Abortion takes center stage as ‘the Squad’ rallies for Tlaib in Detroit

By: - July 25, 2022 2:38 pm

U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib at rally for Tlaib in Detroit on July 24, 2022. | Photo by Andrew Roth

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) called in support from the other three members of the self-described “Squad” on Sunday with less than 10 days left until Michigan’s Aug. 2 primary.

Fellow progressive Democrats U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) on Sunday joined Tlaib at Detroit’s Cass Technical High School for a fundraiser on behalf of the Squad Victory Fund, which raises money for each of the four congresswomen. Before the fundraiser, the Squad members kicked off a community canvass for Tlaib’s campaign.

Tlaib faces a primary with Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett and former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson.

The Sunday event’s moderators – Jeynce Poindexter and Rasha Mubarak – said that constituent services are Tlaib’s love language.

“It is the thing that I can do immediately to change people’s lives for the better. From using the power of the letterhead, the power to convene, as my sister Ayanna calls it the power of the pen, it is incredible,” Tlaib said. “I don’t care if it’s senior housing where the management company’s not doing their job and I’m making sure I’m CCing HUD at the same time, or the local attorney general’s office, or whatever it takes. I’m going to make sure that I elevate their voices and the concerns that they have. It’s not going to take a bill, it takes enforcement, it takes making sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Abortion access elicited one of the event’s biggest reactions from the audience.

Pressley said that she was at her daughter’s eighth grade graduation when the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade came down.

“I started the day out with so much hope and promise for her and feeling such joy,” Pressley said. “This announcement happened in the midst of her graduation, and I felt a tremendous dread.”

Pressley said that “people are either callous, clueless, or criminal,” and said that Republicans in the U.S. Senate may be all three.

“The commentary and the legislative action by Senate Republicans who would question the legitimacy of a 10-year-old child, whether or not they could even have the capacity to get pregnant, to menstruate, or to be violated by someone, shows you exactly what we’re dealing with,” Pressley said.

Pressley is referring to the story of a 10-year-old rape victim who was forced to travel from Ohio to Indiana to get an abortion. Following news reports about this story, some Republicans suggested it was fabricated and later rescinded those statements after a 27-year-old man was charged with the rape.

Pressley noted that Black women have a significantly higher maternal mortality rate than white women, adding, “and we’re talking about the prospect of forced birth in a country where we do not have paid leave, universal childcare, and just had a baby formula shortage.”

But the congresswomen noted that there are things everyday people can do to fight for what they believe in.

“When you look at how the Civil Rights Act was passed, or the fact that we were able to unionize in the workplace and have human dignity for workers, it really wasn’t with who was in Congress, or who was in the White House,” Tlaib said. “It was because of the consciousness in the streets and the community, and that’s what the movement was and what is going to get us the Green New Deal and Medicare for all. … You all don’t realize what you’re doing in the streets.”

Pressley pointed to student debt cancellation as evidence of that, saying that “the fact that student debt cancellation is now part of the national discourse is a testament to the strength of the movement.”

Omar agreed, adding that President Joe Biden has committed to using his executive authority to cancel some amount of student loans.

“Many of you probably remember this in the presidential debates, where a lot of people thought that President Biden was not going to budge on student debt cancellation. And in April, when we met with him in the White House, we finally got him to say yes on student debt cancellation, yes on using his executive power, and yes on doing it sometime in early August,” Omar said. “That is a testament to all the work that many of you have prioritized.”

Ocasio-Cortez called for a greater sense of community.

“The response to the depravities of isolation is the abundance of community,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Extend grace to one another. Because without grace, there is no community.

“We have to stop assuming the worst of everyone around us. Please, assume the best of their intentions and their effort. Because collective struggle requires that grace,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “It requires saying, ‘I know you might have said something in your past, but I know you’re trying to be better today and I want to help you. I know you might have said this or that, I know you might have been ignorant to this or that, but I also see your heart, and I’m not going to make an assumption about your motivation or intent so long as I see you try.’ All of us need grace, and all of us have to give it.” 


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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a regular contributor to the Michigan Advance and a former reporting intern. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and is a graduate of Michigan State University.