Should we chalk it up to sexism? A Democratic party that seems to value compromise as the end goal, instead of as a means to an end? Or a desire to maintain a status-quo that works for a few and certainly not for most?
Connie Saltonstall, the Democrat in Michigan who had taken on the task of running for the anti-choice Rep. Bart Stupak’s seat, announced today she was dropping out of the race because the Michigan Democratic party has decided to throw their support and weight behind – who else? – another male, anti-choice, anti-women’s health candidate, Gary McDowell.
Saltonstall was welcomed with open arms by women’s health and rights advocates when she declared her candidacy in March, after the curtain went down on the circus led by Rep. Stupak over restricting private insurance for abortion services, in health care reform. From Saltonstall’s press release announcing her decision to drop out:
I challenged Bart Stupak because he was threatening to take down the healthcare bill. His amendment threatened access for women to get health insurance even with private funds. There is an aggressive movement across the country to pass laws to restrict women from making responsible healthcare choices to protect their health, and furthermore, to criminalize their actions. The same people who think government should stay out of their lives, are legislating government into the doctor’s office. Individuals, families, and physicians are the ones who should be making the complicated and difficult decisions we all face regarding reproductive healthcare and life issues.
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Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW and womens’ health and rights advocates from around the country rallied behind Saltonstall immediately, when Stupak was still in the race – eager to do what they could to remove a Democrat whose sole parting of ways with the Democratic party, when it came to his voting record, seemed to surround women’s health issues. From his support for the Global Gag Rule to his opposition to legislation that would have allowed female military members to use their own money for abortion services, Stupak seemed to hold a special place in his legislative heart for blocking access to women’s health care services.
Which is why it comes as disappointing news, to say the least, that Saltonstall is dropping out of the race. Rep. Stupak announced, last month, that he would be retiring his position. It seemed Connie Saltonstall enjoyed tremendous support, an outpouring of financial contributions and a will to help the Michigan Democratic Party see how important ensuring a women’s health advocate in that seat could be. But, apparently, the state Democratic party leadership does not prioritize women and women’s health services:
“I am forced to do this because it has become apparent to my campaign that the leadership of the Michigan Democratic Party has preemptively anointed Gary McDowell as their Democratic candidate. They are replacing Bart Stupak with another Upper Peninsula, Anti-Choice, Anti- Women’s healthcare rights candidate.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America is equally as disappointed – and frustrated:
“We are disappointed to see Connie exit this race. She was a strong candidate who garnered significant support in a short amount of time, and we believe she would have been an effective voice for families in the 1st District.
“What’s equally disappointing is the perception that state-party insiders are playing a role in clearing the primary field for an anti-choice candidate. It is a sad day for Michiganders who value freedom and privacy when the Democratic Party reportedly backs a candidate like Gary McDowell, who voted to ban a safe abortion method, without exceptions—even in the cases of rape, incest, or to protect the woman’s health.
“We expect some political observers to repeat the false claim that only a Democratic candidate like McDowell, with a record of hostility toward a woman’s right to choose, could win this race. That premise is false. Just ask President Obama, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin—all of whom have defeated anti-choice opponents in this district.
“The Democratic Party in Michigan is giving pro-choice voters, who are essential to its successes in midterm elections, the impression that their support is being taken for granted. This includes the 11,905 pro-choice supporters NARAL Pro-Choice America has identified in this congressional district.”
Saltonstall relishes the success of her grassroots campaign and acknowledges, proudly and gratefully, the support she’s received from so many:
We were first in the race, raised more money than any other Democratic candidate to date, collected over 1500 petition signatures, put together a professional campaign team and a path to victory. Without the interference of the democratic leadership, we might just have won the election!
McDowell, according to the Michigan Messenger, has been endorsed by the anti-choice organization, Right to Life, an extreme, conservative group. Which begs the question – just where does the Michigan Democratic Party draw the line? They now support candidates who are not only extremely anti-choice but clearly extremely opposed to women’s rights and autonomy. If the Democratic Party values womens’ health and rights, then they must show it by endorsing and supporting candidates who do as well. Continuing to throw their support behind candidates who throw womens’ health and safety out as if this was just a question of political maneuverings is a dangerous proposition.
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