Pro-Choice protest

Pro-Choice protest, May 3, 2022.

Those who would relegate women to second-class citizens and take away their basic autonomy over their own bodies are clear in their focus - and they have been for decades. So, those of us who are determined to protect women's autonomy over their own bodies must at least match, if not exceed, the focus and resolve of our opponents.

In this century, we are failing, and, on the evidence of a leaked U.S. Supreme court draft of an opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the ruling that recognizes women's autonomy over their own bodies, we are about to pay a terrible price.

In 2016, our pro-choice majority let ourselves be divided in the presidential election. We allowed our infighting to give strength to a false equivalency between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Many of us accepted a false narrative that somehow Secretary Clinton - arguably the most qualified individual to ever run for U.S. president - was no different than a real estate developer and reality TV personality who literally admitted, among so many other offensive and reprehensible things, that as a celebrity he is entitled to "grab women by" the genitals.

By the way, as a prosecutor, I can confirm that neither Trump nor any celebrity - or, in fact, anyone - enjoys this entitlement. I can confirm, in no uncertain terms, that there is a name for this unacceptable and criminal behavior: "Sexual Assault."

Too many progressive voters have an unfortunate habit of making the perfect the enemy of the good. How is that working out for us? Consider the following.

We have lost hard-won voting rights protections and protections for those discriminated against because of race in the workplace. We can't get common sense gun laws passed, even while gun violence and mass shootings continue to escalate. In Missouri, we are still fighting for Medicaid expansion, even after it was approved by a large majority of voters in a statewide ballot initiative. Now - if the court majority recorded in the draft opinion holds - we are on the eve of seeing women lose the basic right to make decisions over their own bodies.

So, I would answer: It ain't exactly working out too good for us.

And, this dangerous development does not come out of the blue, not by any stretch. Many of us were screaming from the rooftops that if Hillary didn't win against Trump then Roe v. Wade would likely be reversed. We knew in 2016 that the next president would likely select two or three Supreme Court justices. That draft opinion wasn't a surprise, or shouldn't have been - far from it. It was a foreseeable consequence of any action other than voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

We must now say: No more. The playbook we've been using isn't working for anyone other than our opponents. We need action that gets results - the results we want. To quote Cercei in "Game of Thrones," we must choose "strategy."

I am not a traitor like those Trumpistas who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, so I will never advocate for or even condone the violent overthrow of my government. But I digress.

Figuratively speaking, we can and should have a family feud during the Democratic Primary when we debate and argue our policy differences. But, once a majority of our party has elected a candidate and we get to the General Election, we must do as our opponents on the right do, even when many of them hate their nominee, as they did in 2016. We must get out and vote, and we must vote for our party's nominee, the candidate most likely to protect our basic rights and advance the common good. We must get out and vote, and if you care about voting rights, women's reproductive rights (among other basic fundamental human rights), then vote for the damn Democrat. Please.

Wesley Bell is St. Louis County prosecuting attorney.

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