Commentary Abortion

Winning the Race for Choice? We Need Missy “the Missile” Franklin’s Gold-medal Strategy

Rebecca Sive

"There is no silver in politics," as Carol Bellamy, girl politico and former director of UNICEF, said to me recently. While we're still swimming, we're not winning the race to keep abortion safe and legal.

Last week, our sisters at the Center for Reproductive Rights wrote about the “stunning decision by a district court judge upholding …an unconstitutional Arizona law… set to go into effect on August 2nd.” I read it and I was heart-sick. What next in this never-ending war on women?

Later in the day, The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union … filed an emergency motion

Got that? “…per se unconstitutional.” That’s because the Arizona law is contrary to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, America’s law of the land guaranteeing women’s right to safe and legal abortion.

Happily, later in the week, the Ninth Circuit “…blocked enforcement of Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban, signed into law earlier this year by Governor Jan Brewer….The bill is considered by many to be the most restrictive ban in the nation, and may present a direct challenge to Roe.”

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While we depend (and ever so gratefully so) on our sisters at the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to fight unceasingly in the courts to preserve whatever portions of this right they can, the sad truth is that the legal history of the battle to preserve the constitutional right to abortion has been death by a thousand cuts–for decades. And there is no end to the cutting in sight.

“There is no silver in politics,” as Carol Bellamy, girl politico and former director of UNICEF, said to me recently. Well, that about sums-up where we’re at this Olympics week. While we’re staying afloat and still swimming, we’re not winning.

So, what is our “gold medal strategy” to preserve American women’s constitutional right to safe and legal abortion?

According to People magazine, American swimmer Missy Franklin, my favorite Olympic gold medal winner, is nicknamed “the Missile.” Describing her wins last Monday (that same day of the miserable Arizona court decision), the Guardian wrote: “…resting her hands on her hips, [Franklin] looked straight down her empty lane. This was Franklin in missile-launching mode – and the explosive burst of her finish would not be denied.”

Girl-politico girlfriends: I say to you we need to take a page from the Franklin playbook: We need to get into “missile-launching mode.” (Enough with the metaphors you say? Bear with me: I’ve got just one more.)

As I see it, the failure of our current advocacy strategy to maintain federally, constitutionally-protected safe and legal abortion has been the steady unwillingness, not to say fear, to even be willing to get in the pool and clear the lane, much less launch down it to victory. Instead, we have joined and stayed in the crowd around the pool, milling around (the halls of Congress, say) while talking reasonably about fairness and choice, never launching towards a finish that “wouldn’t be denied.”

Well, girlfriends, that’s not a gold medal strategy, as the recent missile attacks in Arizona and Mississippi attest.

What is a gold-medal strategy is electing tens of thousands more pro-choice women to office and advocating for the appointments of thousands more as judges and other decision-making government officials. We can do this. We are the majority of American voters. We are overwhelmingly in favor of birth control. (And when birth control doesn’t work, abortion is an option a majority of women consider.) Further: When women run women win. And even further: When women take and hold office, they look out for other women in ways that men don’t and have never done (Just look at the history of laws protecting rape and domestic violence victims in case you doubt me).

Just like American women have singularly focused on winning in sports competitions, so much so that they are the majority of the 2012 American Olympics team, pro-women’s rights American women can singularly focus on becoming the majority of America’s public officials. We need only focus like American-girl missile Missy Franklin. Let’s launch towards this goal in time for the next Olympics.

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