Reproductive rights advocates are condemning the Democratic Party's decision to offer campaign funds to 2018 House of Representatives candidates who oppose abortion rights.
Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) confirmed the party's position to The Hill on Monday. He emphasized that the party needs to recruit "a broad coalition" to pick up 24 seats, which would allow Democrats to regain a majority in the House.
"As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America," said Rep. Luján, chairman of the party's House campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
Word of the DCCC's willingness to support anti-choice candidates comes a week after Democrats released their new policy platform, "A Better Deal," which primarily focuses on economic issues. As The Hill noted, "abortion rights were notably absent from the party's new policy push announced last week, meant to unify the party around an agenda outside of opposition to Trump."
"Women's issues are being positioned as a vulnerability of today's Democratic Party, rather than part of its core."
—Destiny Lopez, All* Above All Action Fund
However, many were quick to point out that this decision will likely isolate female voters. NARAL Pro-Choice America's national campaign director, Mitchell Stille, called it "bad politics that will lead to worse policy," and said, "the idea that jettisoning this issue wins elections for Democrats is folly contradicted by all available data."
Reproductive rights advocates also stressed that access to family planning healthcare is both an economic and racial justice issue, while condemning the party's decision.
Destiny Lopez, co-director of the All* Above All Action Fund, told Elle:
It's short-sighted and dangerous to pave the path to victory in 2018 at the expense of women. Let's not forget that the widely-lauded Democratic platform in 2016 clearly opposed not just restrictions on legal abortion—it also opposed the Hyde Amendment which bans abortion coverage. We urge the party to put its weight behind candidates who will stand with women.
Women's issues are being positioned as a vulnerability of today's Democratic Party, rather than part of its core....This flirtation with abandoning support for abortion rights, where women's health, racial justice, and family economics intersect, is deeply troubling, especially from those who profess a commitment to economic justice. Support for women's health and rights is inseparable from economic and racial justice.
Leila McDowell of EMILY's List, a political action committee that aims to help elect pro-choice Democratic female candidates, said:
At the core of the Democratic Party is our commitment to a better economic future for the working people of our country. Reproductive choice is fundamental to our platform. One of the most important financial decisions a woman makes is when and how to start a family. It's also why we recruit pro-choice Democratic women and work tirelessly to elect them—because they stand up for that critical choice.
Rep. Luján's admission that the DCCC will embrace anti-choice candidates for the 2018 midterm elections was strongly condemned on social media:
Rep. Luján's comments also contradict a statement from Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez, who said in April:
At a time when women's rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country, we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice....Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.
Perez's statement was provoked by criticism of the Democratic Party's support for Heath Mello, a Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha who has a long history of sponsoring anti-choice legislation in the Nebraska legislature.