Verbum Ultimum: Vote for Reproductive Rights

A vote for Republicans like Ayotte is a vote against reproductive rights.

by THE DARTMOUTH EDITORIAL BOARD | 11/4/16 12:15am

Tuesday is Election Day. After a presidential race that has taken the better part of two years, and feels like it has taken the better part of a decade, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. A great deal of ink has been spilled in this section concerning the presidential election. As important and historic as the presidential race is, this editorial is not about that; endorsements were made and what needed to be said was said. However, there is a lot more than just the White House at stake this coming Tuesday.

On Tuesday, every member of the House of Representatives must defend their seat, and 34 Senate seats are up for reelection. These races’ importance cannot be overstated: this election will decide whether Congress remains controlled by the Republican Party or whether legislative power will shift to the Democratic Party. If whoever wins the White House is able to secure or retain control over Congress, that party will have a powerful mandate to implement its policy agenda for at least the next two years. Since many of us will be casting a ballot in New Hampshire next week, it would be beneficial to highlight a particular congressional race, namely that between Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Both candidates have strived to paint themselves as bipartisan pragmatists who are more focused on getting things done than strictly towing the party line. They do, however, differ on one issue that has proven to be incredibly divisive as of late: federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Put simply, Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide free or low-cost reproductive healthcare and pregnancy services to people across America and the world. The controversy surrounding this important organization stems from the fact that one of these services is providing legal abortions to people who wish to terminate their pregnancy.

Because of their staunch, near universal “pro-life” stance, Republican lawmakers have made countless attempts to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood, and many GOP candidates run on the promise that they will do so. Ayotte is one of these Republican lawmakers. Although she did oppose Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s plan to tie a must-pass government spending bill to the defunding of Planned Parenthood, she has, as of March 2016, voted to defund Planned Parenthood six times.

This is not Ayotte’s only controversial stance on important issues: she also said in a 2010 debate that Row v. Wade should be overturned, preferring instead to leave the legality and regulation of abortion up to individual states.

This election season is shaping up to be one of the most significant for women’s reproductive health in recent memory. Between calls to defund Planned Parenthood and the GOP’s dramatic rhetoric about partial-birth abortions — which almost never happen, and are only legal if the mother’s life is in danger — women’s right to have control over their reproductive health is in serious jeopardy.

Opponents often cite the fact that constituents who oppose abortion on a religious level should not have to pay for it through their federal taxes. Yet it goes without saying that we do not all get to choose everything our taxes go toward. One might be religiously or morally opposed to war, universal healthcare or even an interstate highway system — but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t have to pay for those things like everyone else. Such is the cost of living in a modern society. Perhaps even more relevant, however, is the fact that no federal funds allocated to Planned Parenthood go towards performing abortions; in fact, it is illegal for Planned Parenthood to provide abortion services using federal funds.

In other words, a vote to take away federal funding for Planned Parenthood, like the one that Ayotte has cast six times and almost certainly will again in the future, doesn’t actually prevent funding for abortions — it just prevents funding for nearly everything else. This means that, because certain people disagree with what the Supreme Court decided is the law of the land more than 40 years ago, millions of people will not have access to vital reproductive healthcare services like contraceptives, pregnancy tests, STD tests and adoptions services if Planned Parenthood is defunded — a frightening prospect that may become a reality under Republican politicians like Ayotte.

Depending on who wins the White House next week — a race that seems to be getting even tighter as Election Day approaches — reproductive healthcare for women as well as men may be jeopardized in the months to come. If the GOP were to take the White House and retain control of Congress, it is likely that the person who fills the vacant Supreme Court seat will not be a champion of women’s reproductive rights. If Ayotte retains her seat, it could result in a Senate that is one vote closer to defunding Planned Parenthood, or one vote closer to approving a staunchly pro-life Supreme Court Justice. When you go to the polls on Tuesday, please remember: your vote matters, and so do women’s reproductive rights.

The editorial board consists of the editorial chair, the opinion editors and the opinion staff.