Progressives Rebuke Dem Leadership as Clyburn Dismisses Death of Roe as 'Anticlimactic'

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) speaks in Washington, D.C. on March 11, 2021. (Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images)

Progressives Rebuke Dem Leadership as Clyburn Dismisses Death of Roe as 'Anticlimactic'

"The gap between the Democratic leadership, and younger progressives on the question of 'How Bad Is It?' is just enormous."

Progressives on Friday rebuked Democratic Party leadership for showing a lack of urgency over the end of abortion rights in the country, a failure epitomized by U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn who dismissed the U.S. Supreme Court's historic reversal of Roe v. Wade as an "anticlimactic" development.

Even abortion rights supporter took immediately to the streets in anger and protest, the powerful South Carolina Democrat told USA Today reporter Dylan Wells that "we all expected this" and said he was considering "the extent to which we can move legislatively to respond to it."

"The gap between the Democratic leadership, and younger progressives on the question of 'How Bad Is It?' is just enormous," said MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes.

Clyburn and other Democratic leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) have garnered outrage from abortion rights supporters in recent weeks over their support for Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), an anti-choice, anti-gun control lawmaker who beat progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros by less than 300 votes this week in a primary runoff.

Democrats in Congress have attempted twice this year to protect abortion rights by passing the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), but right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) refused to back filibuster reform in order to pass the legislation.

Manchin said Friday that he was "alarmed" by the ruling and that he would support legislation codifying Roe into federal law, but said nothing about changing his opposition to filibuster changes that would make passage of such a law in the Senate possible.

Meanwhile, anger erupted in response to the Senate Judiciary Committee announcing plans to hold a hearing in July "to explore the grim reality of a post-Roe America"--a proposal abortion rights defenders suggested was almost meaningless.

The Nation columnist Jeet Heer contrasted the tone of the Democratic establishment's response to that of progressives in Congress, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who offered guidance to her supporters on Instagram Thursday night, hours before the Supreme Court was set to release its latest rulings.

The "big Democratic divide isn't between left and right so much as 'the most important thing is to fight' versus 'most important thing is to preserve the system,'" said Heer.

Journalist Josie Duffy Rice also contrasted Clyburn's response with that of some figures on the right, who vowed on Friday to continue fighting to end all abortion in the U.S. after winning a victory conservatives have spent decades fighting for.

Former Vice President Mike Pence called for a nationwide abortion ban after the ruling was handed down, while Focus on the Family founder James Dobson warned his supporters, "The battle is not over."

"The right just won this battle and has more energy and urgency than most of the [Democrats in] Congress right now," said Rice.

In an address Friday afternoon, President Joe Biden outlined some steps his administration will take to protect women who seek abortion care.

Biden said his administration will defend people's "bedrock right" to travel to another state to get abortion care and "will also protect a woman's access to medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration" including contraceptive pills and pills used for medication abortions.

"Today, I'm directing the Department of Health and Human Services to take steps to ensure that these critical medications are available to the fullest extent possible and that politicians cannot interfere in the decisions that should be made between a woman and her doctor," said the president.

Beyond those steps, however, the president said he will take "no executive action" to protect abortion rights and that Congress must pass legislation to do so.

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