Get Real! Pornography, Strip Clubs & Other Feminist Relationship Quandaries

Heather Corinna

Plenty of things that have been or still are considered "traditional," are or may be based in sexism or other kinds of inequality.

This article is published in partnership with Scarleteen.com.
sylviaplath asks:

I
could really use some help on this issue. I am a feminist, and pride
myself on being open-minded and trying to keep my insecurities in
check. I have been with my boyfriend for years, and we have lived
together for 2. Within the past few months I have been looking at his
computer and seeing that he watches pornography. While I do try to
understand why, I cannot help but feel hurt. It brings up issues I have
with my own body and makes me feel bad and inadequate. While I am
trying to come to grips with this, I have found out that his friend is
getting married and they are going on a trip. I know they will be going
to strip clubs, and this is making me crazy. He is not the type of guy
who would cheat on me or that would probably really enjoy this, but
then again I didn’t think he was the type to watch porn. I feel like I
have become more paranoid knowing about this porn-viewing and now I am
not able to see clearly this situation. My main question is, if he gets
a lap dance, this is considered cheating, right? It seems like this
male tradition that for some reason is okay, and it’s just this free
pass. Should I talk to him about it? Do I have a right to be upset? I
feel so anxious and like I’m losing my grip with him and with my own
feminism. Please help me.

Heather Corinna replies:

I
don’t think that how we feel emotionally is ever about a matter of
rights. We cannot control what we feel, after all: we can only control
how we process, hold, express and manage our feelings. You feel upset:
whether or not you or anyone else thinks you have a right to have those
feelings, there they are. We feel what we feel, and I certainly think
we are all entitled to the full range of our feelings.

What cheating is depends on what any given couple have negotiated
and agreed on in their relationship model. Not every relationship has
the same fence around it, and there is no unilateral definition of
monogamy. What one couple agrees must be exclusive isn’t the same as
what another does. Because every person and every partnership is
different, there is no one set of rules for all. What your rules are is
something you need to determine together. In some relationships, using
pornography or going to strip clubs would not be considered cheating:
in others, one or both would.

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As a fellow feminist, I don’t need to tell you that there are plenty
of things that have been or still are considered "traditional," to do
or think but which are or may be based in sexism or other kinds of
inequality. Because something has some kind of historical precedent
doesn’t mean that automatically makes it okay, that no one gets to have
a problem with it, or that no one can suggest that precedent is crap if
that’s how they — as an individual or as a group — feel about it. For
instance, the idea and practice that women should be who takes all the
responsibility or the lion’s share of child-rearing and housekeeping
is, effectively, a "tradition," but it’s one based in sexism. Feminists
quite unilaterally, as individuals and as a group, have voiced problems
with that tradition since feminism began.

I don’t know what other parts of your relationship may include
agreements one or both of you have just assumed, rather than earnestly
made together, but clearly one of the areas where you need to make some
clear agreements is with your agreements around sexual exclusivity and
monogamy.

You need to first figure out what you want and need when it comes to
the level of exclusivity of your relationship on your own: to do so
with a sense of what you want and need and also what you think
will be best for your relationship as a whole. If you strongly feel
that going to a strip club and/or being part of any services there is
both not okay with you and something you feel isn’t healthy for or
wanted by you in your relationship, and that is also not what you
consider monogamous (which sounds like how you feel about this), then
you put that on the table.

If what you feel on this (or any other issue) and need around it is
a hard limit, you say so. If it’s something you feel you can negotiate
around, then you say that. Then he gets to voice his feelings on the
matter, and you both consider each others’ ideas and feelings, then
work to find some agreement around both of your perspectives that
leaves you both feeling good and assures both your needs get met. The
same goes for his use of pornography. You get to decide if you are or
are not okay with a partnership where your partner uses pornography.
Whatever your objection to porn is based in, you get to have your own
objections, and you also get to choose partnerships which are in
alignment with your feelings. You have to also accept the other person
gets to do same: this isn’t about trying to change someone, after all,
unless that person already wanted to change, for themselves.

What that also means, though, is that you need to assert yourself
and put things like this on the table with potential partners, with as
much respect for your own preferences, ideas and wants as you have for
theirs. You being able to be who you are and want to be as an
individual has to be as important as you wanting to be in a
relationship. If and when a potential or current partner wants or does
things — be it porn or a lap dance, wanting or not wanting kids or
marriage — that you feel will or do not work for you, you need to
advocate for yourself from a position of wanting an equal and
well-suited partnership that best meets both your needs, rather than
from a position where one person’s needs or identity come first and the
other just has to suck it up. This obviously also means you have to be
prepared to negotiate or to potentially walk away from relationships
that don’t fit your wants and needs where the other person feels they
can’t or don’t want to negotiate to try and seek out a compromise that
works for both of you.

My suggestion for a good start with these issues in your current
relationship is to take out paper and pen and make three columns: one
for what your ideals are and what you really want, one for what isn’t
ideal for you, but you’d be okay with or could adapt to and a third for
total dealbreakers. For example, in addressing sexual exclusivity, I
may ideally want a primary romantic relationship where for right now,
we’re exclusive for any kind of genital sex (which I’d frame lap dances
as), but where that agreement is understood as something either of us
can revisit and potentially revise at any time. Let’s say it’s not my
ideal, but I could be okay with walking into a negotiated, honest open
relationship so long as certain rules are in place and any other
partners or situations are okayed first by myself or my partner. Let’s
make my dealbreaker someone who wanted to go outside the relationship
for genital sex with other partners without negotiating that with me,
or who planned to do whatever they wanted regardless of my feelings.

I’d make that list as involved as you can, encompassing as many
issues as possible. You also may find it’s a good relationship exercise
to have both of you make these lists then compare them.

When you’re done, take a look at your lists and evaluate how your
current relationship looks in that context. If it’s in alignment with a
whole lot of the first column and some of the second, with little to
none in the third, then you’re probably looking at a relationship which
fits you pretty well overall. You can then take any issues in your
second or third column that are a factor and discuss them with this
partner, working together to try and create agreements that feel good
to both of you. I know that sometimes that’s intimidating: if we really
want to be in a given relationship — or are afraid of being without
one — it can seem safer not to set hard limits and advocate for
oneself, and instead put your energy into trying to live with things
you really don’t want to. And while avoiding hard issues or potential
disagreements may well keep a relationship from ending, it won’t
nurture a particularly happy or healthy one.

You also just don’t always know how a partner really feels about
things until you really talk them out. It may be that he feels
differently about things in your dealbreaker column than you’re
currently presuming he does. You may think something is in his ideal,
column, for instance, that’s actually in the middle one; that’s
something he really could live with or without more easily than you’d
think. Some partners who use pornography, for instance, do so more out
of rote habit than anything else, and if they felt it was hurting a
partner or a love relationship, would be totally down with trying life
without it. Some men who might only go to a strip club with other men
to keep the peace or not have their masculinity put into question may
feel more emboldened to opt out or state an objection to it with a
partner’s support. You just never know.

While any of us, at any age, may have strong wants, needs and
dealbreakers we know about in advance, more often how we get to know
what all of these are for us is something that’s part of our
development, and which we discover over time. As you gain life and
relationship experience, you’ll have a better sense of what your wants
and needs, limits and boundaries are before you even start a new
relationship. Few people come to romantic or sexual relationships
knowing exactly what they want and need right at the gate: most of us
learn a lot of this as we go. Few people also first come to
relationships with anyone having explained to them that the "rules" of
any given relationship are something you make together, not something
writ in stone for all people. There is no one set of rules, no one
relationship model: what there is is what we make, be it with or
without awareness and conscious choice, but I’d encourage you to go for
the former rather than the latter.

It’s obviously a lot easier to negotiate terms of a relationship
when you start doing so right at the gate, and then simply adjust and
adapt them as need be. Even if you two have never really talked about
what your agreement to monogamy means, though, as people in a long-term
partnership who also cohabitate, you’ve probably negotiated at least
some things together, like the sex you have (or don’t) or how you split
household responsibilities and finances. Bring whatever skills you have
developed from those kinds of negotiations to this one.

It may be that your long-term partner is not in agreement with you
on these matters. You may find yourselves at an impasse, where to
continue the relationship as it is, one or both of you would need to do
or tolerate something you don’t really want to. Suffice it to say, if
you’re looking at that list you made and discovering that when it comes
to a relationship, you have very little that’s in that first column,
and most of what’s in your second and third, you probably want to
re-evaluate staying in this relationship, period. The best advice I can
give you is that it’s important in a relationship that everyone
involved is able to have a complete sense of self, to be who they are
and to never feel they need to compromise who their best self is in or
for a relationship. What our interpersonal relationships should be made
of is exactly who both of us are at our best together, with both of our
whole selves intact, loved and respected.

If you ever find a relationship asks you or your partner to
compromise your or their values or ethics, or asks you to be someone
other than who you really are, you’ll want to deeply consider if that
really is a good relationship to stick with and stay in. Because if it
does, it really is best to move on, seeking out partnerships that don’t
require that of either person; partnerships where on the things you
both feel strongest about, there’s a pretty easy accord and alignment.

One thing I want to be sure to mention is that a lot of women have
the idea that if they are going to be sexually or romantically involved
with men, they have to just accept that all men use pornography, or
will go to strip clubs, or will be sexual with others outside a
relationship, even if they’re not okay with those things. Know that
that isn’t true. Yes, many men purchase or use pornography, and many
frequent strip clubs. But there are also men who don’t do either. Some
don’t because they have no interest in those things. Some don’t because
a partner has expressed they find it hurtful or unhealthy in the
relationship, and they feel their partner and their relationship are
more important to them than porn, lap dances or falling in line with
other men. And some don’t even with partners who would be okay
with those things, expressly because those men feel those things are
sexist and/or not in alignment with their values.

I hope you know there isn’t any one feminism: we all have our own
feminisms and they vary widely. I’d certainly question if anyone really
was feminist who wasn’t on board with the goal of equity and equality
for all genders, and equity and equality for all women, but outside
that core value, even when it comes to how any of us think we can best
reach that goal, there is a lot of diversity.

Some feminists are okay with pornography or sex work (in general
and/or when it comes to themselves or partners participating in
either). Others are not. Our feelings can also depend on what we’re
talking about, be that about how porn is is made or in what environment
sex work takes place, what activities or attitudes either include, if
it is violent or nonviolent or how someone sees or utilizes it. For
some, these opinions are based on how those things make them feel about
themselves, while for others it’s more about the perceived impact (or
lack of impact) they see or understand porn or sex work as having on
women as a class or on the women who do sex work.

If it helps, here are some pieces to show you a brief spectrum of
feminist thought and positions on pornography and sex work, which
perhaps can help you better figure out your own stance:

You’ll see a lot of polarization around these issues, but there are
more than two "sides" and there are a lot of us who are somewhere in
the middle of the pro- and anti- poles.

You’ll also want to suss out how much of this is about porn in the
first place. For instance, is it his looking at pornography that is
making you feel so bad, or is it that you feel bad about a partner
thinking of anyone besides you sexually (which pretty much everyone
will do at least from time to time), and pornography is simply making
that tangible and real? Is this really about his use of porn, or is it
about your own body image or sexual self-image? If he cut back on or
stopped using the porn, would that take care of this, or might you need
something else from him entirely or additionally, like a little more
affirmation than he has strong sexual feelings for you or some changes
in your sex life?

I couldn’t help but notice you said you’ve been struggling with
issues around your own body and feelings of sexual inadequacy. I’d
expect, in a sexual relationship you have chosen to stay in that it
supports you feeling good about yourself sexually and benefits your
sexuality. A partner can’t give us esteem we don’t have or radically
improve our esteem just by finding us sexy or attractive, but in a good
sexual relationship, we should feel wanted and sexy, just as we are,
without having to try too hard. If you feel like you really don’t this
far into a relationship — especially if this has been a constant — or
that the particular dynamics of this relationship or the parts of it
that are sexual have made you feel less sexy or less happy sexually,
I’d take that into consideration in terms of if this really is still a
sound relationship for you.

I know that this process of evaluating a long-term relationship you
have valued — thus, why you have probably stayed in it this long —
can feel scary, and I also know that if you haven’t set hard limits or
negotiated difficult issues, it can seem daunting.

But let’s rally your feminist self here: in a mutually beneficial
partnership of equals, advocating for yourself is not just okay, it’s
essential. If you don’t do that, and a relationship isn’t truly made of
both people’s wants and needs being in consideration and alignment, but
of one partner who just does what they want and another who merely
acquiesces, then it’s not a partnership of equals. Voicing issues like
this can’t destroy a healthy, loving relationship: it can only
strengthen it and make it a better place for both partners. If a
partner loves who we are, they want to really know who we are, even if
that may challenge them in some ways or facilitate a need to
re-negotiate something or reconsider the nature of our relationship.

Here are a few more relevant links from the site to grow on:

Commentary Politics

On Immigration, Major Political Parties Can’t Seem to Agree on What’s ‘Un-American’

Tina Vasquez

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Immigration has been one of the country’s most contentious political topics and, not surprisingly, is now a primary focus of this election. But no matter how you feel about the subject, this is a nation of immigrants in search of “el sueño Americano,” as Karla Ortiz reminded us on the first night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Ortiz, the 11-year-old daughter of two undocumented parents, appeared in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad earlier this year expressing fear that her parents would be deported. Standing next to her mother on the DNC stage, the young girl told the crowd that she is an American who wants to become a lawyer to help families like hers.

It was a powerful way to kick-start the week, suggesting to viewers Democrats were taking a radically different approach to immigration than the Republican National Convention (RNC). While the RNC made undocumented immigrants the scapegoats for a variety of social ills, from U.S. unemployment to terrorism, the DNC chose to highlight the contributions of immigrants: the U.S. citizen daughter of undocumented parents, the undocumented college graduate, the children of immigrants who went into politics. Yet, even the stories shared at the DNC were too tidy and palatable, focusing on “acceptable” immigrant narratives. There were no mixed-status families discussing their deported parents, for example.

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other. By the end of two weeks, viewers may not have known whether to blame immigrants for taking their jobs or to befriend their hardworking immigrant neighbors. For the undocumented immigrants watching the conventions, the message, however, was clear: Both parties have a lot of work to do when it comes to humanizing their communities.  

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“No Business Being in This Country”

For context, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence are the decidedly anti-immigrant ticket. From the beginning, Trump’s campaign has been overrun by anti-immigrant rhetoric, from calling Mexicans “rapists” and “killers” to calling for a ban on Muslim immigration. And as of July 24, Trump’s proposed ban now includes people from countries “compromised by terrorism” who will not be allowed to enter the United States, including anyone from France.

So, it should come as no surprise that the first night of the RNC, which had the theme of “Make America Safe Again,” preyed on American fears of the “other.” In this case: undocumented immigrants who, as Julianne Hing wrote for the Nation, “aren’t just drug dealers and rapists anymorenow they’re murderers, too.”

Night one of the RNC featured not one but three speakers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. “They’re just three brave representatives of many thousands who have suffered so gravely,” Trump said at the convention. “Of all my travels in this country, nothing has affected me more, nothing even close I have to tell you, than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our borders, which we can solve. We have to solve it.”

Billed as “immigration reform advocates,” grieving parents like Mary Ann Mendoza called her son’s killer, who had resided in the United States for 20 years before the drunk driving accident that ended her police officer son’s life, an “illegal immigrant” who “had no business being in this country.”

It seemed exploitative and felt all too common. Drunk driving deaths are tragically common and have nothing to do with immigration, but it is easier to demonize undocumented immigrants than it is to address the nation’s broken immigration system and the conditions that are separating people from their countries of originconditions to which the United States has contributed. Trump has spent months intentionally and disingenuously pushing narratives that undocumented immigrants are hurting and exploiting the United States, rather than attempting to get to the root of these issues. This was hammered home by Mendoza, who finished her speech saying that we have a system that cares more about “illegals” than Americans, and that a vote for Hillary “puts all of our children’s lives at risk.”

There was also Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious racist whose department made a practice of racially profiling Latinos and was recently found to be in civil contempt of court for “repeatedly and knowingly” disobeying orders to cease policing tactics against Latinos, NPR reported.

Like Mendoza, Arpaio told the RNC crowd that the immigration system “puts the needs of other nations ahead of ours” and that “we are more concerned with the rights of ‘illegal aliens’ and criminals than we are with protecting our own country.” The sheriff asserted that he was at the RNC because he was distinctly qualified to discuss the “dangers of illegal immigration,” as someone who has lived on both sides of the border.

“We have terrorists coming in over our border, infiltrating our communities, and causing massive destruction and mayhem,” Arpaio said. “We have criminals penetrating our weak border security systems and committing serious crimes.”

Broadly, the takeaway from the RNC and the GOP nominee himself is that undocumented immigrants are terrorists who are taking American jobs and lives. “Trump leaned on a tragic story of a young woman’s murder to prop up a generalized depiction of immigrants as menacing, homicidal animals ‘roaming freely to threaten peaceful citizens,’” Hing wrote for the Nation.

When accepting the nomination, Trump highlighted the story of Sarah Root of Nebraska, a 21-year-old who was killed in a drunk-driving accident by a 19-year-old undocumented immigrant.

“To this administration, [the Root family’s] amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting,” Trump said. “One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”

It should be noted that the information related to immigration that Trump provided in his RNC speech, which included the assertion that the federal government enables crime by not deporting more undocumented immigrants (despite deporting more undocumented immigrants than ever before in recent years), came from groups founded by John Tanton, a well-known nativist whom the Southern Poverty Law center referred to as “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”

“The Border Crossed Us”

From the get-go, it seemed the DNC set out to counter the dangerous, anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed at the RNC. Over and over again, Democrats like Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) hit back hard against Trump, citing him by name and quoting him directly.

“Donald Trump believes that Mexican immigrants are murderers and rapists. But what about my parents, Donald?” Sánchez asked the crowd, standing next to her sister, Rep. Loretta Sánchez (D-CA). “They are the only parents in our nation’s 265-year history to send not one but two daughters to the United States Congress!”

Each speech from a Latino touched on immigration, glossing over the fact that immigration is not just a Latino issue. While the sentiments were positiveillustrating a community that is thriving, and providing a much-needed break from the RNC’s anti-immigrant rhetoricat the core of every speech were messages of assimilation and respectability politics.

Even in gutsier speeches from people like actress Eva Longoria, there was the need to assert that her family is American and that her father is a veteran. The actress said, “My family never crossed a border. The border crossed us.”

Whether intentional or not, the DNC divided immigrants into those who are acceptable, respectable, and worthy of citizenship, and those—invisible at the convention—who are not. “Border crossers” who do not identify as American, who do not learn English, who do not aspire to go to college or become an entrepreneur because basic survival is overwhelming enough, what about them? Do they deserve to be in detention? Do their families deserve to be ripped apart by deportation?

At the convention, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a champion of immigration reform, said something seemingly innocuous that snapped into focus the problem with the Democrats’ immigration narrative.

“In her heart, Hillary Clinton’s dream for America is one where immigrants are allowed to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, pay their taxes, and not feel fear that their families are going to be ripped apart,” Gutiérrez said.

The Democratic Party is participating in an all-too-convenient erasure of the progress undocumented people have made through sheer force of will. Immigration has become a leading topic not because there are more people crossing the border (there aren’t) or because nativist Donald Trump decided to run for president, but because a segment of the population has been denied basic rights and has been fighting tooth and nail to save themselves, their families, and their communities.

Immigrants have been coming out of the shadows and as a result, are largely responsible for the few forms of relief undocumented communities now have, like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who meet specific qualifications to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. And “getting right with the law” is a joke at this point. The problem isn’t that immigrants are failing to adhere to immigration laws; the problem is immigration laws that are notoriously complicated and convoluted, and the system, which is so backlogged with cases that a judge sometimes has just seven minutes to determine an immigrant’s fate.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is also really expensive. There is a cap on how many people can immigrate from any given country in a year, and as Janell Ross explained at the Washington Post:

There are some countries, including Mexico, from where a worker with no special skills or a relative in the United States can apply and wait 23 years, according to the U.S. government’s own data. That’s right: There are people receiving visas right now in Mexico to immigrate to the United States who applied in 1993.

But getting back to Gutierrez’s quote: Undocumented immigrants do pay taxes, though their ability to contribute to our economy should not be the one point on which Democrats hang their hats in order to attract voters. And actually, undocumented people pay a lot of taxes—some $11.6 billion in state and local taxes last year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy—while rarely benefiting from a majority of federal assistance programs since the administration of President Bill Clinton ended “welfare as we know it” in 1996.

If Democrats were being honest at their convention, we would have heard about their failure to end family detention, and they would have addressed that they too have a history of criminalizing undocumented immigrants.

The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, enacted under former President Clinton, have had the combined effect of dramatically increasing the number of immigrants in detention and expanding mandatory or indefinite detention of noncitizens ordered to be removed to countries that will not accept them, as the American Civil Liberties Union notes on its site. Clinton also passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which economically devastated Mexican farmers, leading to their mass migration to the United States in search of work.

In 1990, then-Sen. Joe Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act, which passed in 1994 and specifically excluded undocumented women for the first 19 of the law’s 22 years, and even now is only helpful if the victim of intimate partner abuse is a child, parent, or current/former spouse of a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.

In addition, President Obama is called by immigrant rights advocates “deporter in chief,” having put into place a “deportation machine” that has sent more than two million migrants back to their country of origin, more than any president in history. New arrivals to the United States, such as the Central American asylum seekers coming to our border escaping gender-based violence, are treated with the same level of prioritization for removal as threats to our national security. The country’s approach to this humanitarian crisis has been raiding homes in the middle of the night and placing migrants in detention centers, which despite being rife with allegations of human rights abuses, are making private prison corporations millions in revenue.

How Are We Defining “Un-American”?

When writing about the Democratic Party, community organizer Rosa Clemente, the 2008 Green Party vice president candidate, said that she is afraid of Trump, “but not enough to be distracted from what we must do, which is to break the two-party system for good.”

This is an election like we’ve never seen before, and it would be disingenuous to imply that the party advocating for the demise of the undocumented population is on equal footing with the party advocating for the rights of certain immigrants whose narratives it finds acceptable. But this is a country where Republicans loudly—and with no consequence—espouse racist, xenophobic, and nativist beliefs while Democrats publicly voice support of migrants while quietly standing by policies that criminalize undocumented communities and lead to record numbers of deportations.

During two weeks of conventions, both sides declared theirs was the party that encapsulated what America was supposed to be, adhering to morals and values handed down from our forefathers. But ours is a country comprised of stolen land and built by slave labor where today, undocumented immigrants, the population most affected by unjust immigration laws and violent anti-immigrant rhetoric, don’t have the right to vote. It is becoming increasingly hard to tell if that is indeed “un-American” or deeply American.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open the Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

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Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.