The Democrats’ most competitive gubernatorial candidate in several cycles, Senator Billie Sutton, cast a triangulating vote on January 22 on a feckless resolution endorsing South Dakota’s anti-union laws. He may get another opportunity to vote like something other than a Democrat today on Senate Bill 110, Senator Al Novstrup’s almost feckless attack on Planned Parenthood, which is on this afternoon’s Senate calendar.
Republicans have told me that I and my fellow Democrats could win more elections if we would just compromise more (translation: surrender) on abortion, the way Sutton does. David Brooks makes a similar argument for capitulation in his February 1 NYT column. Dr. Cheryl Axelrod, an OG/GYN from suburban Chicago, rejects Brooks’s political calculation:
You distill this issue to a cold statistical strategy. Second-trimester abortions make people uncomfortable. Ultrasound images of babies are very cute. Polls show people love babies. Why not sacrifice the minority of women and families who need these services so we can “win” on other issues?
But only men are spared reproductive complications. For you sir, in your privilege of maleness, whiteness, and economic comfort, this can be an dispassionate intellectual discussion. But for millions like me, it is devastatingly personal. Maternal medical and fetal reasons for these procedures cut across all lines of economics, race, religion, and state. Reproduction does not play favorites. Absolutely any woman can walk this path of grief, and our medical care should not be negotiable, nor should it be dependent on the state in which one lives.
…In fact, Mr. Brooks, it is Donald Trump who has normalized this attitude of throwing away the needs of a minority for the comfort of the majority. We are asked to tolerate racism in exchange for purported “economic benefits.” But the Democratic Party is about standing up for what is right because those whose voices are quieter still have needs, and they are no less relevant. We should not sell out women. We should not sell out immigrants. We should not sell out racial minorities. We should not sell out those in poverty. Democrats are, and should continue to be, the party of the moral high ground—who fight tooth and nail to do what is right—even when it is not easy. Even when it makes “winning” harder [Cheryl Axelrod, “What David Brooks Misunderstands About Abortion,” Slate, 2018.02.05].
If Democrats’ path to “winning” involves pretending that Republicans are right on fundamental women’s rights, then what’s the point? Vote No today, Senator Sutton, on Senate Bill 110.