Pro-life, Pro-choice or Pro-paganda?.
The Woman Post | Melisa Sanmiguel
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Whether is a personal evolution or a political strategy, United States president, Joe Biden’s perspective on abortion has shifted over time; and his new role as a radical abortion defender will be decisive for elections in 2024 and his re-election campaign.
Two weeks ago —on the first anniversary of the Roe v. Wade historical Supreme Court’s overturn—president Biden announced the third executive order to boost access to contraception methods; while Republicans are calling for national restrictions and reinforcing the pro-life movement across the country.
This past year, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have intensified their public support on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and have become bulwarks of women’s autonomy on this hot button that will be crucial to win voters. Biden and Harris recently participated in the Democratic National Committee with three of the largest and most powerful reproductive rights groups: NARAL Pro-Choice America, EMILYs List, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
After the event, these organizations reiterated their support for the Democrats and through a public statement, NARAL not only criticized the Supreme Court’s decision but also announced the endorsement of their 4 million members for the Biden-Harris reelection:
“President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are the strongest advocates for reproductive freedom ever to occupy the White House, and NARAL Pro-Choice America proudly endorses their reelection (…) We’re proud to make this historic endorsement, and our 4 million members are ready to get to work to send President Biden and Vice President Harris back to the White House.” Stated Narals portal.
This emphatic support to abortion is well received in a key moment for both personal freedom and Biden's strategy. According to the latest Reuters/Ipsos political poll, 54% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s administration. His popularity dropped after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the inflated consumer prices, but his prospects have recently improved thanks to his activism on abortion rights. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are fully aware of the influence and power behind women’s autonomy:
“Women are not without an electoral or political power.' You ain't seen nothing yet…Make no mistake: this election (2024) is about freedom on the ballot once again." Said Biden about the Supreme Court's landmark Dobbs decision.
The Republican Perspective
Towards the end of his term of office, former President, Donald Trump (and now front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination) nominated Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. With her confirmation, Trump appointed three of the six Supreme Court Justices who overturned the Roe v Wade. (Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett).
Through his social platform Donald Trump not only celebrated the decision but took credit for it:
“After 50 years of failure, with nobody coming even close, I was able to kill Roe v. Wade, much to the ‘shock’ of everyone, and for the first time put the Pro Life movement in a strong negotiating position over the Radicals that are willing to kill babies even into their 9th month, and beyond.” Stated Trump on Truth Social.
However, ever since Trump started his campaign for 2024, he seems to be avoiding the issue and has repeatedly refuse to say if he supports the federal law restricting abortion and has been vague about it. Some unofficial sources affirm that he is concerned that the Court’s decision may hurt the Republican party on 2024 elections. Reproductive rights and Women Rights seem to be once more, just a matter of political convenience.
After the Court’s landmark decision on Roe v. Wade, the republican governor of Florida and now presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis wrote on Twitter:
"The prayers of millions have been answered (…) For nearly fifty years, the U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited virtually any meaningful pro-life protection, but this was not grounded in the text, history or structure of the Constitution.”
On April 2023 —a month prior to the announcement of his presidential race— DeSantis signed a law that prohibits abortion in Florida after six weeks of pregnancy, a law that is among the most restrictive in the U.S. making almost impossible for women to access. For the past months DeSantis has been endorsing Pro-life organizations and strengthening his campaign at the expense of confining women’s freedom.
Pro-life, Pro-choice or Pro-paganda?
Even though, United States as a country has sharped differences from the Latin America and the Caribbean context, Reproductive rights have been often used in both scenarios as a “lifeboat” to increase popularity during political campaigns, especially at the final stage.
During the presidential campaign on 2019 in Argentina, neither of the strongest candidates, nor Mauricio Macri, nor Alberto Fernandez, had considered the abortion issue as a priority theme in their proposals and political debate. However, both of them had their own personal conviction on the matter and they were well known by the public opinion.
It was only until the last weeks of campaign that suddenly the abortion and reproductive rights became the focus of the debate, and even at that stage, they only presented general and superficial arguments. Fernandez said during his campaign: "There is no need to speed up on the legalization of abortion." This affirmation will dramatically change a few months later.
With the emergency that the Covid-19 pandemic unleashed, the economic crisis and the high inflation, Fernandez’s popularity decreased from 73% to 37% in five months. Just a few weeks later and conveniently enough, the introduction of the abortion bill was sent to the congress on November 2020, and after a 20-hour debate the bill was first approved on December 11, 2020. Fernandez’s popularity Increased again that month to 50%.
To raise the abortion flag, defend women’s rights and publicly stand as an ally, are some patterns that central and south American countries have seen before. Politics are essential for women’s rights, but women’s rights can’t be instrumentalized to obtain popularity. Voters cannot forget that an election is not about the candidate, but about the people.
Why is abortion a decisive topic for elections?
According to a Gallup poll released on June 21, 28% of Americans eligible to vote are deciding exclusively on candidates' positions on abortion.
28% are exclusively deciding according to the candidates’ opinion, it is not just crucial, it is the breaking point for 56 million people. Reproductive Rights matter and are shaping the future in politics. Reproductive rights are after all, women’s rights too.