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This Is What Bernie Sanders Misses When He Says Democrats Should Deprioritize Abortion Battle

October 2022 Senator Bernie Sanders on Jake Tapper's CNN show. Image: CNN screencap.

In a recent episode of CNN Tonight With Jake Tapper, Senator Bernie Sanders appeared on-air to express frustration with Democratic messaging ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Midterms following a new president don’t usually go well for the party in power, and everyone has an opinion on how to break that cycle. Sanders’ opinion is that Democrats are too focused on access to reproductive care over all other issues. He told Tapper,

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I happen to believe that the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe versus Wade is an absolute outrage. I think Democrats have got to fight to make sure it is women who control their own bodies, not the government. So, I think this is a very important issue. But I don’t believe it can be the only issue

He continued by saying,

At a time when we have an economy in which the wealthiest people, the billionaire class, are getting much, much richer, while working people are struggling to put food on the table, it goes without saying that we have got to focus on the economy and demand that we have a government that works for all of us and not just wealthy campaign contributors.

While he acknowledges this as important, Sanders stresses that other Democrats should focus on economic issues, as if these things are separate. He does the same thing when talking about race. This approach to politics has left those with marginalization beyond class jaded towards him. Some of his well-meaning fans defended his discussion on class first as putting aesthetics second, but demanding acknowledgment and followthrough is not just aesthetics.

Reproductive rights are an economic issue

These issues are often talked about separately, as if bodily autonomy and children aren’t heavily tied up in a person’s economic power. This isn’t a new phenomenon, either. Historically, reproductive rights have always been tied to labor and power, too. After the U.S. formally outlawed the use of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, enslavers continued to commodify Black women’s bodies for another 55 years. More women gained some economic freedom because we were given choices following all of the civil liberties gained in the ’60s. (Though, let’s be clear: poor and Black women were always put to work.)

Now, a person with more mouths to feed has less job mobility if they’re being exploited, and more to lose by collective bargaining when their employer decides to retaliate. From the beginning of pregnancy onwards, the choice to parent is the biggest decision a person can make. Not accounting for college or whether the child or parent has a disability, the average cost to raise a child as of February 2020 was $230,000 over 17 years. This is before inflation and PER child.

@alexandraayers

Ugh.

♬ original sound – Alexandra Ayers

Video also here.

Romance author and feminist podcaster Alexandra Ayers touched on this interview on TikTok, noting that both Republican and Democrat men fail to take into consideration the cost of raising a child. Inflation and corporate greed are linked to why things needed to take care of an infant (let alone a child’s later years) are so expensive. Diapers and formula (even before the shortage) are locked behind glass like cigarettes. Economic factors completely influence people’s choices regarding reproductive health. Economic factors also influence people’s access to see a doctor period.

Too late for this pivot

While I overall disagree with Sanders, I can definitely see the longterm effects of hyper-fixating on abortion if you really only see it as a single moment and not a commitment. However, when this concept is expanded to reproductive healthcare and rights, we are talking about more people and making it a bodily autonomy issue that everyone understands. He said “working families” over and over again, as if this is a separate group of voters, too.

If Sanders wants to talk numbers, then issues people can agree on and understand can get people motivated to vote. Across the political spectrum, people overwhelmingly believe the abortion restrictions in place and all-out bans in some states are too far. Sanders wants Democrats to tackle Republicans on their “phony” posturing on the economy when too many Democrats (in terms of backing corporate greed) are just as bad. This is true more broadly but also in the case of Representative Henry Cuellar. Top Democrats supported this anti-choice Democrat in the primaries this year against the far more progressive Jessica Cisneros.

Many candidates are obviously able to talk on multiple topics at the same time. If the DNC wants to pour millions into running pro-choice ads, let them. This is better than funneling money into far-right Republicans during the primaries thinking it will be an easy fight, because that worked so well before. Sanders and those that want sustainable change would do better to fairly link these larger problems like inflation and abortion, because they are already overlapping issues.

(via CNN, feature image: screencap)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.

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