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PSL statement: Defeat of Women’s Health Protection Act shows Democrats playing politics with abortion rights

On May 11, the U.S. Senate voted down the Women’s Health Protection Act 49 to 51. The WHPA would have made abortion legal, eliminating the role of the Supreme Court on the issue of abortion and nullifying the pending Supreme Court decision, the draft copy of which has already been leaked to the media.

The Democratic Party leadership is responsible for this catastrophe because they refused to forcefully defend abortion rights and women’s rights over the past two decades. It was not a priority for them. They only gave lip service for abortion rights to get votes. Millions of women are now losing control over their own bodies. It’s not just Joe Manchin to blame. The Democratic leadership has only seen abortion rights as a bargaining chip in bourgeois, capitalist politics.

Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, has insisted that support for abortion rights should not be a “litmus test” for Democratic candidates. In recent days she even went to Texas to support the campaign of Henry Cuellar, who is opposed to abortion rights, against a more progressive challenger who supports abortion rights. 

This clearly indicates that the Democratic Party leadership doesn’t give a damn about abortion rights. They are playing politics and using the issue of abortion to fundraise and mobilize voters for the midterm elections, while failing to preserve the fundamental right to abortion. This is not the first time this has happened.

In 2009 and 2010, the Democrats did not have a razor thin majority in the Senate, but a huge majority. Fifty-nine Senators were Democrats, and one Independent voted with the Democratic caucus. In that same Congressional term, the Democrats had a vast majority in the House of Representatives, and they had just elected Barack Obama as president, who enjoyed immense popularity in his first two years. Then too, the Democrats could have adopted legislation like the Women’s Health Protection Act that would have enshrined abortion rights forever.

On May 14, there will be large-scale protests in support of abortion rights initiated by Planned Parenthood. In addition to supporting abortion rights in general, the message of the May 14 organizers will be focused on voting for the Democratic Party in the upcoming midterm elections. This is a smokescreen and shield for the Democratic Party’s role in the destruction of abortion rights. While Planned Parenthood is running interference for the Democratic Party’s insidious role in allowing abortions rights to be destroyed, there is no reason to focus a political attack on any other organization than the Democratic Party itself. Planned Parenthood provides many critically needed medical services, not only abortion and birth control, but important preventative care as well as transition care for transgender people; the organization is under attack by right-wing anti-abortion forces around the country.

Campaigning for the Democratic Party must be understood as a losing strategy. In fact, it is a fraudulent exercise. Recent history clearly demonstrates that even when the Democratic Party controls all branches of government, they have not cared enough about abortion rights to ensure that abortion rights legislation becomes the law of the land. We have to make this clear in our conversations at the May 14 actions.

A militant mass movement in defense of abortion rights will be launched. This movement needs to expose the failure of the Democratic Party to adequately mount a defense of abortion rights. In fact, the Democratic Party must be held responsible for the catastrophe that is being imposed on women, girls and every person who needs access to safe, legal abortion. 

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