Political Polarization and Reproductive Rights under a Clinton Presidency

According to a recent article on Politico, there are only a small handful of members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, who break with their party’s position on reproductive rights. Rather than following their party line, people like Reps Bob Dold (R-IL) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) choose to support pro-choice and pro-Planned Parenthood policies, while others like Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) were elected on pro-life platforms. However, some of these aisle-crossing Congressmen (and women) are in danger of losing their seats, especially Kirk and Dold who are both running for reelection in the very traditionally Democratic state of Illinois.

This is due to the increasing polarization of Congress, where Senators or Representatives who do not fall in lockstep with the party are becoming increasingly rare, as they could lose precious endorsements or money, especially over an issue as contentious as reproductive rights. However, the ideological polarization of Congress also poses a threat to potential future Presidents.

Imagine if Rep. Dold does lose his seat, while Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency. If that happens and Democrats do not retake the House of Representatives, which they are not likely to do, then there will be a Republican majority regardless of if Dold is there or not. Where an issue could arise is if a bill concerning reproductive rights is introduced into the House and there is either not enough Republican supporters or detractors now, because of Dold and his ideological peers’ absence. An anti-Planned Parenthood bill could still pass the House even without Rep. Dold, but if he was there, that give the Democrats, and other pro-Planned Parenthood Republicans, more support. Therefore it is important to consider the impact that political polarization in Congress could have on the legislative future of reproductive rights.

Ethan Flanagan



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