As the Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe vs. Wade and states across the country are passing increasingly draconian anti-abortion laws, Democratic Party leadership fights like hell to make sure an anti-choice retains his seat in Congress. Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar is the only member of the House Democratic caucus who (openly) opposes abortion and currently faces Jessica Cisneros in the primary election. Cisneros, a member of the party’s progressive wing, is pro-choice and locked in a tight race with Cuellar as they head to a runoff later in May.
On the surface, this would be a perfect opportunity for Democrats, nominally the party of abortion rights protection, to ditch their latest anti-choice congressman and replace him with someone who supports their stated political priorities. .
But the Democratic establishment of course backs Cuellar. House Whip – and influential Biden endorser – Jim Clyburn hosted a two-day vote rally for Cuellar after the Supreme Court draft was leaked. It’s repeating itself: Just two days after it became clear the Supreme Court would strike down federal abortion protections and Democratic politicians slumped to pledge to pass a law protecting abortion, Clyburn was trying to get the vote for an anti-abortion congressman.
This blatant hypocrisy reveals the true nature of the Democratic Party’s commitment to protecting abortion rights: lots of empty words without action, or even the intention to act. Their support for abortion rights is more of a campaign strategy, a tactic designed to coerce the millions of people who are understandably concerned about infringements on their right to bodily autonomy to support them.
Democrats have had nearly 50 years to pass abortion legislation, including multiple presidencies and majorities, and a super majority under Barack Obama. And yet, the right to abortion has continued to be curtailed since deer become law. That’s because Democrats don’t really want to protect abortion rights — partly because it will cost them their best campaign stake, partly because they don’t want to lose the anti-abortion sectors of their grassroots, and in part because they actually move to genuinely protect the right to abortion would provoke a polarized reaction and risk destabilizing the status quo. And democrats, as servants of capital, are primarily concerned with maintaining capitalist stability. So they haven’t – and they won’t act – to protect abortion.
Yet with every election, Democrats tell us they are our last bulwark against ending abortion rights. But, as the Supreme Court prepares to deliver the biggest blow to reproductive rights in decades, where are these Democratic politicians when they’re not making empty rhetoric? They support an anti-choice candidate.
Supporting anti-choice Democrats is nothing new; even progressive idol Bernie Sanders has had its day to make a campaign for an anti-abortion candidate for Congress. This is not what a genuine commitment to protect abortion looks like. It’s political theater for the Democrats, while it’s life or death for us. We can no longer be fooled by their constant appeals to our fear. We must recognize that Democrats are not prepared to do what it takes to protect our rights or win liberation.
Rather, we must organize together, in our workplaces and in our communities, to create an active and confrontational mass movement in the streets that demands safe, legal and free abortion – on demand and without excuses. To do this, we must demand that politicians sitting in Washington pass a federal law legalizing the procedure and removing all restrictions. They will only do it if they fear us, our movement, our rage and our organization.
This is what is needed to protect the right to abortion. Do not support people who turn around and work for keep anti-abortion politicians in power, especially in the current moment. The Democrats have once again shown us who they are. Let’s believe them and build our own movement.
Ezra is a New York-based artist and theater teacher.