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Democrats Campaign for Anti-Choice Congressman while Abortion Rights Are at Risk

As the Supreme Court prepares to overturn Roe v. Wade, leading Democrats are campaigning for anti-choice congressman Henry Cuellar. Yet again, Democrats are showing us who they are — let’s believe them and build a movement of our own.

Sybil Davis

May 13, 2022
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (second from left) endorsed Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas (far left), a conservative-leaning Democrat, in his race for reelection in 2020.
Image: AP

As the Supreme Court sits poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and states around the country pass increasingly draconian anti-abortion legislation, the leadership of the Democratic Party is fighting like hell to make sure that an anti-choicer gets to keep his seat in Congress. Henry Cuellar, a Democratic congressman from Texas, is the only member of the Democratic caucus in the house who (openly) opposes abortion and is currently facing Jessica Cisneros in the primary elections. Cisneros, a member of the progressive wing of the party, is pro-choice and locked in a tight race with Cuellar as they head into a run-off later in May. 

On the surface, this would be a perfect opportunity for the Democrats, nominally the party of protecting abortion rights, to ditch their last anti-choice congressperson and replace him with someone who supports their stated political priorities.

But the Democratic establishment is, of course, backing Cuellar. House Whip — and influential Biden endorser – Jim Clyburn held a get-out-the-vote rally for Cuellar two days after the Supreme Court draft was leaked. That bares repeating: just two days after it became clear that the Supreme Court was going to overturn federal protections for abortion and as Democratics politicians were falling over themselves to commit to passing a law to protect abortion, Clyburn was working to get out the vote for an anti-abortion congressman.

This blatant hypocrisy reveals the true nature of the Democratic Party’s commitment to protecting abortion rights: a lot of empty words with no action, or even intent to take action. Rather, their support for abortion rights is a campaign strategy, a tactic intended to compel the millions of people who are very understandably worried about the attacks on their right to bodily autonomy to support them.

 The Democrats have had almost 50 years to pass abortion legislation, including multiple presidencies and majorities, and a super majority under Barack Obama. And yet, abortion rights have been steadily chipped away at since Roe became law. This is because the Democrats don’t want to actually protect abortion rights — partly because it’ll lose them their best campaign issue, partly because they don’t want to lose the anti-abortion sectors of their base, and partly because actually moving to meaningfully protect abortion rights would provoke a polarized reaction and run the risk of de-stablizing the status quo. And the 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, every election, the Democrats tell us that they are our last defense against the end of abortion rights. But, as the Supreme Court prepares to deal the harshest blow to reproductive rights in decades, where are these Democratic politicians when they aren’t making empty speeches? They’re supporting an anti-choice candidate.

Supporting anti-choice Democrats is nothing new; even progressive idol Bernie Sanders did his time campaigning for an anti-abortion congressional candidate. This isn’t what a real commitment to protecting abortion looks like. It’s political theater for the Democrats, while it’s life and death for us. We can no longer be taken in by their constant appeals to our fear. We must recognize that the 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 on the streets which demands safe, legal, and free abortion — on demand and without apology. To do so, we must demand that the politicians sitting in Washington pass a federal law legalizing the procedure and overturning all restrictions. They will only do this if they fear us, our movement, our rage, and our organizing. 

That is what is needed to protect abortion rights. Not backing people who turn around and work to keep anti-abortion politicains in power, especially in the current moment. The Democrats have, yet again, shown us who they are. Let’s believe them and build a movement of our own. 

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Sybil Davis

Sybil is a trans activist, artist, and education worker in New York City.

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