This blog post is a part of NARAL Pro-Choice America’s “Blog for Choice Day 2012,” in honor today of the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. This year’s question is “What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?”
“What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?” is a question I have been thinking about for the better part of the morning and I still don’t have a good answer that completely satisfies me.
Here’s what I know for sure:
Today marks 39 years since abortion became legal in the U.S. I have never known a life where I didn’t have a legal right to an abortion and I know I never want to find out what it’s like without that right. The attacks on reproductive rights had been relentless in 2011, and this year looks no better.
Here’s what I’m unsure about with regards to NARAL’s question-of-the-day:
Obviously, I vote for the pro-choice candidate. But it’s not enough to elect pro-choice candidates. We must elect pro-choice candidates and then we must hold them accountable and speak up in defense of women’s reproductive rights when they falter. President Obama was (is) a great candidate for protecting women’s right to safe, legal abortions until the fight over health care, the budget and debt ceiling when he stepped aside and let Congress throw women’s reproductive health care under the bus. (I don’t have to consider the alternative to know that having Obama in the White House is better than a Newt, Mitt, Rick or Ron.)
However, as feminists and reproductive rights activists, we need to do more than work to elect pro-choice politicians, sit back on our heels and say, “job well done.” We need to educate and inform young women and men about the importance of including abortion in the spectrum of women’s health care, to teach comprehensive sex education in schools and seriously think about the framing and impact of our discourse of “choice” versus reproductive justice. (See my previous post on this topic). The work of protecting the legal right to abortion is on many fronts, and not only about electing pro-choice candidates in 2012.
Which leads me to my next question – What if there aren’t any good pro-choice candidates running in your local and state elections this year? Then what do you do? Do you hold your nose and vote for the pro-choice candidate anyway on this one issue even though you might not agree with the candidate on other equally important issues? Do you throw your money and time into a campaign in a neighboring state for another pro-choice candidate?
This election year, the chance for me to help elect a pro-choice candidate boils down to one Congressional race, and I have no idea who the pro-choice candidate is, or if there is one. I live in a mostly red county in a blue state that is supportive of reproductive rights. I’m lucky. I have a Democratic governor who is Catholic and pro-choice and presides over a state legislature that is packed with liberals. I have two pro-choice allies in the Senate. And then there’s my Republican representative in the House – dear, old Roscoe Bartlett, who has managed re-election wins every two years since the early 1990s with the help of Republican Western Maryland. But this year’s election isn’t looking too good for Bartlett. Maryland has adopted a new redistricting map that redraws Bartlett’s District 6 south into liberal Montgomery County.
Nevertheless, the indefatigable Bartlett has decided to run for another term and there’s no shortage of challengers including state Senator David Brinkley (R); state Delegate Kathy Afzali (R); Charles Bailey (D) of Washington County; John Delaney (D) of Montgomery County; state Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Dist. 15) of Germantown; Milad Pooran (D) of Frederick County; Robert Coblentz (R) of Washington County; Robin Ficker (R) of Montgomery County; Joseph T. Krysztoforski (R) of Baltimore County; and Brandon Orman Rippeon (R) of Frederick County.
I don’t know who any of these challengers are, and I have plenty of time to figure out what their positions on abortion and reproductive rights are before Maryland’s primary on April 3.
So, here’s my final answer to NARAL’s question today, on the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade: I’ll do what I’ve always done. I’ll vote for the progressive, pro-choice candidate when I can, and assuming she/he wins, I’ll hold her/him accountable. I’ll continue to write and speak out in defense of women’s legal right to abortion. As one person, this is all I can do.