Tomorrow, I head to Orlando to debate and vote on the final Democratic Party platform. Once an obscure and rote part of the process, this year the platform has received the attention it is due as the preeminent statement of party values. While debate continues around some of the issues in the platform, one thing cannot be debated: this is by far and away the most progressive platform on reproductive health, freedom and justice in the history of the party.
And just in the nick of time.
The Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision handed down by the Supreme Court was a significant victory for the 7 in 10 Americans who support a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion, as well as for evidence-based decision making over ideology. But with the extreme anti-choice minority’s pledge to double down on its efforts to eliminate abortion access and anti-choice politicians trying to seize control of women’s decision making and our lives at every level of government, we need a concrete statement of values and a proactive vision to rally around.
This draft platform is that.
This weekend in Florida, delegates will convene to consider a platform that makes the strongest case yet for making sure all women have the fundamental human right to decide if, when, how and with whom we grow our families. In addition to protecting and expanding access to contraception and pushing for paid family leave, this platform for the first time includes the explicit call to repeal both the Hyde and Helms amendments.
These two policies for decades have created undue and significant barriers for low-income women here at home and around the world to control their reproductive destiny. Ending these policies would root out discrimination in our insurance and healthcare system and provide greater tools of empowerment to women everywhere.
Evidence consistently demonstrates that when women have access to all forms of family planning, not only do they thrive, but their families and their communities thrive. If we are serious about lifting women out of poverty, having access to the full range of reproductive freedoms is key. Perhaps even more compelling is the psychological and mental impact of not being able to control your own body. There’s a reason the UN classifies lack of access to abortion as a form of torture with long term ramifications for women forced to carry pregnancies against their will.
As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said last year: “There’s a sorry situation in the United States, which is essentially that poor women don’t have choice. Women of means do. They will, always. …That we have one law for women of means and another for poor women is not a satisfactory situation.”
The inclusion of Hyde and Helms in the platform comes after years of advocacy by reproductive freedom and justice groups, and after Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton made eliminating these barriers a central part of her campaign.
I can only imagine the conversations going on about these issues in the GOP platform, where the GOP controlled Congress just voted to make access to birth control more difficult in the middle of a Zika crisis; where leaders in the party often call to prohibit abortion even in the cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother; and where the presumptive nominee of their party has said that a woman who has an abortion should be punished and has pledged to appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
If platforms are statements of collective values and a blueprint for candidates to follow once elected, the choice could not be more clear. The Democratic Party platform I will be voting for this weekend will include a commitment to reproductive freedom that represents the views of the majority of Americans and carries us into the future when every woman has access to her constitutional rights regardless of geography, income, or source of insurance and when we can expect public policy to support us and our families at every stage of our reproductive lives.
NARAL Pro-Choice American President Ilyse Hogue is a nationally-recognized social change practitioner and expert in online engagement with a passion for progressive work.