Take a lesson from Louisiana.

 As the Democratic Party continues soul-searching for how to rebuild after 2016, the debate regarding the centrality of abortion rights to progressive economic politics has reared its ugly head. Progressive leaders like Bernie Sanders and Democratic Party leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have dismissed the critical importance of abortion access, seemingly without a thought for what that means for the women who need it. If you want to know what happens when the Democratic Party embraces politicians who want to deny women access to abortion, look no further than here in Louisiana.

For years, Louisiana Democrats have joined their Republican colleagues in passing anti-choice legislation that has had the cumulative effect of putting abortion access all but out of reach for low-income women. Time and again, state politicians who think they know what is best for women have refuted scientific studies with junk science, ignored expert testimony, and dismissed the experiences of the women who have had abortions in order to champion anti-choice legislation and further their political careers.

Following eight years of the failed policies of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, there was hope that the election of Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2016 might bring some progress. His support for raising the minimum wage and equal pay for women was lauded by state progressives. Yet, like so many Democrats before him, Edwards ran on an anti-choice platform. True to his word, Edwards began his term in office by being the only Democrat to sign an amicus brief to the U. S. Supreme Court in support of Texas’s restrictive abortion law House Bill 2, becoming bedfellows with Republican governors from Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Kentucky. Though H.B. 2 was eventually struck down, that same year, Edwards signed into law seven new abortion restrictions that shame and punish women for personal health care decisions.

Under Edwards’s leadership, Louisiana has been in a race to the bottom to make abortion a right in name alone — and it is poor women who are paying the price.

Certain Democratic leaders believe issues like abortion and access to reproductive care are distracting from what should be the party’s real focus: economics. But what this strategy fails to recognize is that for women, access to abortion drives their economics, and it is economics that often drives the need for abortion. If a woman is able to access an abortion, she is likely to be able to continue employment, continue earning an income. If a woman can’t access employment, she might not be able to afford raising a child and therefore seek an abortion. To ignore abortion in the debate about economic security and freedom ignores these cyclical realities and will only diminish Democratic enthusiasm among the party’s biggest voting bloc.

The economic burdens of not having access to abortion can negatively impact women’s economic trajectory for a lifetime and affect generations down the road. Studies show women who are denied an abortion are three times more likely to wind up in poverty after two years, compared to women in comparable financial situations who were able to get one. These long-lasting economic burdens placed on women cannot be overstated.

Today, Louisiana is facing a fiscal cliff that will result in further cuts to essential services for women and families when our situation is already dire. Nearly 1 million Louisiana women are of reproductive age, yet there is only one ob-gyn per 13,000 women. Louisiana has the seventh highest teen pregnancy rate, but legislators refuse to pass legislation that would mandate comprehensive sex education or even allow high school students to take a voluntary survey assessing their sexual risk behaviors. When it comes to abortion access, Louisiana has only three clinics left, down from seven in 2011, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute.

Edwards may claim to support women’s equality — a foundational promise of the Democratic Party — but the unfortunate state of women’s access to reproductive health care, including abortion, in Louisiana makes it clear his progressive priorities have run astray.

The Democratic Party is based on a shared set of values and principles — those cannot be abandoned. Democrats like Edwards are welcome to their personal beliefs but they are not welcome to impose those beliefs on the women of this party. Abortion is part of a continuum of reproductive health care, and health care is a human right. If Democrats want to maintain their claim to be the party that represents women’s interests, nothing less than a bold, united stance supporting reproductive rights and justice as a human right is acceptable.

Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, and Chuck Schumer should reconsider their embrace of anti-abortion Democrats. Take it from the women of Louisiana — that strategy comes at an enormous cost.

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a9976221/anti-abortion-pro-life-democrats-louisiana/