Pramila was one of Washington State's most accomplished state senators and when she decided to run for the open Seattle congressional seat in 2016, she sure wasn't the first choice of the Democratic Party establishment-- way too independent minded for them. But she was Blue America's first choice and we were proud to help her overcome her underdog status and win-- and we've been proud of the yeoman's work she's been doing in the House ever since. Today is the second installment of a series of guest posts by non-backbenchers leading up to Election Day. (Over the weekend we heard from Adam Schiff.)
Freedom is on the Ballot
-by Pramila Jayapal
We hear all the time that this time, this election is really the most consequential of our lifetime. It just so happens that this time it really is. What is on the ballot this time is our freedoms: freedom to vote and have your vote counted in a free and fair election; freedom to make choices about our own bodies; freedom to have economic security and a future where we thrive not just survive; freedom to live in a real democracy where extremist white supremacist groups are not given fuel and encouragement to be violent, dehumanizing and undermining of our government.
That’s what we had for my first four years in Congress in a Donald Trump presidency and Republican control of Congress. Today’s Republican Party has become a corrupt, extremist, Big Lie cult party that seeks to take your freedoms from us. That is what is on the ballot. And unlike the past where sometimes Democrats would run solely as an opposition party (“we’re better than the other guy”), this year we run not only as an opposition party with serious freedoms on the ballot, but also as a proposition party that has actually delivered real results for working people, poor folks and people of color even with the smallest margins in history.
Of all the issues that will be on the ballot in November, none have perhaps shaped and changed our collective psyche more than our right to safe and legal abortion.
When the extremist Republican Supreme Court published it’s Dobbs decision stripping us of the right to abortion that has been settled law of the land for 50 years, I said then that Republicans were completely underestimating the fury and wrath of women, pregnant people and our families across the country.
For the first time in nearly fifty years, abortion was no longer the law of the land. A decision dictated by Supreme Court Justices all appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, who put party and demagogy above the will of the American people.
This unprecedented attack on our reproductive and bodily freedoms has already had widespread, negative, and devastating impacts. And the communities who are bearing the burden of this unjust, unlawful decision are our most vulnerable-- poor people, Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, LGBTQIA people, and young people. We’ve all read the stories that have emerged in our post-Roe society: the 10 year old survivor of sexual violence who was forced to travel to another state to obtain the abortion she needed; the woman in Wisconsin who was left to bleed for several days because her doctors were unable to provide miscarriage care. Each story more heartbreaking than the last. Each one a stark reminder of what happens when we are robbed of choice.
The fight for abortion rights is personal for me. I am one of the one in four women in this country who has had an abortion. Every pregnant person contemplating getting an abortion gets to that decision differently-- for me, the choice was incredibly difficult, one that likely saved my life-- but the decision shouldn’t have to be complicated or hard for it to be the right decision. As long as it remains the pregnant person’s decision, nothing else matters.
Robbing people of the right to make decisions about their own bodies robs us of our autonomy, our personhood, and our freedom. And let us be clear: it is directly related to our economic freedom, our ability to plan our families and our careers in a country that remains one of very few developed nations that does not provide child care or paid leave to all Americans to take care of our babies once they are delivered into this world.
I believe that Republicans have unleashed a fury that is being translated to the ballot box. Abortion does not and should not function on its own as a driver to the ballot. It goes along with economic freedoms, freedom to vote and freedom to protect our democracy. But the real threat and fear of a country controlled by Republicans who want to ban abortion nationwide and strip us of our fundamental freedoms has already motivated people to the ballot boxes.
Voters in deep red Kansas overwhelmingly voted no on an amendment that would have paved the way for legislation that would restrict abortion rights. Democrat Pat Ryan won the special election in New York’s 19th Congressional District by running on abortion rights. Democrat Mary Peltola became the first Native Alaskan to win a special election in Congress and the first Democrat in 49 years to win a Congressional seat. Whether it’s red, blue, or purple states, people have shown they are ready and willing to turn out to protect the right to choose.
This is our moment. We have a record of delivering for people already— from money in people’s pockets with stimulus checks to cutting unemployment to its lowest level in half a century to cutting hunger by 32% and child poverty by 40%; from cancelling up to $20,000 in student debt for 43 million Americans to making the largest investment ever in taking on climate change so we reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, we have already passed the Women’s Health Protection Act twice. We’ve also passed a pair of bills to protect the right to contraception and marriage equality, because Justice Thomas and many Republicans in Congress have made it clear that they do not intend to stop at stripping abortion rights: they want to go after your rights to contraception, to marry who you love and to privacy.
President Biden has also used his executive authority to protect reproductive freedoms, including directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, to ensure medications approved by the FDA to safely end an early pregnancy are available to the fullest extent possible, and signing an executive order protecting access to reproductive health care services.
So, our work is clear. If we can add just two more seats in the Senate and keep the House, then we can eliminate or carve out the filibuster and codify the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the right to abortion into law. If we can win state races from Governor to Secretaries of State to State Legislatures across the country, we can also prevent extremist Republicans from passing statewide abortion bans.
And this time, as Democrats, we run with a clear path to success on this issue and a clear record of delivering for the people. This time, we run not only as an opposition party but also as a proposition party. This time, we show this extremist Republican Party that we must keep this momentum going into the midterms by communicating clearly and often about what is at stake.
That is why we need people to turn out in droves and elect Democrats up and down the ballot. By keeping the House and adding two more pro-choice Democrats in the Senate who support a carveout to the filibuster, we can pass legislation to enshrine abortion rights into law, and make sure that no one, not even the Supreme Court, can attack our reproductive freedoms again.
There is so much at stake in these midterm elections. But we can and must win. Our freedoms, our families and our faith in our democracy is on the ballot.