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Mon Mar 27, 2023, 12:10 PM Mar 2023

Abortion Wins Elections The fight to make reproductive rights the centerpiece of the Democratic Part

Abortion Wins Elections The fight to make reproductive rights the centerpiece of the Democratic Party’s 2024 agenda.

he question,” New York representative Shirley Chisholm declared in 1969, “is not: can we justify abortions, but can we justify compulsory pregnancy?”

The first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, Chisholm had recently been named the first honorary co-president of NARAL. She was both frank and morally assured in the remarks she delivered to the Republican Task Force on Earth Resources and Population, asking pointedly, “What is more immoral, granting an abortion or forcing a young girl … to assume the responsibilities of an adult while she is still a child?”

Chisholm was speaking during the last period in this country’s history in which American lawmakers were facing the open and urgent question of how to expand access to abortion care via legislative means, though at the time it was not clear which party was going to lead the charge. Chisholm’s 1969 remarks survive in part because they so impressed the chair of the committee, Texas representative George H.W. Bush, that he made the unusual move of entering them into the Congressional Record, explaining that they “deserve widespread attention.”

Two years earlier, California governor Ronald Reagan had signed one of the country’s most liberal abortion laws, permitting “therapeutic” abortions in cases of rape, incest, and threat to the life of the mother. In 1970, New York decriminalized the procedure for any reason prior to the 24th week of pregnancy, and activists won similar victories in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii with support from both sides of the aisle. That same year, the first bill to legalize abortion federally was introduced to the Senate by Oregon Republican Bob Packwood, a man who would fight vociferously for abortion access until he resigned in 1995 amid allegations of serial sexual assault and harassment.

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