Stop Treating Abortion Rights Like a Political Pawn


In April, New York State approved the issuance of three new casino licenses. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Nicole Braun, Opinion Editor

President Joe Biden announced in a speech to the Democratic National Committee that if Democrats retain control of the legislative branch he would codify the right to abortion into law. This is a cop-out. He is holding women’s rights hostage in an unwinnable election, damning their rights to healthcare and bodily autonomy.

Before I delve into the irrationality of this “plan” and the frustration I feel toward it, it is important to understand the meaning of codification: “[to] arrange laws, rules or regulations into a systematic code.” In the case of abortion rights, codification would mean that the laws once protected under Roe v. Wade will be signed into federal law. Up until it was overturned by the Supreme Court in June, the Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade granted citizens the federal right to an abortion for almost half a century.

Biden professed his intention to codify abortion protections this coming January, saying, “if you do your part and vote, Democratic leaders of Congress, I promise you, we’ll do our part. I’ll do my part.”

This “promise” makes my blood boil. 

We already did our part. Democrats already elected Biden into presidential office and retained control of both the House and the Senate. The majorities may not be comfortable, but they are ours, at least for the next week. Securing abortion rights isn’t a quid pro quo situation, where we as voters scratch their back and then they, in turn, scratch ours. Democrats elected Biden into office two years ago, partly because we were scared of losing our rights to bodily autonomy. Despite this win, that loss of rights is exactly what happened. Now that it has, Biden is dangling our desperate need for abortion rights like a carrot on a stick.

Biden’s announcement that he will codify abortion protections is cheap. It’s a “better than nothing” card that he is playing six months too late, and that’s only if Democrats keep control of the House and the Senate, which, as we’re coming down to the wire on Nov. 8, feels like a very big “if.”

There are currently four tight Senate races, with Republicans needing just one seat to gain control of the Senate, and it also looks like they are likely to win a majority of the House. In the case that we will have a Republican-controlled Congress, Democrats do not appear to have a back-up plan for protecting reproductive rights.

The writing was on the walls when Biden first took office in January 2021, as, for years prior to the 2020 election, red states were chiseling away at reproductive rights. In the first weeks following the overturn of Roe, Democrats put forth their first effort to codify abortion protections, but it failed. Their laws passed in the House, but only garnered 49 votes in the Senate, 11 votes shy of the threshold needed to bypass the filibuster. Now, Biden is saying the best the Democratic Party can do is hope for overwhelming victories in extremely tight Senate races to put an end to the filibuster to codify the law, or to have enough new votes that a filibuster would not even be a concern.

If, and, again, this is a monumental if, Biden’s fantasy does come true, the earliest he could put this plan into action is in January when the new Congress is inaugurated. When all is said and done, Americans would still have been living under draconian laws for more than half a year.

While he and other Democrats are using this codification like a treasure hunt to get us to the polls, people — patients, physicians and ordinary citizens alike — have experienced suffocating anxiety since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June. Healthcare professionals are concerned about the lengths desperate people will go to, worrying about the return of dangerous at-home abortions. “I truly hope women don’t do that,” said one doctor, “but we have to be prepared for anything because desperate women will do desperate and dangerous things.” People are not okay, and for Democrats to make it seem as if all will be well if just enough red districts are turned blue overlooks the devastation that the Supreme Court’s ruling has caused. 

It also feels wrong to treat abortion protections as if they are just like any other bullet point on a political agenda. Americans can’t come to a consensus on even the most inconsequential of differences, yet 61% of more than 300 million people believe that abortion should be legal in all cases. In light of this statistic, denying people the right to an abortion isn’t just a political victory for the right wing — it is also a denial of human rights

To recontextualize, Biden is saying that if, and only if, Democrats are successful in the polls, then we will get our human rights back. Biden will only give us our human rights back if we help his party win? Is he kidding? 

Women are a consistent voting bloc for the Democratic Party. To imply that we will be rewarded for voting blue by getting back the rights we had for half a century is disgusting and shows an astounding lack of respect for a loyal voter base.

Unfortunately, we have no choice. “Vote blue no matter who” because we already know that a majority of Republican politicians will continue to chip away at our meager reproductive rights until there is nothing left. As insulting and degrading as it is to re-elect the people that have failed us, we have no other alternative.

From a logical standpoint, I understand that because of our political framework and social climate there is only so much Biden can do. Nevertheless, it is hard not to feel disappointed. He is supposed to be the leader of the free world and the best he could do was encourage Democrats to win in extremely challenging congressional races. The phrasing of Biden’s codification plan also makes it seem like he was giving voters an ultimatum, or like he was putting the blame in voters’ hands if things go south on election day.

I’ll vote blue, but I have to say I am frustrated and furious with how Democrats have botched the protection of abortion rights. Democrats have failed to secure our right to bodily autonomy, and by continuing to taunt us with our human rights as if they are just another political pawn, Democratic politicians have revealed their remarkable lack of consideration for their constituents. 

Democrats elected Biden so he could protect our rights just for him to throw the ball back in our court.

Nicole Braun, FCRH ’24, is an English major from Saddle River, N.J.