Former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has anchored his campaign to the promise of unity. He’s assured would-be donors he’ll “unite a fractured nation” — a commitment any voter (who isn’t a Trump sycophant) would be happy with. He’s promised that after Trump, he will restore honor and dignity to the office.
But when rumors began to circulate today that former Republican governor of Ohio John Kasich will speak at the Democratic National Convention in support of Biden, the lengths to which the former VP is willing to “meet in the middle” became worryingly apparent. Apparently, this “meeting in the middle” may come at the detriment of many people’s human rights, including the rights of some of Biden’s most valuable voters.
Former governor Kasich’s record on abortion rights is as clear as it is disgraceful. During an interview with CNN in 2016, he said, “I am pro-life with the exceptions of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.” In other words, the inalienable rights of people who can get pregnant are only valid, in his eyes, when our bodies have been traumatized or we’re on the brink of death. From 2011 to 2016, he signed 17 anti-aborton measures as governor of Ohio, voted to defund Planned Parenthood, and was praised by the anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life.
Kasich is an anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ ex-politician turned CNN contributor. To gift him the chance to appear on the DNC stage is to lend credence to his political platform, regardless of whether or not he is currently in a position to inflict it upon constituents and the American public at large. Furthermore, and more importantly, it sends a message to the one in four women who will have an abortion in their lifetime — as well as the trans men and non-binary people who will seek out and obtain abortion care — a clear and undeniable message: Your constitutional and human rights are nothing more than a potential poker hand at the political table, existing only for us to play them for our continued pursuit of power.
Kasich’s potential presence onstage becomes even more concerning when you consider Biden’s own disappointing track record with abortion rights.
Just last year, after two days of intense criticism, Biden reversed his support of the Hyde Amendment, a federal law that bans tax dollars from funding abortion care. Advocates, allies, and fellow Democrats had to pressure the former vice president into acknowledging the rights of pregnant people — regardless of where they live or how much money they make — and that was at a time when he was part of the most diverse Democratic presidential nominee class in history. And while personal growth should always be commended, it’s just as important to look at the catalyst. Was this “shift in policy” a true, for lack of a better phrase, “coming to Jesus moment”? Or what is a calculated, strategic political ploy to remain relevant at a time when the majority of American voters demanded more of their elected officials?
The truth is that the right to abortion is not a controversial political issue. Polls show that 77 percent of Americans want the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v Wade, and more than half of Americans consider themselves to be pro-choice. To throw abortion access on even the illusion of the chopping block is to kowtow to a demographic that simply does not exist. Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals, Christians, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, atheists, straight people, gay people, trans people, cis people, parents, and people who remain childless by choice all seek out and obtain abortion care. What is being treated by the GOP and the current president as a “contentious political issue” is anything but, which is why Biden should feel more than comfortable to welcome the endorsement of Republicans like Kasich, but refuse their presence on the DNC stage.
Those of us who have had abortions vote. We are politically active. We encourage others like us to vote. We reach out to our local, state, and federal communities. We share our abortion stories. We speak on the steps of Capitol Hill. We lobby our elected officials, no matter how out-of-touch or disconnected from our ongoing plights they may be.
We are mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. We are your coworkers, your neighbors, your nannies, essential workers, teachers, and classmates. Many of us are Black and brown, the very people Biden must convince in order to get across the presidential finish line. Recent presidential polls show that despite Trump’s blunders on Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter protests, half of white voters still plan to vote for him. That makes this decision even more urgent for Biden, who cannot afford to ignore the lives and cries of the people he needs to turn out to the ballot box on election day.
Most importantly, we are human beings endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And that right should not be undermined on the DNC stage with the presence of a Republican who only acknowledges our humanity and our autonomy if we've been raped or are in imminent danger of dying.
The Democratic party should demand better. The Democratic nominee for president of the United States should demand better. And we should all demand better of our political leaders.
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