When it comes to reproductive rights, the Democratic Party is known for being pro-choice and advocating for women. But, in an interview with The Washington Post Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said abortion is "fading as an issue" and Democrats should welcome anti-choice candidates into the party.
The top female Democrat in Congress believes her party needs to include people with more conservative social views in order to take back the White House and Congress in the future. "This is the Democratic Party. This is not a rubber-stamp party," she told The Post. "I grew up Nancy D’Alesandro, in Baltimore Maryland; in Little Italy; in a very devout Catholic family; fiercely patriotic; proud of our town and heritage, and staunchly Democratic."
She added, "Most of those people — my family, extended family — are not pro-choice. You think I’m kicking them out of the Democratic Party?"
Pelosi wasn't sure a staunchly pro-life Democratic candidate could win an election, but said the party shouldn't shut itself off to candidates who aren't 100% pro-choice. As far as the Democratic Party is concerned, she said, "I don’t think that you’ll see too many candidates going out there and saying, 'I’m running as a pro-life candidate,'" explaining that today it's more about "how far are you willing to go on the issue." She then added, "It’s kind of fading as an issue. It really is."
Actually, Nancy, it really isn't.
The House minority leader's argument boils down to this: The abortion debate today centers around what restrictions should be placed on the procedure, not whether or not abortion should be legal. However, not only do people still want to totally outlaw abortion, many of the limits placed on the medical procedure severely restrict women's reproductive rights.
During the campaign, President Trump vowed to put judges willing to overturn Roe v. Wade on the Supreme Court and said women who have abortions should face "some form of punishment," later backtracking to say people who provide abortions should be punished. Other Republican lawmakers also want a total ban on abortion, even in cases of rape. While people with such strong anti-choice beliefs probably won't choose to run as a Democrat, they signify that the political fight over abortion is still very much about keeping it legal.
And when it comes to the restrictions on where and when women can terminate a pregnancy, they're often a vehicle for making abortion harder and harder to access. A lot of these laws are passed on the state level — requiring women to wait a certain amount of time, receive counseling, or get an ultrasound before getting the procedure — but conservatives in Congress still try to push through laws banning abortion at 20 weeks and as soon as a heartbeat can be detected (which can be as early as six weeks after conception, when most women don't know they're pregnant).
These restrictions shouldn't be swept under the rug as a non-issue, as they aim to keep women from having a medical procedure they have a legal right to access. And at a certain point, a legal right becomes so limited that it's hardly a right at all.
Pelosi isn't the only Democrat in Congress advocating for opening up the party to anti-abortion candidates. Sen. Bernie Sanders was criticized last month for campaigning for Omaha, Nebraska mayoral candidate Heath Mello, a Democrat who's co-sponsored anti-choice legislation.
Defending his support of Mello, Sanders told NPR, "We have got to appreciate where people come from, and do our best to fight for the pro-choice agenda. But I think you just can't exclude people who disagree with us on one issue."
Democrats not holding a strong line on abortion hurts poor women and women of color the most, as research shows the majority of women seeking abortions fall into one or both those demographics. So, when the Democratic Party supports anti-choice candidates and disregards abortion as an issue that's "fading," it's letting these women down.
Now is not the time to back down on abortion, as pro-life advocates still fervently fight to restrict reproductive rights. Pro-choice women look forward to the day abortion is "fading as an issue," but that day has not yet come.