More than a dozen national groups came together to propose a pro-choice progressive platform for the Democratic Party, in response to the party's willingness to provide campaign funding to congressional candidates who do not support abortion rights.
"Democrats will fail to retake power in 2018 if we allow ourselves to be forced into a false choice between a populist progressive agenda and reproductive justice."
—Charles Chamberlain, Democracy for America
As Common Dreams reported earlier this week, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), who chairs the party's House campaign arm—the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)—confirmed the DCCC will not withhold funds from anti-choice candidates for the 2018 election.
Rep. Luján said the Democrats need to attract "a broad coalition" to regain a majority in the House, adding: "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."
Reproductive rights advocates criticized Rep. Luján's comments and warned that if the party follows through on its plan to support anti-choice candidates in the upcoming midterm election, it could cost Democrats seats in Congress.
"Democrats will fail to retake power in 2018 if we allow ourselves to be forced into a false choice between a populist progressive agenda and reproductive justice," said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America (DFA).
DFA and NARAL Pro-Choice for America led the development of the "Statement of Principles" (pdf) as an official condemnation of the Democrats' campaign funding plans. They brought together groups that supported Sec. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders in last year's presidential primary to establish a list of priniciples they collectively support "as progressives."
"We cannot have a real conversation about economic security that does not include the ability to decide if, when, and how to raise a family," the statement says. The groups also assert:
- Women's autonomy over their own bodies is not a "social issue." It is "a human right" that's necessary for establishing and sustaining economic security.
- Over the past decade there have been notable attacks on access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion and contraception.
- Oppressive policies that limit access to family planning disproportionately impact low-income women and women of color.
- "The current economic system is exceptionally punishing of mothers, single mothers, and mothers of color," whose incomes and employment opportunities often suffer because of motherhood.
- "21st century economic populism must include an understanding of how race and gender affect our economic reality and our economic opportunity."
- If Democrats "vote to restrict abortion access or contraception access, they then undercut the party platform and they undercut the welfare of women."
- If a candidate has previously supported anti-choice legislation, but their position on reproductive rights has evolved, they must prove that evolution through future votes and public statements.
- "To organize, mobilize, and win elections we must field candidates who understand the integral nature of these core values." These candidates must be capable of rallying support from the party's collective base.
Reproductive rights advocates have increasingly argued that access to family planning healthcare is both an economic and racial justice issue. As Destiny Lopez of All* Above All Action Fund told Elle after Rep. Luján's statements on Monday: "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."
Those who crafted the statement emphasized the economic argument for providing women with family planning services, and worried about the party's fate if it endorses anti-choice congressional candidates.
"The Democratic Party cannot and will not win if it turns its back on women and our fundamental rights."
—Ilyse Hogue, NARAL Pro-Choice America
"Abortion rights are inextricably tied to the fight against economic and racial inequity, full stop, and until all leaders of our party fully understand that we're going to keep losing," said Chamberlain.
"The Democratic Party cannot and will not win if it turns its back on women and our fundamental rights," said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
NARAL and DFA partnered with 11 other leading organizations to develop the statement: MoveOn Political Action, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, EMILY's List, Working Families Party, Ultraviolet, Daily Kos, Demos, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Indivisible Project, American Federation of Teachers, and Social Security Works.