you can restrict women’s rights and still be a progressive. It has also posed the question of whether the future leaders of the party will not only protect, but promote women’s health and rights by taking responsibility for repealing existing barriers, some of which they themselves have put in place. The initial answer to the last question seems to be no.

...Criticisms of the party’s embrace of Mello by leaders such as NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue led to a cycle of mansplaining (“You’re blocking our agenda with your wedge issues!”), misinformation (“Mello’s record isn’t that bad!”), and defensiveness (“But Bernie is pro-choice!”). And Democratic Party leaders demonstrated that after all this time, they can’t seem to grasp that there is no justice without reproductive justice; that women can’t enjoy full citizenship if they can’t decide whether, when, and with whom to have children; that access to abortion is a public health imperative; and that childbearing and childrearing are fundamentally economic activities no matter what tent you are pitching or where you pitch it.

When women’s rights leaders protested, party leaders very quickly trotted out the most common Democratic Party shibboleths-- with the least basis in fact-- to quell the firestorm. Women were schooled about what it takes to win races in “red” states, never mind that time after time, poll after poll, ballot initiative after ballot initiative shows that no matter how they self-identify, voters in states controlled by right-wing legislatures do not desire to rob people of their fundamental rights and routinely vote against abortion restrictions when given the chance (take Colorado, Mississippi, or South Dakota for example). Never mind, either, that throughout the country women are literally running the resistance and fueling the resurgence of grassroots electoral power at the state level.

The first people to effectively tell women to sit down were Sanders and DNC chair Tom Perez-- both of whom should have known better and who later reversed course to publicly support reproductive rights, because, let’s face it, a great deal of PAC money and organizing power is involved. But some of the loudest pushback to women’s rights advocates came from other self-proclaimed progressives, such as D.D. Guttenplan at The Nation, who, though he is not known as an abortion rights expert, decided that we were all complaining too much and that, by the way, we had our facts wrong.

We do not.

Here are the facts.

Mello’s record on abortion rights is very bad. Full stop. As a state senator in 2010, for example, Mello co-sponsored a 20-week abortion ban, one of the first in the nation and the first to rely on the false claims of “fetal pain” cooked up by anti-choice groups to shop this kind of model legislation. In 2011, Mello voted for LB 22, which prohibited insurance coverage of abortion in the state by using a false claim that federal funds in state exchanges were being used to fund abortion. Before passage of the Affordable Care Act, the majority of women with private insurance were covered for abortion care. Thanks in large part to the machinations of former Democratic Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (for whom Mello previously worked) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, millions of women lost insurance coverage of abortion care as the states used Nelson’s amendment to justify eliminating it. Mello helped finish his one-time boss’ work.

In 2011, Mello also voted to effectively kill telemedicine abortion in Nebraska via LB 521, which required the physical presence of a doctor for any abortion. This is another tool in the arsenal of the anti-choice playbook to make abortion so difficult to access that patients are faced with forced pregnancy. Such legislation raises the costs of abortion (by requiring office visits and the presence of a doctor even when not necessary and even for a medication abortion), makes it harder for rural women to access abortion (because they have to travel to clinics, of which there are only three in that very large state), and, ironically, results in many abortions taking place later than they might otherwise. This would seem to defeat the purpose of the bills-- but then, the purpose really is to shame women.

In running for mayor, Mello has said he would “never do anything to restrict reproductive health care.”
We'll get back to Jody in a second. I just want to point out, though, that when I interviewed another fake progressive, anti-Choice Democrat, Tom Perriello in 2008, he used the exact same words to lie to me and manipulate me into recommending him for a Blue America endorsement. He took our donors' money, got elected, showed his true colors by running up a ProgressivePunch "F" and then breaking his specific pledge to "never do anything to restrict reproductive health care." He is now the "progressive" choice for the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia (against an even more conservative Democrat). Jodi handled that pledge from Mello by pointing out two problems: "As mayor, he will need to actively promote access to abortion care by enforcing the FACE Act, ensuring clinics are respected, and taking other steps. More to the point, however, he participated in the substantial and irreparable damage done to abortion rights in his state, and those votes can’t just be excused by votes for child care, Medicaid expansion, education, or other progressive goals. The reason is simple, and it bears repeating: Access to abortion is a public health imperative. It is a medical and individual health imperative. It is a fundamental human right, without which women can’t control their futures or fully participate in societies and communities. Denial of abortion care makes women poorer and less able to achieve their own goals. Access to abortion care improves maternal survival and health and increases infant and child survival."
This is not about “beliefs,” it’s about decades of medical and public health evidence and basic, profound questions of human rights. We’ve all become conditioned to treat abortion as some thing subject to religious dictates at the social level in ways that are not at all dissimilar and only matters of degree different from excuses used to promote female genital mutilation, child marriage, and the sequestering of women as “religious” dictates. We’ve come to treat lies and misinformation about abortion as somehow different than lies and misinformation about climate change. They are no different.

It is true that Mello is running against a Republican who is as bad on abortion rights and far worse on many other issues of concern. It is true that some in Omaha defend Mello based on his broader record and that they are the ones who vote for their representatives. But that does not obviate broader questions. Because it is simultaneously true that others in the state, and throughout the country, are in fact deeply and legitimately concerned about the failure of the party and various leaders to grapple openly and honestly with the implications of sidelining fundamental rights going forward. It is also true that Mello has not, at least publicly, actually come to grips with what his past record suggests and has not, at least publicly, disavowed his actions. Finally, it’s not enough to say that as mayor he won’t do any more bad things, because in a state in which there are three clinics and one-third of the population lives in rural areas, his past actions continue to affect people who need care.

This is not an abstract issue. Under the ACA and with the permission of Democratic leaders we have seen the greatest erosion in abortion rights in this country in over two decades, and that is not just a problem of Republicans. What is at stake here is the future of the party. What is at stake is whether the largely white, largely male-dominated Democratic Party actually means to promote and protect women’s rights from here on after. What is at stake is what it actually means to be “pro-life,” if you are willing to pass legislation that stigmatizes, criminalizes, and makes inaccessible essential reproductive health care.

The question, now, is not only whether Mello understands the damage he is done and is willing to advocate to undo it, but whether the DNC, DCCC, Sanders, and others understand it. The question is what Mello’s supporters will do to push him on these issues as he seeks higher office in the state, because he will. The question is whether the party and leaders like Sanders will dedicate themselves to addressing the harm done to women’s rights by being complicit with the corporate and religiously fundamentalist Republican Party at the national and at the state level under the guise of a so-called big tent that inevitably undermines women’s health and rights, gives cover to the Catholic Bishops and white males, but leaves more than half the population out in the cold.

It can no longer be OK to substitute anti-choice lies and “religious” beliefs for the fundamental rights and health of women. Moreover, anti-choice positions are not necessary to win elections, though that is the least of the issues right now. If the situation with Heath Mello shows anything, it is that this is a conversation that has only just begun.
If Democratic leaders start making it ok for the party's nominees for office to be anti-Choice, how long before it's OK to be anti-LGBT? Xenophobic? Racist? Anti-working family? A Climate Change denier? Where does it end? Really-- where? With the Democratic Party standing for nothing very solid at all other than the careers of the corrupt assholes in elected office? Is that what it's all about? It is for them. Oh, and one more thing, if Mello wins the mayor's race, isn't is better than the Republican winning? Sure-- except the Republican isn't going to wind up tarnishing the Democratic Party brand or one day becoming a Democratic congressman, senator or governor.

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At 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Choice is not an issue the democraTs would ever compromise away.

But the democraPs will betray anyone anytime it amuses their donors to do so.

Are we ready YET to abandon those assholes for good??? Or do we wait for them to give a pass to swastikas and white hoods too? The Mexico wall?

They've already crapped on peace, law, the Vienna torture accords, crime, "New Deal", "Great Society", equality...

Are we THERE yet?

At 1:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Newsflash - Read all about it: Democratic Party recruits/supports crap candidates*** and collapses as result !!!

My goodness. Who EVER would have thought?

*** And it consistently ignores, undermines and commits election fraud against its good candidates. The better, and,more crucial the success of said candidate to the nation's future, the more extreme the "influence" exerted.

John Puma

At 5:21 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Lesser of two evils again, with Mello. I am a believer in this, unfortunate as it is. The choice in the mayoral election is what it is. I hope he wins over that other horror. Mello should be pushed to put his promise in writing.

Way too many people did not vote for Hillary, whom I agree was not a good candidate, but now look at what we have. She would have been hugely better than Trump on so many fronts. She would have appointed much more qualified and experienced candidates to agencies, for one, and she was very good on social issues (including abortion) and the environment. She believes in science. And critically, SHE IS NOT INSANE. Let's hope the French see this gigantic contrast and vote against Le Pen - do another clothespin vote.

It would be important to view the facts on later stage abortions. How many abortions actually occur after 12, 16, 20 weeks and for what reasons? I suspect it is taken way out of context and distorted. A good blog topic!

At 7:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone, we disagree that $hillbillary would have been "hugely better".
And the fact that $he is not insane means that her betrayals (maybe even on choice) would have been more subtly done and therefore... you know... DONE.

The biggest advantage of drumpf is precisely that he and the Rs ARE insane in their lust to kill the old, poor, minorities etc. That insanity makes what they try to do easier to understand as the evil it is.

Obamanation and the democraps did a lot of evil in his 8 years, but how many truly believe that the man is evil?

See what I mean?

At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Women's Choice Is Not A Cultural Issue Democrats Are Allowed To Compromise Away

Let me suggest this title instead

Women's Choice Is Not A Human Rights Issue Democrats Are Allowed To Compromise Away

At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the merits. But the reaction of all those Democratic organizations was inconsistent with their reactions to Tim Kaine being chosen to run as VP. Likewise, the DNC is perfectly fine with Bob Casey, Joe Donnelly, Joe Manchin, Marcy Kaptur, Collin Peterson, Dan Lipinsky. There was no such outrage when Foster Campbell ran for Senate in LA. They are having the vapors over Mello because they hate Bernie Sanders and the attacks over this incident have primarily been aimed at him. susaniniowa

At 7:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me put some perspective on this.

While the Rs have been whittling away at choice for the past 30 years, where have the Ds been? What have they done to stop it or reverse it?

Nowhere and nothing, "respectively".

Sure, a lot of them still talk a good game... at times... but where the rubber hits the road, they vanish into the ether.

So, effectively, abortion services are not available in 90% of the usa. Either no docs are willing to get in the way of a bullet or they are "legally" prevented by local and state law or they have been defunded.

And ever since Roe, the approach SHOULD have been to make abortion archaic and never used BWO education and availability of contraception.

It's ridiculous to have surgery when one can take a pill or use a condom... or perform oral.

But evidently all gawds hate enlightened humans who do what humans do with simple precautions so as not to get pregnant. And as we all SHOULD realize, for the Rs to keep that issue to run for elections on, they NEED stupid people doing what stupid people do and NOT taking simple precautions... thus requiring a lot of abortions to remedy their stupidity.

See how this all works now?


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