Legal Abortion Is a Legitimate Campaign Issue
In the summer of 2008, I was shocked to discover that abortion rights was not a top issue for left-leaning people I knew who participated in an informal poll about what issues matter to them. My 100% anecdotal evidence was derived from a writing class in which I was enrolled. Comprised of 12 individuals - nine of whom were women, and 11 of whom were admitted liberals/progressives - we went around the room and named our top three issues in this election. Only one person said reproductive rights. Yes, that person was me.
Given the obstacles that many people must overcome to obtain and/or provide abortions, reproductive rights are always in my top three issues when I evaluate a candidate. In the past, I've explained that I usually find that candidates who are pro-choice tend to support a ranges of other issues that are important to me, such as the environment, fixing our social safety net by ending tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and expanding health care coverage. Thus I assume that other progressive women are like me, and they prioritize reproductive rights as an election issue. This year I might be on to something.
An article in the New York Times reports that Democrats are making legal abortion a big issue this year. Their opponents claim that attention to their anti-choice platforms (abortion should not even be available in the case of rape or incest) is a distraction from “real issues” (my quote marks, since I think self-autonomy is a real issue) and “simply an attempt to change the subject” (real quote from Ken Buck, the Republican candidate for Senate in Colorado. Buck continues, “The No. 1 issues are jobs and the economy.”
Right. Because having the ability to decide whether to bring a child to term has nothing to do with jobs or the economy. Obviously, pregnant women never develop complications that prevent them from working and supporting themselves or their families. Plus, high quality child care is affordable and available to all women who want it. Further, the jobs that are “created” by Republican “plans” pay well enough to raise tons of children well above the poverty line.
If only that were the case. It turns out that 1 in 5 women in the US are placed on bed rest at some point during their pregnancies, report Amie Newman at RH Reality Check. She asks some crucial questions:
How do pregnant women ordered on bed rest pay their bills if they can no longer work? For low-wage workers, living paycheck to paycheck, is bed rest even possible? Does family leave cover bed rest? If a woman has saved up vacation or sick days but uses them up during her period of bed rest, does she have any way to take leave post-birth and still have the guarantee of a comparable job to which to return afterwards? Are there other coverage options available?
The answers all indicate that pregnant women are pretty much financially screwed. So yes, abortion is 100% about jobs, economics, and the economy.
If a woman did decide to bring a pregnancy to term and needed to work to support the child, she’s also probably out of luck on finding high quality affordable child care, particularly if she is a low-income worker. The Mama Bee weighed in on the child care conundrum:
While caregivers in general make very little money and are often without benefits, childcare costs represent a large piece of family budgets. The National Association of Childcare Resource and Referral Agencies estimates that care represents roughly 15% of family budgets; they point out that infant care costs more in 43 states than tuition at a public college...
The irony of daycare is that, while it’s a cheaper and better solution for working families, it also is virtually inaccessible for large numbers of those same families. First, there just aren’t enough high-quality center-based programs, particularly for children under a year old. Second, most centers have set hours that may or may not match parents’ working hours. If a center runs from 8:00am to 5:30pm, for example, but a parent has to commute, it’s almost impossible (not to mention incredibly stressful) for that parent to be a pick-up on time.
Yep. Again, a woman’s legal right to decide when and if she carries a pregnancy to term is about the very issues that Buck and his colleagues deem important - jobs and the economy. I noticed that these candidates are not running to support welfare benefits or child care subsidies, though. (Nor affordable housing or a national health insurance plan that would help kids.)
Maybe, however, Republican policies will create such great jobs opportunities and fix the economy so that everyone can afford everything their children need? Unfortunately, the reality is that the result of Republican control for the last eight years is that child poverty is climbing, climbing, climbing. As Bridget Magnus from ShortWoman noted in September,
This week we learned that the poverty rate rose to a 15 year high, with a 51 year high in the number of people actually living in poverty, 3,800,000 more than last year, including just under 1 in every 5 children who contrary to what some people think have no control over their circumstances.
Much of this is due to the losses of jobs that Buck laments. However, the Republicans’ Contract On America (that's what I call it because it is a hit on most people) proposes policies that would cause the US to lose more jobs, so I’m not sure how this will help.
At any rate, it is obvious that the need for safe, legal abortion is linked closely to jobs and the economy, so if one thinks that those two issues are the number one issues, then abortion access is also a number one issue. Even if abortion had nothing to do with jobs and the economy, I doubt a woman who became pregnant through rape views her situation as a “distraction” to more important ones.