Friday Femorandum: Searching for the Great White Male

Pro-choice activists (rightly) have been keeping the furor over Independent socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders’ support for anti-choice Democrat Heath Mello alive, after Sanders and Democratic National Committee president Tom Perez effectively told women to sit down and shut up about abortion rights last week.

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Mello, a former Nebraska state legislator who’s running for mayor of Omaha, sponsored and helped pass some of the worst restrictions on abortion access in the country. Sanders (and, initially, Perez) argued that women who protested that a legislator who worked doggedly to pass a 20-week abortion ban as well as a law that not only mandates unnecessary and invasive ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, but directs women to fake clinics known as “crisis pregnancy centers” to get them, were just failing to see the big picture. Deriding women’s right to choose when, whether, and how to start or expand a family as “just one issue,” Sanders showed once again that where women’s rights are concerned, he believes in trickle-down justice—a theory that holds that progressive economic policy (for white, working-class men) will trickle down to benefit everyone, including women.

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It turned out that women, including NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, were tired of being told we have our facts wrong, or that we just don’t understand how politics works, or that we’re failing to see the “big picture” by focusing on “social issues” like abortion. As Rewire’s Jodi Jacobson wrote this week, what Democratic Party leaders (and Sanders) have failed to grasp is that “there is no justice without reproductive justice; that women can’t enjoy full citizenship if they can’t decide whether, when, and with whom to have children; that access to abortion is a public health imperative; and that childbearing and childrearing are fundamentally economic activities no matter what tent you are pitching or where you pitch it.”

Jacobson’s piece also lays out Mello’s long anti-choice record, including as a staffer to Ben Nelson, the Congressman whose amendment to the Affordable Care Act ended abortion coverage for millions of women, and is worth reading in its entirety to discover how thoroughly some Democrats and their erstwhile allies are willing to sell out women for the sake of electing anyone with a (D) beside their name.

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And, just for the heck of it, a few more quick hits explaining why reproductive freedom is an economic issue, and why economic progress isn’t possible without reproductive rights:

In Salon, Anna March argues that it’s time for Democrats to stop chasing “the great white male”: “There is no economic populism without abortion rights and civil rights. No one can have economic justice if he or she doesn’t have fundamental rights. Yet Sanders has made it plain that abortion rights are negotiable and brushes off “identity politics.”

In New York magazine, the great Rebecca Traister writes that Sanders’ and the party’s willingness to abandon women is a repeat of the exact same mistakes the Democrats have made in the past. “Women have heard this argument again and again, and we have remained the reliable base of a party that has elected and elevated to positions of greater power anti-choice Democrats including Harry Reid, Joe Biden, Tim Kaine, and Bob Casey. In fact, it’s hard not to feel that it’s because of the dedication of women, and particularly women of color, to the Democratic Party — where else are they going to go? — that party leaders feel freer to take them for granted and trade their fundamental rights in obsessive pursuit of the great white male. This is how Dems always imagine that they can make inroads in red states. It’s third-way centrist [b.s.].”

Bustle would like the Bernie Bros to explain how the socialist senator’s support for anti-choice candidates makes him progressive.

And ThinkProgress reiterates, with numbers, why reproductive rights are an economic issue.

Meanwhile, in the real world where women are actually harmed by policies that Bernie dismisses as “identity politics,” Donald Trump has appointed a nightmare anti-choice leader, former Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yoest, as assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. Talking Points Memo notes that not only has Yoest been a prominent leader in the movement against abortion rights, the New York Times reported in the past that she “personally opposed birth control and that she described IUDs as having ‘life-ending properties.’”

Saturday Night Live snl what saturday night live omg GIFIn a statement, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue warned that Yoest “has spoken at length about her desire to ban abortion in this country, and has spent her career working to abolish women’s most basic constitutional right to bodily autonomy. Her nomination should deeply concern the vast majority of Americans who believe abortion should be legal and accessible, and please anti-choice extremists who are committed to punishing women at every turn.” Yoest’s nomination does not require Congressional approval.


Yoest’s beliefs about birth control should be especially concerning to anyone who supports access to low-cost birth control for low-income women under Title X which Yoest’s new boss, HHS Secretary Tom Price (shudder) opposes. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 6 million women obtained birth control from publicly funded community health clinics in 2015; last month, Trump’s vice president Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking Senate vote for a bill that will allow states to deny funds to clinics, like those run by Planned Parenthood, that provide abortion services.


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