I recognize the incredible work of Elizabeth Warren and the role she has played in really pushing on student loans, debt and financial security. She is smart, inspiring and just plain amazing most of the time. But I am tired of so-called pro-choice champions and progressive leaders getting a pass on abortion.
When Senator Warren gives an impassioned speech about the key issues of our day, but does not specifically mention abortion it matters. We know that one in three women in the United States will seek an abortion over the course of their reproductive lives and yet people think they don’t know anyone. Well when even someone with the power and platform that Warren (or the President or too many decision makers) has will not talk about abortion, what do we expect?
When we have huge progressive conferences and meetings and speeches where every other issue is loudly, repeatedly called out with fervor and commitment, but abortion is either completely ignored or hidden away on one token panel, what is the impact?
When our so-called leaders are afraid to talk about abortion – to really talk about it, not fall into the epidemic of euphemisms where we talk around it or when advocates are so busy talking about women’s health that they never explicitly say the word “abortion”, what are we doing?
We are perpetuating abortion stigma. We are allowing abortion to be a dirty secret, a word that is not to be spoken in polite conversation. It is something politicians should run from. This has a HUGE impact on how people who have sought care feel about themselves and whether they think they can tell their stories or seek support. It also contributes to a political climate where the myriad of restrictions that are being advanced are sort of allowed to happen. There is almost a “get out of jail” free card as long as you stand up for contraception or speak out on pay equity to show you care about the ladies.
We are tacitly supporting the idea that abortion is a fringe issue. This makes it hard to hold politicians accountable or even the people in our lives. It makes it difficult to push back on things like “abortion should be legal, but I don’t want my tax dollars to pay for it” or “why do women wait so long to get an abortion and need to get it after 20 weeks”. We are not expecting enough from people or from ourselves. We are not doing our due diligence to advance the conversation, introduce values and nuance and build a stronger movement when we avoid having the tough conversations….or any conversation about abortion in public spaces.
You can’t (or shouldn’t, since Elizabeth Warren did) talk about “a fight over economics, a fight over privilege, a fight over power” and talk about values and ignore a HUGE issue that fits into that frame and that must be addressed to be a candidate that is truly helping to support and meet the needs of women in this country.
When it comes down to it, when someone calls themselves “progressive”, especially in a way that is meant to distance or separate themselves from another potential candidate and does not utter the word abortion or really take on reproductive health, rights and justice then I have to question just how progressive they really are and if they will really be there to stand up for abortion access when it gets hard.
Elizabeth Warren’s own website says,” At a time when a minority in this country wants to cut off such access for women, it is important to speak out to protect a woman’s right to make decisions about her body.” I agree, so let’s make sure we don’t just speak out when it is easy to do so.