A woman’s right to reproductive autonomy is under threat in the United States. On May 7, Georgia passed a “fetal heartbeat” law which effectively bans all abortion, as reported by Vox. The bill criminalizes doctors performing abortions after a so-called fetal heartbeat is detected, which is usually around six weeks into the pregnancy. On May 15, Alabama lawmakers passed a bill of their own which outlawed abortion in virtually every case, reported at the time by BBC News. The 35 member state senate passed the bill without the support of a single one of its four female senators. These are some of the most extreme and ill-informed abortion bills post-Roe v. Wade America has seen; doctors agree there is no heartbeat so early into a pregnancy, and neither bill makes exceptions for the case of rape or incest.
The volume of extreme anti-abortion legislation, which plays a crucial role in Republican party strategy, has flourished in the age of President Donald Trump. Each is expected to be struck down in the lower courts, but at least one is likely to come before the Supreme Court, where the president has promised to leverage the conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. As devastating as a rollback on abortion rights would be, this move highlights the successes of the Republicans, the failure of the Democrats, and how we should move forward in the future. So how did we get here?
When Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2016, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to fulfill their constitutional duty to offer advice and confirm the nomination, stating that they would fill the vacancy under the leadership of the next president. This is the type of move Democrats would never consider, but it serves as a perfect example of increasing Republican obstructionism and brinkmanship.
Democrats of past and present have also failed to fight for abortion when it wasn’t in the headlines. For example, in 1976, the overwhelmingly Democratic Senate passed the Hyde Amendment, which, as reported by National Public Radio, banned federal dollars from funding abortions, making it difficult for low income women to receive them. This bill is still in effect today and had the support of 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden until he received criticism for it last week. Biden’s flip on the issue is indicative of a greater problem with his candidacy: he has no clear principles save for a belief in polite “business as usual” decorum. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Commitee (DCCC) has also decided to undermine challengers to Democratic seats across the board, even when it means defending anti-abortion Democrat Dan Lipinksi.
The abortion crisis then serves as a microcosm for overall Democratic failure. If we want to protect our freedoms, fight rising fascism and combat inequality, “compromise” is no longer good enough. For Democrats, compromise usually means doing what Republicans want. Instead, we should seek to destroy them, as they have us. We also need to reject the leadership of individuals who lack vision or fighting spirit. Compare Biden’s halfhearted endorsement of female autonomy to the passion of Elizabeth Warren’s. Compare Obama and Pelosi’s struggle to pass the Affordable Care Act, a Republican proposal from the 80s implemented by Mitt Romney of all people, to Bernie Sanders’ promise to twist arms to ensure universal democratic support for Medicare for All. To course correct this country, we need to fight the Republicans, and our own party as well.