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Yesterday’s statement by Connie Saltonstall that she will withdraw from the Democratic primary for U.S. Representative in Michigan is a profound disappointment to pro-choice America, particularly the many thousands who fought against the proposed legislation of Saltonstall’s would-be predecessor, Bart Stupak. In a statement announcing her decision, Saltonstall wrote, “I am forced to do this because it has become apparent to my campaign that the leadership of the Michigan Democratic Party has preemptively anointed Gary McDowell as their Democratic candidate. They are replacing Bart Stupak with another Upper Peninsula, anti-choice, anti-women’s health-care rights candidate.”
The loss of this strong, smart, well-funded candidate is not only a blow to the pro-choice movement, but to the static and grave minority women still hold in Congress at just 17%. As Saltonstall writes: “There is an aggressive movement across the country to pass laws to restrict women from making responsible healthcare choices to protect their health, and furthermore, to criminalize their actions. The same people who think government should stay out of their lives, are legislating government into the doctor’s office.”
I want to make a few points here, in case there was any doubt that this is a bogus turn of events:
Saltonstall Was Running a Solid, Winning Race
As she puts it in her statement, Saltonstall’s campaign was “first in the race, raised more money than any other Democratic candidate to date, collected over 1500 petition signatures, put together a professional campaign team and a path to victory.” And Michigan’s First Congressional District, in which Saltonstall was running, doesn’t even hold the vehemently anti-choice population that Michigan conservatives argue could never be won by a pro-choice woman. As Saltonstall and NARAL have pointed out, abortion-rights supporters, such as President Obama and Governor Jennifer Granholm, have carried the district. Gary McDowell’s argument that an anti-choice Democrat has an advantage is simply untrue. As Saltonstall’s statement reminds us, “Without the interference of the democratic leadership, we might just have won the election!”
McDowell Isn’t Moderate – He’s Proven Himself Anti-Choice
The thing is, Gary McDowell doesn’t even tow a middle-of-the-road party line for reproductive rights; NARAL reports that McDowell voted to ban a safe abortion method, without exceptions—even in the cases of rape, incest, or to protect the woman’s health. The Michigan Messenger also reports that McDowell has been endorsed by the anti-choice group Right to Life (which, in a rather chilling coincidence, is now featuring a banner on its homepage reading: “Elections Have Consequences.”) It’s almost as if McDowell supporters have got selective amnesia about the divisive turmoil Bart Stupak brought to their state, and to the national conversation on health care.
What You Can Do
Not Under the Bus, Women’s Media Center’s campaign for reproductive freedom, was formed in the wake of Bart Stupak’s amendment to the House healthcare reform bill, which would have generated a massive rollback on reproductive rights (even greater than the one anti-choice legislators managed pull off after reform passed, reinstating the reactionary Hyde Amendment). Highlighting Saltonstall’s campaign, Not Under the Bus is a clearinghouse for information, action, and robust community in the face of, as we saw yesterday, and increasingly spineless Democratic leadership. Learn how to amplify your voice in the media, read commentary, and join our campaigns. Health care reform may be over for now, and Bart Stupak may be retiring, but as we see in the old boy’s club anointing of Gary McDowell, nothing’s finished.
“I am proud that my campaign has raised the dialogue on healthcare and choice,” Saltonstall writes in her statement, “and I will continue my leadership role concerning these issues.” We’re proud to call you our comrade, Connie.