Statement of the National Political Committee of Democratic Socialists of America
May 1, 2017
Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is committed to socialist feminist organizing, knowing that capitalism is built upon male supremacy and white supremacy. One of the most critical feminist issues is reproductive justice, including not just birth control and abortion but also childbearing and childrearing. DSA also understands that abortion access is an economic issue, that poor and working-class people and people of color in particular experience limited access to reproductive healthcare, from the very limited access to care for rural patients to mandatory waiting periods that force people to lose work and stay in a costly hotel, to the high cost of the care itself.
As part of our support for reproductive justice, DSA believes that people should have the right to make decisions for their own bodies that shape their reproductive destiny. In terms of abortion, that means women, gender nonconforming people and trans men who may become pregnant should have the right to decide whether to terminate or continue a pregnancy, as well as the resources to support that choice. As part of our efforts to achieve reproductive justice, DSA has consistently called for Congress to overturn the 1976 Hyde Amendment that bans Medicaid funds being used for abortions.
DSA was also an early and strong supporter of Bernie Sanders in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. Sanders has recently been under fire for endorsing Heath Mello, a Democratic candidate for mayor in Omaha, Nebraska. It is likely that DSA members hold a range of views on whether or not Sanders should have endorsed Mello, and certainly many of us found his specific remarks on the topic to be problematic.
Some will argue that Sanders should not endorse any candidate who does not have a strong track record supporting reproductive justice, and that if DSA does not denounce Sanders’ action, it is failing in its commitment to reproductive justice. Others will argue that electoral politics rarely involves supporting a 100% perfect candidate. In this instance, there are good strategic reasons to support Mello, namely to stop the election of a conservative anti-abortion, anti-choice candidate who brought in Wisconsin governor Scott Walker to campaign for her.
Mello has been reported as being an anti-abortion, anti-choice candidate, and the Wall Street Journal stated that as a practicing Catholic, he was pro-life. On the other hand, The Nation points out that “in 2012, Mello voted with Planned Parenthood on two out of three bills tracked by the group — and was excused from voting on the third. After that, Mello, who had become the influential chair of the state legislature’s budget committee, voted with Planned Parenthood 100 percent of the time,” contributing to a successful four years without any new laws regulating abortion.
Our perspective is that in order to build a strong national movement for liberation in a complicated world, we should trust our grassroots. Furthermore, we cannot ignore the fact that many critics of Sanders and Mello failed to object to Tim Kaine, vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, who had a consistent voting record for supporting laws that limited access to abortions. We reaffirm our commitment to reproductive justice, but we ask ourselves whether some of the current attacks on Sanders are simply the latest cynical attempt to undermine a politician who challenges the ruling class.
In closing, democratic socialism and socialist feminism are inextricably linked. DSA believes that birth control and safe abortion should be provided as part of a comprehensive single-payer healthcare program, and we know that many abortion restrictions are opposed by the majority of voters. But we cannot depend on any one politician to be our savior, nor can our allies who are in office win this fight without a grassroots movement behind them.
That’s why this month DSA members expressed their commitment to reproductive justice through our movement-building work. Seventeen DSA teams are participating in Bowl-A-Thons across the country in solidarity with the National Network of Abortion Funds, raising over $40,000 and using the opportunity to build stronger relationships with local reproductive justice organizations and bigger DSA socialist feminist committees for future work. It is an open secret that the Trump White House opposes not just abortion but also birth control, as do many state legislatures, and they do the bidding of the capitalist class. Since part of reproductive justice is having the means (quality food, shelter, education) to raise healthy children, DSA will continue to fight for the expansion of publicly funded social services such as through our work in many states for single-payer healthcare, in addition to access to abortion.