August 16, 2005

The Mainstream View on Abortion

This is from a statement by the founder of the Republicans for Choice group. See if you can spot how her central premise differs from the whinging of spineless, mostly male, Democratic strategists, emphasis in the original:

... The American Association of Political Scientists' study on the 1992 campaign, It's Abortion, Stupid, made a strong case that the defeat of George Bush was due to the 28% of Republican women defecting to pro-choice candidates Perot and Clinton.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric of the Party and its Platform, the 1994 "Contract with America" presented a cohesive GOP strategy which made no mention of abortion. Instead, it focused on issues which unite the Party and pro-choice Republicans came home.

Rather than build on the success of 1994, to give women and moderates a permanent reason to stay home....the Party leadership continues to stick to its losing strategy in its Platform and rhetoric. But they are hypocrites in reality. While they play around and pursue ways to chip away at Roe they are scared to go at it full force. Think about it. The GOP has controlled Congress since 1994 but not once have they ever had a vote on the so-called Human Life Amendment that would outlaw abortion. Yet this is the centerpiece of the Party Platform on abortion.

... On more than one occasion the Party Leadership has moved decisively behind the scenes to cut off possible attacks on the moderates in the Party that are contrary to their public rhetoric.

First, they worked with our group to stop a Party Resolution that would have cut off any Party money to any candidate that did not support the ban on the so-called Partial Birth Abortion. Second, at more than one convention they helped us stop even worse language from being introduced although their attempts to modify language to include us have been laughable.

... As we saw in the 2004 election, women and moderates came home to the GOP due to national security concerns. That is the only way we have closed the gender gap in the past. But women are leaving the Party again and moderates have had it with the GOP's intolerant policies on everything from a woman's right to choose, alternative lifestyles or parochial cases like Terri Schiavo. ...

In summary: Top Republicans are secretly terrified that they might have to put their money where their mouths are on abortion because they know that it's a big loser.

What might surprise you is that there's at least one other Republican pro-choice lobbying group, and that they changed their name last year to reflect public opinion on abortion. Emphasis mine, please go read the whole thing:

Republican Pro-Choice Coalition, May 12, 2004

New National Poll: 73 percent of GOP Supports Choice

WASHINGTON - Today the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition changed its name to theRepublican Majority for Choice to reaffirm the reality that 73% of Republicans believe that the right to choose should be a woman's decision, not the government's. The Republican Majority for Choice is dedicated to unleashing the power of that majority in Congress and state capitols across the nation, and the RMC PAC will mobilize this majority at the ballot box.

"There has always been a 'silent' Republican majority for choice," said RMC National Co-Chair Jennifer Blei Stockman. "Only now, this 'silent' majority is speaking out. Moderate Republicans and many conservatives across America want to bring the GOP traditions of less government, personal freedom and privacy to the top of our party's agenda.

... Stockman cited an American Viewpoint survey completed last week that asked 1,006 adults nationwide about their opinions on a woman's right to choose. In addition to the 73% of Republicans who say that the choice should remain with the woman, 61% of GOP respondents said that while they themselves might not choose abortion, they would not take that right away from other women. These findings demonstrate an upward trend over previous American Viewpoint surveys and CBS/New York Times polling over the last several years. ...

Now tell me if you really, really truly believe that legal choice is less popular among independents and Democrats than among Republicans. I suppose there are people who do believe that, but I bet that most of them are the same 'centrist' village idiot consultants who've lost Congress and the last two presidential elections.

This Christian Science Monitor article offers a colorful display of Democratic timidity and backstabbing as contrasted with the likely story:

... Still, for many in the abortion-rights movement, talk of rethinking the issue - including the suggestion that the party give up its absolute opposition to policies that don't infringe on core abortion rights, such as parental-notification laws - provokes ire. They see this effort to reframe the debate as a misreading of the last election, particularly the vague exit-poll question that identified 22 percent of voters as having voted on "moral values."

"Abortion really wasn't an issue in the last election," says Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation. "The majority of Americans remain pro-choice, and believe Roe should remain in place."

Karen White, political director of the pro-abortion-rights political-action committee EMILY's List, sees some Democrats "using choice as a scapegoat for our top-of-the-ticket losses in November." The group presents polling data that show abortion ranking in the low single digits among the most important issues in the election, well behind Iraq, national security, and the economy. ...

Feministing had a lot to say on the historical trend of women's and minority issues being pushed aside by people who worry a lot about their inconvenience, including and especially supposed progressive Democrats eager to become the establishment. Let me say right now that I do not give a damn about the convenience of my right to get whatever medical treatment my doctor and I determine is necessary for me. If that right is inconvenient to the Democratic party, then it will become inconvenient for me to support them.

Now Kos may have a problem with NARAL's 'single-issue' focus, but I don't. I don't want to jump on a Kos-whomping bandwagon, yet like NARAL, I'd really like to see the day when abortion was stone cold dead as a national issue. I'd like to see a day when no national candidate from either party would dare suggest that they wanted to put an end to legal abortion for fear of getting laughed off the stage from all directions. We're not going to get there if abortion is a one-party issue and frankly if the Democrats want to keep the label of being the strongest supporters of a woman's right to choose, then weaselly little centrist tubthumpers everywhere had better figure out how to work to keep it.

Women's issues affect slightly more than half of the population directly, and they indirectly affect the other half of you that are related to us. Marginalize these concerns and the only thing you deserve is a big, honking middle finger right in your face. The political class doesn't think women's or minority issues are popular for the same reason that liberalism is no longer considered popular: Because the far right has been waging an unchallenged smear campaign against the lot of them while the Democratic party has been cringing in the corner protecting its tender bits from the lash.

That said, Kos definitely has a point about the utility of standing together instead of getting picked off one at a time. But. That group offering the tent to huddle under needs to give as well as it gets. Women and minorities have been seeing their issues fade from the foreground even as they're asked to give ever more unwavering support. The Democratic party needs to prove that it isn't going to continue to wimp out on supporting these issues because there comes a point when you have to admit that a little flame of hope might just be a flicker of wishful thinking.

If the party wants to pull all these issues together into a central, strategic vision, I'm all for that. Though you can't pull together a strategic vision to further a goal that you don't support in the first place. Further, if a party is too politically weak to drum up support for a popular issue, what bloody good is it anyway?

The Democratic Party doesn't have an 'issue' issue, it has a spine issue and it needs to get to work on that post haste. No one is ever going to believe that they can defend the country if they can't defend either themselves or political positions that have majority public support. They need to fight for us because they're the ones, god help us, with the equal time access to the he-said-she-said brigade of the mainstream media. If a major party doesn't support an issue the media won't take it seriously and that's pretty much the end of it.

Someone who tells you that reproductive freedom is unpopular is selling you a line of bullshit. Argue about the packaging all you want, but the American people pretty much want to leave this to a woman and her doctor. You can tell anyone who says differently that they're lying to their face and, if you want to, you can tell them I said so.

Update: The abortion situation in El Salvador, where it's completely illegal even in cases where the mother's life or health are in danger, is exactly why I'm so adamant about this issue. It's been a long enough time here in the United States for people to have forgotten what it was like for a scared and desperate woman to feel like her only option was to try an abortion at home, or to have to carry an anencephalic pregnancy to term. It makes me personally angry to know that, in spite of the sensible, hands-off view that most Americans have about each other's medical decisions, Republican lawmakers continue to push to restrict reproductive rights and access even to contraception. Medical professionals, whose views are just as marginal, are even sometimes willing to put their personal views ahead of patient care.

This country's women deserve the dignity and privacy to make these choices themselves. They need to be able to decide carefully when to become parents, to have all the facts about contraception, even if the accompanying message is an encouragement to choose abstinence. They need to have all options available. Society is willing to tell young people to wait to buy a house until they're ready, but on being parents, it's a different story. It shouldn't be.

The Democratic Party favors letting women and their doctors make these choices, they favor educating young people fully about their sexual health. The Republican Party favors letting Congress and the courts make these decisions and keeping young people in the dark. They deliberately confuse the medical issues* around so-called partial birth abortion, confusing it with the very rare, late-term procedures. They lie about fetal awareness. Republican moderates may individually favor choice, but they vote with their party on key issues like judgeships that have more influence on women's lives than what usually ends up being a throwaway vote for some specific piece of abortion legislation that was never going to pass anyway.

In short, the Democratic Party treats American women like adults, the Republican Party treats us like children. I'd like for this to be a non-partisan issue, I'd like to live in a country where both political parties treated me like an autonomous person instead of a minor-by-proxy. But to mangle Rumsfeld, we have to vote on the political parties we have, not the political parties we wish we had.

* "... Pro-choice advocates also note that despite all the political hoopla, intact D and X procedures [the medical name for the procedure described in partial birth abortion bans] are very rare, accounting for only 2,200 of the 1 million U.S. abortions performed each year. ..."

Posted by natasha at August 16, 2005 04:41 PM | Women | Technorati links |