Conservatives Have a Very Twisted View of What Pro-Family Means

It’s not a surprise to me that in the race to win the Republican nomination, the candidates are working hard to find ways to win over women. Each has gushed on stage about their own mothers, or the importance of motherhood, and Marco Rubio made a point in the last debate to talk about the cost of child care. Issues at the top of mind for many women, like reproductive rights and equal pay, of course, will go mysteriously unmentioned.

As the election looms, the Republican’s transparent efforts to appeal to women in the only way they know how will only intensify. As it does, I hope the Democrats will recognize the opportunity they have and call out the right on the shocking hypocrisy of claiming to be pro-women or pro-family while continuing their witch hunt against Planned Parenthood and efforts to stop women from obtaining legal abortions.

Because the truth is that you cannot be pro-family without being pro-choice. The right to have an abortion is about bodily integrity, equality and, yes, family. There is nothing pro-family about forcing women to give birth; respecting families means respecting women’s life choices and ability to have a child if and when she wants to.

One of the most pernicious myths about abortion is that there are two kinds of women: those who get abortions and those who have children. (Let us never forget that Naral Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue was asked by an anti-choicer at a hearing on Capitol Hill if her pregnant stomach was “real”.) But those women are one in the same. Six in ten women seeking an abortion is already a mother, and one of the top reasons women give for having abortions is the desire to be a better parents to the children they have or the children they will have in the future.

How can a politician claim to be pro-family while dictating to Americans what kinds of personal and medical decisions those families should make? How are we letting them get away with it?

There is no doubt that the anti-choice movement won the battle over rhetoric. Being pro “life” sounds infinitely better than being pro “choice”. And despite the hatefulness that “family values” stands for - an anti-LGBT and anti-women’s rights agenda - the term itself sounds innocuous and relatable. But just because conservatives won on language doesn’t mean we can’t call them to the mat for the hypocrisy.

The Republican party is not one that cares about families. It’s the party that wants to tear families apart through radical anti-immigration policies, the party that would turn away refugee families – “even orphans under the age of five”, as Governor Chris Christie has said – and the party that would sooner see women forced to give birth by law rather than afford them their constitutional right to abortion.

This is not to say that the Democrats are a perfect pro-family party – they’re not. To get even somewhat close we need to not only ensure that abortion rights are protected, but that we have mandatory paid parental leave for mothers and fathers, affordable and accessible child care, and healthcare policies that don’t leave families and children out in the cold. In the meantime, we can’t let the Republicans continue to talk about these issues unchallenged – because it’s not politicians who know what families need best.

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