With T-minus eight months to election day, Kamala Harris posed in front of cameras at an abortion clinic in Minnesota. She is the first American vice president or president to visit an abortion care provider, and probably the first to say “uterus” in an interview. While media visits are on the agendas of many campaigning vice presidents, nobody seems to do the whole useless political tourism thing better than Harris. In 2021, she made a visit to Guatemala to speak with its president about the root causes of mass migration to the US-Mexico border. In a single hollow-worded breath, she told the Guatemalan people: “Do not come.”  A simple three-word response to a massive humanitarian crisis. It was, of course, imperative that she travel to Central America in order to relay the message properly. Now, the Democrats have made yet another political spectacle of a real issue. 

The Democrats are well aware of how much power the abortion debate has in rallying voters. It’s no coincidence that the 2022 midterm elections had the highest number of abortion-related ballot measures and the highest voter turnout of any midterm election since 1970. The Democrats understand that as long as abortion rights remain just out of their grasp, people will vote. This is precisely why they promised for years that the protections guaranteed in the Roe v. Wade ruling would be codified into law, but never took real action. In fact, they’ve never truly addressed the issue head-on. They have generally shied away from even using the term “abortion,” instead opting for language like “reproductive choice.” Such a move points to a political play, a strategically unspecific name-dropping of a hot-button issue, with a lack of ideological context. Sure, it fits into the Democratic party’s pro-feminist optics, but it’s only part of a larger attempt by many governments to rally support for an issue which should have been settled long ago. 

Choosing to dangle a carrot in front of the American people, prospective Democrats have historically kicked the can on the abortion debate further down the road until election time. It does make for eye-catching campaigns. Earlier this year, the Biden campaign ran a television ad, titled “Forced,” in conservative states. It blamed Donald Trump for a woman’s inability to receive a life-saving abortion in Texas. Biden and the Democrats understand how effective the abortion debate is as a mobilizing tool. And with the majority of Americans stating that the overturning of Roe and its aftermath are a deciding factor in their election choice, the Democrats probably have it right. But do the Democrats truly care about codifying abortion rights into the Constitution, or is it just a means of roping in undecided voters?

Not only are the future promises of reproductive rights being used as a last-ditch effort for a feeble Biden reelection campaign, but they are being repeatedly tacked onto a grander “women’s movement.” The Democrats have re-casted the abortion debate as a matter of personal freedom. Like the right to vote did for women in the 20th century, the right to an abortion will allow women to be even fuller-fledged members of society! Without the burden of bearing a child, she can contribute even more to our economy! The argument sits in the same realm as traditional promises of the American dream, and it isn’t even limited to the United States. Everywhere, politicians are using the key-words “abortion” and “a woman’s right to choose” for their optic value. They promise empowerment and an unshackling, a fight against oppression. But like Kamala Harris’ three-word response to the massive issues of violence and economic instability causing the migration crisis, these “feminist” taglines are nothing but strategically dangled carrots. 

A person’s autonomy and self-determination of their own body should never have been up to the discretion of the state in the first place. “Codifying” reproductive liberties into law, whether it be in the far American future or the very near French past, is no more than the removal of institutional roadblocks. They are roadblocks that were put into place by the very same state that is now dismantling them. Under the guise of spreading freedom, they expect celebration. 

After watching the crumbling of Roe in 2022, France moved quickly to push a bill through the National Assembly. And it did. Now Macron wants it enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. In a country with no real threats to abortion rights, it seems like a demonstrative triumph of European progressive might over the backwards Americans. It feels like yet another political strategy. 

The move was met with passionate chants and graffiti all over the country which screamed: Liberté,  Égalité, Sororité. Like the Americans, the French attributed the right to an abortion to a larger women’s movement. But if there’s something that this simple rebuttal to a centuries-old declaration of fundamental values should tell us, it’s that there are still foundational incompatibilities, some cogs that don’t align. We shouldn’t have to counter fraternité with chants of sororité. Current institutions were created by men in order to protect men’s autonomy, and political tools to grant autonomy rights as a form of appeasement are just attempts to continue on the same trajectory. They treat the possession of a uterus as a handicap that needs to be accommodated, accounted, and amended for. We watch as our means of self-determination are taken, re-branded, and sold back to us as political campaigns. 

 

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