Still reeling from the angst caused by the sudden Supreme Court vacancy, I am aghast at the anti-women stance adopted recently by the Missouri Democratic Party at its quarterly meeting.
Even though the platform committee worked for months to update a 10-year-old document with over 100 listening sessions throughout the state, their thoughtfully-crafted platform passed recently with one huge caveat: Women were thrown under the bus.
The new platform includes restricting domestic abusers from firearms, reinstating an assault weapons ban, and supporting a $15 minimum wage, the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act, Black Lives Matter and DACA. None of these progressive policies was deemed controversial by the voting party.
Yet a statement regarding a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive health care without government intrusion completely inflamed the members.
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They successfully amended the new platform to include: “We … recognize the deeply and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, such as abortion. We recognize the diversity of views as a source of strength and welcome into our ranks all Missourians who may hold differing positions on this issue.”
The amendment’s sponsor, a former state representative and obstetrics nurse, said the party could be more successful in elections if pro-life voters were included.
Did the party members voting on the platform worry about “diversity of opinion” on racism, equality, voting rights, immigration or firearms? No, just women’s private reproductive decisions.
St. Louis alderwoman and committeewoman Annie Rice pushed back with a tongue-in-cheek amendment (which she then withdrew) asking for diversity of opinion on right-to-work laws. I can only imagine the uproar that ensued.
Did the party members who voted yes on the amendment have any clue about the unconstitutional abortion restrictions that have passed into state law or the number of anti-reproductive health care bills filed each year in Jefferson City, including proposals to limit access to contraception, fertility clinics and even regular exams and sexually-transmitted infection screenings?
Do the members know the severe consequences these pro-life lobby proposals have for Missouri women? Or that the medical community is adamantly in opposition? Or the number of Democratic and Republican legislators who regularly vote against science and medical policy because they run as pro-life candidates? Or that pro-life Democrats vote every year with the GOP majority to rob federal food stamp funds for children in order to give millions of dollars to fake pregnancy clinics that purposely lie to women?
Nationwide, at least one in three women has had an abortion for about a million personal reasons, ranging from rape, incest and even very wanted pregnancies that go tragically wrong.
We know that 62 percent of Missourians believe that abortion should remain legal and accessible. You ask any woman if she wants the state to interfere in her private reproductive decisions with her trusted physician — whether it be for birth control, miscarriage management, infertility treatments, well-woman exams or abortion services. I guarantee that almost every single woman will give you the identical emphatic answer of no.
A woman’s ability to plan her family, when and if she chooses to have one, has a huge impact on her economic life, along with her level of education and social status. Rice emphasized in her remarks that reproductive health care is an economic right and that without full and easy access, women cannot be full participants in the world.
State party members overwhelmingly support labor rights, which ironically would be denied to women if they could not control their reproductive decisions.
The next generation of childbearing women fully expects abortion rights that have been guaranteed since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Because of reproductive health care including abortion, women have advanced in business, politics and academics at levels of which our grandmothers and great-grandmothers could only dream. Because of birth control and abortion, Missouri women legislators are able to serve in the Capitol (not one of them has more than three children, and some have none). Women of all stripes, including those with the Missouri Democratic Party, have achieved measures of success because they alone had the power to choose when and if they bore children.
I am incensed that party members believe that courting voters for anti-women candidates outweighs the consequences of denying hundreds of women control over their lives. Yet no one suggested courting pro-gun voters, anti-equality voters or anti-labor voters as a means to win seats.
I refuse to stand silently by as Missouri Democratic Party members and every GOP state legislator support what amounts to government mandated pregnancy in order to satisfy their personal beliefs.
We already know that plot. “The Handmaid’s Tale” TV series may win awards, but it must not be allowed to become reality in Missouri.
State Rep. Stacey Newman is a Democrat representing Missouri’s 87th District.