Rage Becomes Us: Reproductive Rights Must Be Prioritized

In 2015 Hillary Clinton made reproductive rights and women’s issues a central part of her presidential platform. She was the first national candidate to call for an end to the Hyde and Helms Amendments (the Hyde Amendment denies federal funds to pay for abortions and the Helms Amendment does the same for international aid). Hillary made multiple impassioned speeches about the importance of abortion as an economic and justice issue.

And in a debate with Trump, Hillary stood up to the destructive scientifically incorrect narratives about later in pregnancy abortions. Candidates like Bernie Sanders and Gov Ralph Northam are still tripping up on the correct answer to this question.

Those of us who were paying attention knew Roe v. Wade and reproductive rights were on the ballot in 2016. We had been watching as crisis pregnancy centers took over disseminating false information, and TRAP laws were passed across the country (TRAP laws are targeted abortion restrictions meant to close clinics and make abortion inaccessible). We begged and pleaded for people to prioritize reproductive rights in their 2016 vote. We were gaslit and dismissed and told Roe was safe because it was a SCOTUS precedent. We are accused of being hysterical and dramatic. Three years later, in the wake of “heartbeat bans” being passed across the country, our worst fears have been proven correct.

The recent abortion bans have pushed reproductive rights to the forefront of the 2020 presidential race. Many candidates are responding to the national crisis with strong policies that build on Hillary’s work in 2016. However one candidate in particular refuses to prioritize women’s bodily autonomy. Biden stands out as the only mainstream candidate who says he supports keeping the Hyde Amendment.

Biden’s history on reproductive rights has never been good. Not only did he consistently vote for the Hyde Amendment in the 70s and 80s, he was against adding a rape and incest exception to it (The rape an incest exception was added in 1993 from Bill Clinton). In 1974 Biden gave an interview where he said “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”

The one place Biden seems to have evolved is fulling supporting Roe and calling for it to be better protected in law. But he hasn’t promised to nominate pro-choice judges, he has affirmed his support for Hyde, and he has no mention of reproductive rights on his website. Biden also had the worst reaction to the recent extreme abortion bans. He only wrote one tweet that didn’t even mention the word abortion while most of the other candidates responded as if this was a national crisis and raised money for abortion funds.

If more people listened to those of us prioritizing reproductive rights in 2016 we might have avoided a Trump presidency. Like Hillary Clinton said reproductive rights are more than a woman’s issue, they’re an economic and justice issue (as well as necessary healthcare for women, nonbinary people, and trans men). Additionally compromising on abortion isn’t a winning issue politically. Polling shows that a democrat compromising on abortion doesn’t make republicans vote for them. 7 in 10 Americans support Roe and only 25% of people in Alabama support the restrictive fetal heartbeat bill. New polling shows that the prioritization of reproductive rights among Democrats has doubled in the last few weeks in response to the abortions bans.

Reproductive rights are becoming the issue of the 2020 primary and candidates ignore the anger of women* at their peril. Biden’s stance on Hyde and his continued jokes about inappropriate touching emphasize his disrespect for women. Ignore our anger at your own peril. We wont put our issues aside anymore.

*I have used the word women in terms of reproductive rights but gender inclusive language is also important. Nonbinary people and trans men also need reproductive healthcare.

*My title uses Soraya Chemaly’s title “Rage Becomes Her”

PhD in American legal history, freelance writer, political activist, follow me on twitter @QueenMab87

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