Monday, October 11, 2010

Talking About Reproductive Rights in a Recession


The New York Times recently reported that Democrats in tight races are starting to focus on abortion rights as a strategy for attracting base voters. All I can say is, it’s about time. Republicans have argued that the new emphasis on abortion rights is an effort to distract voters from jobs and the economy, claiming that Democrats know they can’t win on the issues that really matter.
It’s no secret that the economy is the number one issue for Americans this fall. However, Democrats have made a huge error in focusing so narrowly on job creation. Financial stability and job security permeate every aspect of American life. While it’s a relief to note that the Democratic establishment has finally remembered that it is pro-choice, even the campaigns that are talking about it are doing so in a vacuum – Republican strategists are likely not the only people thinking it’s a “desperate attempt made by desperate campaigns.” Instead, Democrats should be making the case for the connection between reproductive health and the economic crisis.
Reproductive health is not just about a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body, it’s also about her right to choose what happens to her life. Many women indicate that their financial stability greatly affects their decisions about when to have children. Considering how opposed so many Republicans are to “hand outs” like welfare, (also known as much-needed assistance to those in desperate need of aid), they are often irrationally unwilling to give poor women the tools they need to prevent unplanned births, including comprehensive sex education and funding for birth control.  Last year, half of all pregnancies in the United States were unplanned – approximately 3 million. For the more than 2 million women who have lost health insurance as a result of the recession, unplanned pregnancies pose even greater burdens on already strained finances.
This recession has hit everyone hard. But this economic crisis is not an independent issue, unrelated to women’s access to reproductive health.  The Democratic Party would do better to remind voters that these issues do not exist in isolation, but rather are directly related. Want to make a poor women’s life more difficult in these tough economic times?  Restrict her access to reproductive health. See how fast the economy recovers with hundreds of thousands of children whose parents can’t afford to take care of them or themselves.

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