Last Tuesday night, while Ed Markey and Gabriel Gomez debated gun control and national security, the US House of Representatives passed an unprecedented roll back of women’s reproductive rights. The bill outlaws a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy after 20 weeks, with only narrow and inadequate exceptions for survivors of rape and incest, and no exception at all to protect a woman’s health or save her life.
The fate of this bill now lies in the US Senate, where we are one vote short of the pro-choice majority we need to defeat this measure: there are only 40 pro-choice votes when we need 41. This is only one example—albeit an extreme example—of why it is critical for Massachusetts voters to elect a pro-choice US Senator next Tuesday. Who we elect will directly impact the future of women’s rights across the country, and here in Massachusetts.
The candidates’ positions—or lack thereof—have been clear from the start. Ed Markey has proven that he will fight for women to have access to basic health care and their right to choose. He has a 30-year track record in the House of Representatives to prove it.
Gabriel Gomez has demonstrated a lack of understanding and interest in the health issues that women face. He admitted that he had never read the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed a woman’s employer to determine if she could access birth control, and was unwilling to provide his position. Instead, his campaign dismissed the issue of access to birth control as an “inside baseball freakout,” ignoring the challenges that many women face accessing basic health care. Gomez was for a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortion care before he was against it—initially saying it “wasn’t asking a lot” until he later realized it was—and stated he would vote for a Supreme Court nominee who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
The majority of Americans—seven out of ten—support Roe v Wade, which provided women with the right to have an abortion until the point of viability, as settled law. And yet, despite widespread support, Congress just passed the first bill that directly challenges Roe v Wade. Politicians have once again inserted themselves into a decision that should be left to a woman, her doctor, and her family.
The bill’s author Rep Trent Franks defended his bill by saying—much like his former colleague Todd Akin—that women almost never become pregnant after rape and suggesting that 20 weeks was more than enough time for a woman to make her decision. He made these remarks despite the fact that almost 25,000 pregnancies result from rape each year. And he ignored that many women seek late-term abortion care because there are already too many barriers to accessing an abortion, thanks to a state-by-state war on women’s access to health care, and because of heartbreaking fetal anomalies that cause women to terminate much wanted pregnancies. While Gomez managed to call Franks a “moron” for his statements, he never denounced the bill or Franks’ anti-choice agenda, and he never said he wouldn’t vote for it if elected to the US Senate.
We cannot allow the US Senate to pass this bill, and we know without question that only one Senate candidate—Ed Markey—will vote against it. The future of women’s health and access to critical reproductive health care relies on the outcome of the election next Tuesday, and the choice is clear when it comes to who will support women’s health. Next week, we have the opportunity to show the rest of the country that here in Massachusetts we will not stand for attacks on a woman’s right to choose.