By Tarina Keene
August 8, 2017

In January, millions of women streets across the country to take a stand against President and support a progressive that promoted, among other things, access to affordable and .

It’s clear that Trump has put that access at risk. He’s advocated defunding has taken away funds from international organizations that perform or provide information on abortion and vowed to religious employers to deny their workers . On the campaign trail, he that a woman who decides to have an abortion should face “some form of punishment.” (After widespread criticism, he and said that only the doctors who perform the procedure should face consequence.)

Yet, despite these attacks on women’s health and our rights, now it seems some Democratic leaders are considering stepping back from the fight to protect and advance reproductive freedom. Last week, Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, that supporting abortion rights shouldn’t be a requirement for receiving party support. His comments echoed similar sentiments from House Minority Leader and Senate Minority Leader , despite the fact that support for abortion rights is

Unsurprisingly and understandably, their comments were met with shock and white hot rage from voters, party influencers, elected officials, and especially the women who

Let’s be honest: these Democratic leaders are terrified to miss their chance to win in 2018. I don’t blame them. But, if we want to win, we have to learn from the that left so many of us beleaguered and demoralized and come up with a strategy that will compel voters to show up to the polls and vote blue. That’s why it would be a huge mistake to sacrifice one of the fundamental tenets of the party, not to mention a constitutional right supported by a : the right of a woman to control her reproductive destiny, and therefore, her future.

And it’s a mistake we don’t need to make.

Just take a look at what played out earlier this year as two Democrats battled in the in the key of Virginia. One clear difference between the candidates? Their stance on abortion rights. The eventual winner, Ralph Northam, had from the very beginning of his political career, been an unapologetic of reproductive health and , earning an endorsement by . His opponent, on the other hand, for an amendment to what would become the Affordable Care Act that would have prohibited federal funding being used for abortion in government-subsidized insurance plans when he served in Congress.

Pundits the race between the two candidates would be tight. But Northam won by a — in a primary election that had the in the state’s history.

Northam’s victory wasn’t a fluke. His steadfast support for women’s rights was the most salient point of contrast between the two candidates and a significant motivator for his supporters. Northam’s win proves that embracing reproductive rights and defending abortion access will be key to Democrats winning races in 2018. Nearly oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion, according to the Pew Research Center. Further, women are than men to vote Democratic and there are anti-abortion Democrats left in Congress — and all are men.

It’s understandable why some Democrats are that the party shift its focus on the economy rather than what some call “social issues.” We all want to win and there are some hard lessons to be learned from 2016. But these views leaves out essential context: isn’t possible for a woman and her family without access to the full range of reproductive health care. There’s that women who are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term are more likely to live in poverty. Women know that their chance to get ahead in this economy is tied to their ability to plan if, how, and when they want to grow their families.

To millions of Americans, the debate over is not some abstract fight among politicians in D.C. These are bread and butter matters that affect their ability to continue their education, support their family, rise up in their career and plan for their future. For many women, access to the American dream hinges on this very question.

If we allow ourselves to compromise the very values that are so critical to our party’s identity, what will we cave on next? We’re at a pivotal moment where we will decide the future of our party — and our country. If we kowtow to Trump and the GOP, we’ll sabotage ourselves and lose — and not just at the ballot box. When we stand up for our core principles and defend the basic human rights of women and families, we grow stronger as a party and as a country. We need to empower and elect people who will be champions for the American people. We need bold leaders who will stand up and fight for the dignity of our daughters to determine their own futures.

The leadership of the Democratic party must remember that women have been the backbone of our movement since the beginning. Women march. Women lobby. Women

And if you forget us today, we will remember you at the polls tomorrow.

Tarina Keene is the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.

Contact us at [email protected].

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