Reproductive justice activists on Wednesday launched a social media campaign to tell their stories of working for abortion rights after Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz told New York Times Magazine that women who came of age after Roe v. Wade had become 'complacent.'
"Here's what I see: a complacency among the generation of young women whose entire lives have been lived after Roe v. Wade was decided," Wasserman Schultz told Times journalist Ana Marie Cox, who also asked her if she saw a generational divide among women over Hillary Clinton's presidential aspirations.
As Vox put it, "the subtext seems to be that she thinks young women are both less supportive of Clinton and less politically engaged—and that this lack of political engagement is partly because young women haven't had to mobilize to fight for abortion rights."
But as Twitter users made clear on Wednesday, they have. Under the hashtag #DearDebbie, young activists shared images and experiences of organizing rallies, raising funds, working in clinics, volunteering as patient escorts, and other ways they have been involved in the reproductive rights movement since the legalization of abortion in 1973.
#DearDebbie, young people don't deserve to have their work for abortion access and reproductive justice erased and ignored.— Erin Matson (@erintothemax) January 6, 2016
Let's be real. If anyone is too complacent about abortion it's Democratic leadership. They use us for electoral votes and then "compromise."— Erin Matson (@erintothemax) January 6, 2016
Wasserman Schultz walked back her comments later in the day, releasing a statement that read in part:
We need women of every generation—mine included—to stand up and speak out, and that is the main message I sought to convey in that interview. For many in my generation who lived the majority of our lives with the right to make our own health care choices, there wasn’t a sense of urgency after Roe v. Wade settled our right to a safe and legal abortion. Since then, opponents worked aggressively to chip away at women’s reproductive freedom and they have awakened a sleeping giant in the millennials leading the fight in defense of the progress we’ve made.
The backlash comes amid tense criticism of the DNC from progressives who say the committee may be favoring the Clinton campiagn and attempting to sabotage Bernie Sanders' presidential run. Under Wasserman Schultz's direction, the DNC in December suspended the Sanders campaign's access to a crucial voter database after a software glitch allowed one of his staffers to see data compiled by Clinton's team.
Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver at the time called the decision an "inappropriate overreaction" that shows "the leadership of the DNC is now actively attempting to undermine our campaign."
Some supporters responded by launching a MoveOn petition to remove Wasserman Schultz as DNC chair.
On Tuesday, The Nation published an article entitled "Why This Socialist Feminist Is Not Voting for Hillary", outlining Clinton's and Sanders' divergent positions on redistribution of wealth and the impacts each platform could have for women. Contributing editor Liza Featherstone wrote:
[Clinton] has said that abortion should be safe, legal, and “rare”—a qualifier that contributes to the stigma against the procedure. Last summer, during the right-wing attacks on Planned Parenthood that would later inspire a deadly shooting at a Colorado Springs clinic, Clinton tried to split the difference, saying one week that she found the videos about Planned Parenthood’s supposed practices “disturbing,” and the following week clarifying that she supported the organization—a bold stance from someone who once said that “women’s rights are human rights.”
Sanders, on the other hand,
has spent his life fighting, consistently and without apology, for social-democratic policies that would improve the lives of a majority of American women. In contrast to Clinton’s devotion to imposing shame and austerity on poor women and their kids, Sanders helped lead the Senate opposition to Republican efforts to cut the WIC program, which provides nutrition assistance for mothers, babies, and pregnant women—and he has said that, as president, he would expand it.
[....] In contrast to Clinton’s waffling on Planned Parenthood, Sanders has said that he would increase federal funding to the organization; and as part of his single-payer plan, he would expand support for women’s reproductive-health services.
The backlash comes amid a growing political battle over women's rights. As Common Dreams has previously reported, "extreme hostility" toward abortion access was pervasive throughout 2015—from efforts to defund Planned Parenthood to the scores of new state-level laws and bills that restrict women's access to reproductive health services.
Despite those measures, public support for abortion is at its highest point in two years, with a recent survey showing that nearly 60 percent of Americans believe it should be legal in "most or all" cases.