With the Virginia's governor's race now decided in favor of the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, it's worth noting that even in the midst of this victory for liberals and progressives more generally, the glaring fact is that the race should have been even more of a win for the left.
The key demographic targeted by Democrats in order to ensure a win was young women aged 18-29, a group rightfully concerned about the Republican candidate's on abortion. Ken Cuccinelli is against abortion even in cases of rape or incest — so why is it that only half of young women in Virginia voted? A recent article in the Washington Post suggests that the reason may be that, these days, women are on the move; those typically wealthier and better informed are often out of reach or can’t be bothered, and many women are feeling apathetic about a political system in which they feel their vote does not matter.
Whatever the reason many women chose not to vote, a shift to the political right will ultimately hurt vulnerable women — the young, the poor, and women of color — most of all by further restricting access to quality family planning. The candidate in defense of family planning may have won the day, but can liberal candidates keep winning if a very important demographic doesn't head to the polls in the future? In my opinion, candidates who oppose widespread family planning deserve to be politically trounced; one way to do this is to educate those who do not know — and to remind those who do — why the issue of family planning is so important.
Over the years, I've noticed the same rigorous — yet by now, stale — calls for action on both sides of the political divide. For conservatives, abortion is outright murder, while on the progressive side access to abortion is a right, plain and simple. Notice that the issue of what is right for the individual is what is chiefly emphasized. What people on both sides fail to grasp is the more systemic understanding of family planning. Namely, It’s not so much the life of an individual baby or the rights of an individual woman that are at stake — though these are obviously important — so much as the very strong correlation shown in numerous countries between poverty in society and the ability of a woman to control her own rate of reproduction.
Evidence shows that family planning — giving women some control over the cycle of reproduction — is the most significant factor contributing to a reduction in poverty in society. An instructive example of this point: consider a woman from a very red state, who is poor and deeply religious. She is compelled by her religious beliefs never to have an abortion, is likely taught abstinence education, but one way or another will have sex regardless of what she is taught, as is and will always be the case. She is unable to support the child, and subsequent children are only a further burden on her financially.
An example like this re-frames the argument when presented to conservative politicians like Rand Paul who push for bills stipulating that life begins at conception. It's no longer a question of murder versus rights; now the question is broader, more subtle, and yet could be turned into a rallying cry if understood correctly. Instead of using dead fetuses to shock, progressive signs at rallies should simply state: “Family planning is the cure for poverty.” The new understanding of the argument in favor of access to abortion should not be merely individualistic, it should be based on the idea that issues like family planning can have a positive impact on society as a whole. Raising awareness of the importance of access to family planning could drive more voters to the polls.