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Whatever It Takes, Democrats Must Defend Abortion Rights

With the unprecedented leak of the US Supreme Court’s draft opinion affirmatively revoking abortion rights, the theoretical discussion of what the end of Roe v. Wade could look like became real for more people Monday. Though it’s only a draft, it is clear that after decades of legislative and court battles, marches, rallies, and vigils, the legal right to have an abortion in the United States is likely to end this summer.

The Democrats, for now, still have control of the White House, the Senate, and the US House of Representatives. So they can and should use the time they have left to defend abortion rights, loudly and without equivocation—as they already do in the party’s platform.

To be sure, this moment could have been prevented—during countless election cycles and by prioritizing court appointments when Democrats had a majority and listening to reproductive health, rights, and justice leaders who warned of the likelihood of this scenario for years.

Anti-abortion legislators and advocates have not exactly been quiet about their intentions. Since Roe v. Wade legalized the right to abortion in the United States in 1973, state lawmakers have enacted 1,336 abortion restrictions, 44 percent of which in the last decade alone. At the federal level, after years of unsuccessful attempts by anti-choice lawmakers to pass a ban on abortions in the second and third trimesters, President George W. Bush signed a later abortion ban without exception for the health of the mother in 2003. Reproductive rights and justice advocates responded with the 2004 March for Women’s Lives. It was one of my first major actions post-college to organize fellow young people to attend the march, the largest on the National Mall up until the 2017 Women’s March.

As a Black woman and a daughter of immigrants, I understood how a lack of bodily autonomy could affect a person’s life. Both of my grandmothers had to drop out of high school because their society expected them to get married and have children as teenagers. And they had multiple children because no birth control was available. I charted a career in Democratic politics—prompted by these issues and more—to support reproductive rights and justice movement work and became fluent in many aspects of reproductive health care.

Over time, I witnessed not only the legislation the anti-choice movement championed but also its willingness to enable extremists who would shoot up, set fire to, or bomb clinics. I too raised concerns—exhorting people to care about elections because no one should have their right to bodily autonomy trampled. We were like Cassandra, the Trojan priestess who foresaw the fall of her kingdom and tried to warn her family, but her warnings were ignored. At best, activists were dismissed for how much we didn’t understand politics, and at worst we received an eye roll and a mutter about our “overreaction.” Now, here we all are staring at the brink of disaster and open season on our fundamental human rights. But that doesn’t mean the work ends.

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