Nevada State Assembly member Lucy Flores has been speaking up, and her voice is an important addition to the conversation on women’s rights. Jason Karsh (CC BY-NC 2.0)
When Lucy Flores, a Nevada State Assembly member running for lieutenant governor, publicly shared the fact that she had had an abortion at 16, she reminded us that not only is the experience more common than conservatives like to acknowledge (one in three women will have an abortion during her lifetime), but that talking openly about these issues can pave the way toward passing legislation that will protect women’s choices rather than further restrict them.
As Katie McDonough at Salon points out, “We’re long overdue for some common sense and reality checking in our debates about reproductive healthcare.” Now if only more politicians dared to follow in Flores’ footsteps, especially those on the left, McDonough explains, we might have a chance at “regain[ing] control of the abortion debate.” And certainly, it’s a chance worth fighting for.
When any woman shares her abortion story, she creates space for others to do the same. That in and of itself is a tremendously powerful and generous act. And when women like Flores — or California Rep. Jackie Speier, who disclosed her own abortion experience in 2011 — share stories publicly and in the very places that policies governing reproductive healthcare are crafted and voted on, they change the political landscape. They humanize the issue, and position themselves as experts on the policies that have personally impacted their lives—and the lives of millions of other women. There’s real power in that.
Flores knew the stakes involved in educating teens about contraception and pregnancy because she lived them. Sharing her story was undoubtedly brave, but it was also an intuitive choice. If you want to talk about teen pregnancy, listening to women who were pregnant as teens makes complete sense. Which is exactly why more politicians should be willing to talk about this stuff. Statistically, there are more women in Congress and state legislatures across the country who have had these same experiences. Their voices should be leading these policy debates. (Same goes for the men who have made these choices with their partners or other family members. Everyone has a role to play in reducing stigma and centering the experiences of real people who have made these choices.)
And as Sarlin points out, it’s pretty hard for other politicians to weaponize these stories against the women who share them. Because despite a lot of heated rhetoric from the right about reproductive healthcare, most Americans still believe these decisions are wildly personal and that women should be the ones making them. “I don’t think it would be wise for anyone to get into the mud about [Flores’] former life,” Nevada-based GOP strategist Robert Uithoven told MSNBC.
This is a real opportunity for Democrats who have only just begun to play offense on reproductive rights to start turning things around.
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata
Jason Karsh (CC BY-NC 2.0)