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Friday Femorandum: Reproductive Rights are an Economic Justice Issue

NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsed Hillary Clinton for President, arguing—contentiously, in many quarters—that Bernie Sanders’ “better-economic-policy-lifts-all-boats” brand of progressivism ignored and sidelined issues like abortion rights and access to reproductive health care, as well as economic policies specifically aimed at reducing the inequities that keep women trapped in low-paying jobs in the first place. Gender issues are not “social” issues or mere “identity politics,” NARAL said—rather, they are inextricable: You can’t have an economically just society in which women are systematically deprived of human rights.

 cat love 90s fashion tumblr GIFSanders disagreed, arguing consistently that his progressive taxation and economic policies would be good for everyone, including racial minorities and women, even in the absence of specific policies to address racism, sexism, and reproductive coercion. This week, he demonstrated precisely where that sort of thinking leads, endorsing an openly anti-choice mayoral candidate in Omaha, Nebraska, Heath Mello, who supported legislation that would have forced women to undergo an invasive ultrasound procedure and look at the image of the fetus before they could obtain an abortion. The Atlantic reports that Mello has said he won’t do anything to restrict reproductive rights as mayor, which is an obvious cop-out—mayors have limited power to restrict abortion rights or funding for reproductive health care, which is legislated at the state level. But the real problem is a Democratic Party—and an ostensibly Democratic party leader, Sanders—that is willing to trade away women’s basic human rights for a “big tent” that accommodates people like Mello who support virulently anti-choice, anti-woman policies.

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Sanders’ endorsement of Mello came just days after he told MSNBC that he had no problem supporting Democrats who are “not rigidly pro-choice,” reasoning once again that better economic policy is good for everyone (and should be good enough for women). But as Rewire points out, access to abortion is an economic justice issue—particularly for black and Latina women:

Studies show that poor women have significantly higher rates of unintended pregnancy, which in turn leads to a higher rate of unintended births. Nearly 70 percent of women who obtain abortions have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line (roughly $48,000 income annually or less for a family of four). One of the top reasons women choose to have abortions is because they are unable to take on the expense of having a child. Many already have families and can’t afford to add another child. And the majority of those seeking abortions are women of color, mostly Black and Latina.

Meanwhile, Sanders and the DNC haven’t made much of the fact that the Republican candidate in another important race for Democrats, Georgia’s 6th District Congressional runoff, Karen Handel, has a long “obsession,” in Mother Jones‘ words, with defunding Planned Parenthood—so much so that she was reportedly the driving force behind the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision, in 2011, to cancel hundreds of thousands of dollars of grants to the group under Handel’s leadership. In her unsuccessful previous races for governor of the state, Handel praised “crisis fake pregnancy centers”—fake clinics that lie to women to coerce them into bringing pregnancies to term—and she wrote a book called Planned Bullyhood, in which she characterized Planned Parenthood as “a bunch of schoolyard thugs.” katie couric GIF

The Democrat in the race, Jon Ossoff, came close to winning outright in the primary but faces a tough runoff in the heavily Republican district.

This weekend, activists in cities around the country will be participating in the March for Science, a demonstration that organizers have described as “the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.” Rewire points out the many ways in which the March for Science is also a march for reproductive health, rights, and justice. Legislators around the country have passed scores of anti-choice laws based not in science but in ideology, including laws that force doctors to make false scientific claims about the risks of abortions. Targeted Restriction of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws have forced the closure of abortion clinics across the country based on false claims that the restrictions protect women’s health. And increasingly, federal and state health care dollars are being spent promoting fake crisis pregnancy centers, which use false claims and fake science to manipulate women into continuing pregnancies.
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“Whether you are focused on preserving the right to choose abortion, are an advocate for the rights and dignity of women in childbirth, are fighting inappropriate, family-destroying child welfare interventions, or are just committed to the civil and human rights of pregnant persons,” Rewire writes, “we hope to see you at a March for Science.” For local events in your city, check out the March for Science website.
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