Commentary Politics

Missouri Democrats’ New Platform Caves on Abortion Rights

Alison Dreith

State Democrats should not be surrendering to an agenda that hurts women and their ability to determine the course of their own life.

At a time when women’s constitutionally-protected freedom to make decisions about their own lives, bodies, and futures—including the right to use contraception and to have an abortion—hangs by a thread, Missouri Democrats are sacrificing women’s lives for a perceived political expediency that does not exist.

On Saturday, June 30, the Missouri Democratic Party approved a new platform, which included an amendment that would allow anti-choice members into the party. The amendment states: “We respect the conscience of each Missourian and recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, such as abortion. We recognize the diversity of views as a source of strength, and welcome into our ranks all Missourians who may hold differing positions on this issue.” The language was directly pulled from the website of anti-choice group Democrats For Life.

So what other rights would Missouri Democrats dismantle over a “difference of opinion”? The right to vote? The right to equal pay? Marriage equality? The right to join a union? Why are women’s reproductive rights negotiable while others are not? Including anti-choice language into the platform is essentially allowing open season to criminalize and punish women for acting on their own freedom to determine if, when, and with whom they start a family.

Inserting anti-choice language into the state party platform is a slap in the face to every Missourian who has marched, knocked on doors, donated, and contributed to public officials who support the right to choose. This isn’t about “a difference of opinion” or “a little tent on abortion,” as David Von Drehle described it in his Washington Post op-ed. This is about whether the Missouri Democratic Party is willing to protect the reproductive freedom of women or have us return to the days when 5,000 women a year died from illegal abortion.

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Missouri Democrats are caving to outside extremists by adopting language from Democrats for Life—an organization that has aligned itself with Live Action, an extremist group behind fraudulent videos attempting to smear Planned Parenthood. Live Action is a sponsor of the Democrats For Life conference scheduled for later this week.

State Democrats should not be surrendering to an agenda that hurts women and their ability to determine the course of their own life. By doing so, they are splitting the base of the party and turning their backs on so many who have worked for so long to protect women’s rights.

The party is throwing reproductive rights under the bus—and it will get nothing in return for sacrificing their values and electoral prospects with this new platform. There is zero evidence that opposing abortion wins elections for Democrats—and people who vote against abortion rights as an issue aren’t likely to support Democrats anyway. A national poll released this month, conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America in battleground states, found that the majority of voters do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

Public support for Roe crossed party lines, according to the poll, with 73 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Independents, and 33 percent of Republicans in favor of protecting the landmark abortion rights ruling. The poll also found that 55 percent of voters said they would be less likely to support their U.S. senator in an upcoming election if they voted to confirm a Supreme Court nominee who would rule against Roe and criminalize abortion.

Being anti-choice doesn’t make you “pro-life.” It just means you believe your judgment should substitute for another person’s when it comes to making health-care decisions. And that is an insult to the Democratic values of personal liberty and respect for a woman’s right to make her own private medical decisions.

A person’s decision to have an abortion is a deeply personal one that should be between her and her doctor. The question isn’t whether you approve of abortion or think you would have one. It’s whether you believe that the government has a right to make that decision for women. It’s whether politicians in Jefferson City or Washington, D.C., have more of a right to determine a woman’s bodily autonomy than she does.

What the Missouri Democratic Party is doing is wrong and will not attract a new base of voters like the party intended with this amendment. It is counter to our values, and it needs to stop.

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