I Heart Pro-Choice People

Anne Martens

You can see from blog progress that immersion works - I'm slowly getting more and more on message!

A note to Jason and his opinion, here's one of the things that I don't see much of a middle ground on: abortion.

Walking over to the Fleet Center last night, I saw three trucks in a line, each with enormous pictures of bloody dead babies draped over them. The pictures proclaimed, "Kerry Edwards, a bloody team for a bloody America." Chalk slogans on the sidewalks (offensive but not effective as a tactic for political change) charged that we were baby killers and murderers. Yeah, free speech is fabulous.

Who do you think is more qualified to determine whether a woman should have an abortion - the woman and her doctor, with the advice of her family and friends, or somebody who's never met her and who feels righteous driving around with pictures of dead children on his car? And who's more qualified to raise a healthy and happy child - the woman who makes that choice of her own free will, or the woman who is forced into it?

I know plenty of women who've had abortions, and one who underwent a less-than-professional procedure before abortion was legalized. No one has ever said it was pleasant, and everyone said they thought about it long and hard before determining that under their current circumstances, they were not prepared to have a child. I respect that. Autonomy over one's own body and health seems, logically, to be the type of thing we shouldn't have to defend and fight for so rigorously. Abortion was the issue that got me interested in politics to begin with, I canvassed for an abortion clinic in Oakland, regularly gave money to Planned Parenthood and NARAL, was stunned at the thought that somebody else could tell me what to do with my uterus, but even I stopped really paying attention and thought abortion as an issue was well-protected and therefore less important.

GW and the prospect of Supreme Court appointees have very much revived abortion as an issue that we all need to address. Roe v. Wade isn't a particularly well written decision, as it set up an arbitrary timeline that plays the rights of the fetus against the rights of the mother. Planned Parenthood v. Casey reaffirmed Roe's "essential holding," threw in a test about whether a woman was "unduly burdened" by restrictions on access to abortion, but left some room to maneuver. So this is what we've got. It's far from a clear protection of women's rights to control their own bodies and healthcare, but it's better than nothing (and I'm guessing that even with a Kerry presidency it's not going to get any improvement). It's dependent on one Supreme Court vote. As Bush packs lower courts with anti-choice judges, an abortion case is more likely to makes it's way up the ladder to the Supremes, and Ashcroft would doubtless delight in seeking a Roe reversal. So there you have it. I think I should have autonomy over my body and my healthcare choices, I don't see much of a middle ground, and I will strongly and vociferously disagree with anyone who claims to have more of a right to my body than I do.

Now that we're done with the daily message, here's some convention highlights. I apologize for the long post, but there's so much going on it's hard to get away to write, and if I wrote down everything that happened it would take pages.

Ron Reagan spoke about stem cell research and how we, regardless of party, have an obligation to use technology to help real people with real diseases. People have a right to their beliefs, he said, but "the theology of a few should not forestall the health and welfare of many." Seems to me that a refusal to use science and medical procedures that we know work is a dereliction of duty and a violation of the Hippocratic Oath. We should let doctors be doctors, and allow diseases to be healed.

Barak Obama was amazing, the best pure speechifying all night. Dean was short and sedate and kinda boring. Teresa Heinz Kerry was, quite simply, elegant and impressive. And every woman in the arena felt it when she said that she was looking forward to a day when women were considered "smart" instead of "opinionated."

On the floor, I was a little annoyed at the orchestration. And it's seriously hot under those lights. Yes, it's a production, made for TV, and everything is coordinated. Signs bearing the next speaker's name are handed down the aisles shortly before the speaker comes on (yesterday, the men's signs just said their last names - "Obama" or "Kennedy" while the women's signs went for first names and added that touch of sweetness, "We love Teresa" and "We love Christie." Under each state's signpost is a computer, two phones - with a red and a blue light to signify ringing, and a live feed screen. The delegation whip (thank you Jesse Cornett) wears a fluorescent yellow vest, takes direction from on high via the red or blue phone, and relays those directions to the delegation. As in, stand up and wave the "Kennedy" signs now, and Jesse will come after you if you aren't standing and waving, and, hey get that freak with the flag to sit down, and, wave "We love Teresa" signs when she gets on stage but "Kerry Edwards" signs when she's done. I know it has to be this way so that it all looks pretty on TV, but it goes against my sense of individualism and idealism. I really want the standing and clapping and sign waving to be real, spontaneous and meaningful, not enforced.

Who watches this stuff anyway? The New York Times has a good article on media coverage and viewership of Conventions over the years. Somewhat related, Michael Moore has been berating the media for not asking the hard questions about war (or about anything), first at an AFSCME showing of "Farenheit 9/11" then at a packed Take Back America training with Dean. With a wink to the reporters and cameras piling up in front of him ("god bless you and thank you for coming"), he launched into an accurate assessment of how we depend on the media to be a bulwark against political corruption and dishonesty and we really need them to do a better job of asking questions. It's America; you can ask anything you want!

Post-convention, I was feeling particularly pro-choice, so I went to the NARAL party, which was at a lovely nightclub called Sanctuary, a whole bunch of luminaries spoke, and I picked up a very cute black T that reads, "I heart pro-choice boys." Then it was on to the DCCC party at Felt, a swanky three story spot that oozes "cool." I must say, I'm a huge fan of an open bar. I'm an even bigger fan of a whole city full of open bars.

Here's a non-sequiter but it's important so I'm going to put it in, and why bother pretending that I have any sort of artful subject transitions anyway. This morning's delegation breakfast was security themed, and we heard from a man who's in the Reserves and who runs Operation Truth, where he gives a soldier's perspective on Iraq and on military policies. When you're talking to folks about war and the military, questions worth asking include those about the the lack of equipment, lack of health care, and general lack of support for the men and women who defend us and die for us.

Much respect to the troops and to all my pro-choice peeps.

  • Ellie Bulin (unverified)

    Great post! and where can I get one of those shirts? Been trying to catch a gilmpse of alll you delagates back there. Ellie

  • brett (unverified)

    general lack of support for the men and women who defend us and die for us.

    Like, say, voting against an appropriations bill for the Iraq operation? Oops, sorry, that just slipped out, and besides, he voted for the money before he voted against it.

    I meant to comment on the abortion section. Your position is articulate and nuanced - I think most Americans would agree (as do I) with the Clinton formulation that it should be safe, legal and rare. But there is a strain of the left that is shockingly casual about something that is, at least, a weighty moral decision. That attitude is summed up pretty well by the recent NY Mag article:


    I think even the most absolutist pro-choice people could find themselves discomfited by that attitude.

  • Jason Evans (unverified)

    Your point is well delivered, Anne. That is exactly the type of EDUCATED and INFORMED dialogue that we all need to partake in. Man women in America cannot see the threat to their own right to decide for themselves. As I stated, they have become numb to dialogue and speaking out, feeling like control is out of their hands, and that no one is listening to them. The longer we go with a religious zealot in the White House, the better the chance for him to get his Supreme Court justices in place.

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    Barak Obama was amazing, the best pure speechifying all night. Dean was short and sedate and kinda boring.

    Point one: If Barak Obama is the future of the Democratic Party, that future cannot arrive quickly enough. Best parts of Obama's speech, imho, were (1) the bit which began "If there's a child on the South Side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child" and (2) the bit about Red/Blue states which was utterly brilliantly on-point, concise and meant something important.

    Point two: There was only one thing Dean had to do for the convention and that was be there to show everyone who was in desprate need of his primary campaign's message (that it was okay to be angry, but not to be nihilistic and that with energy and work the country can be won back) that he was still in the fight, or that they were all still in the fight together. I don't know what the floor was like on-site, but on television, the reception Dean received rivaled that for Clinton, and that pre-speech extended ovation was all the emssage that Dean needed to contribute.

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    Oh, point three: After Obama's speech, on PBS' coverage, David Brooks -- the conservative opposition to Mark Shields on the Newhour -- said that it was a shame that the networks didn't cover the convention Tuesday night because "they just missed a piece of history."

  • brett (unverified)

    I liked Obama's speech a lot -- but it seemed out of place to me. One of these things is not like the others.. It was inclusive in a way that the current Democratic zeitgeist doesn't allow for. His speech was all about how there is only one America. Everyone else's speeches has been explicitly about how there are (at least) two Americas -- a red one and a blue one. Clinton, THK, Kennedy.. Hell, Edwards' stump speech is called Two Americas. Obama is a Democrat I could get behind. It's too bad he's one of a kind.

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    Clinton's speech wasn't about two Americas, or at least not two inherent Americas. It was about a small group of ideologues forcing the country into deeper divisions than normal in order to exploit those divisions.

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    Has anyone seen a picture of the signing of the "Partial Birth Abortion" Ban? The mainstream media definitely did not show it. The reason? When Bush signed the legislation, he was surrounded by men. All men... That's right, there was not a single woman behind Bush when he signed it. Scary isn't it?

    In terms of stem cell research, what would the anti-abortionists do with the extra embryos? Keep them indefinitely? If that was the case, would that be tantamount to keeping (in their terms) a "person" in frozen prison forever? Or would they advocate implanting them in someone else? Then what? The ethical implications on that idea are mind boggling.

    At least we can find one thing in common with the anti-choice folks. We both want to reduce unwanted pregnancies. However, their idea that teaching abstinence only will solve all the problems is to say the least "interesting." During WWII, Americans thought the GI's would be abstinent because of their moral superiority- WRONG. In fact, our GI's came home with an extremely high rate of STD's. The same thing happened in India. Whoops.

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    Having just read the Edward's speech, I hope someone at the convention posts about how it goes over on the floor.

  • Sunny Petit (unverified)

    "Like, say, voting against an appropriations bill for the Iraq operation? Oops, sorry, that just slipped out, and besides, he voted for the money before he voted against it."

    OK, this has been bothering me for SO LONG!!! Kerry voted FOR the appropriations bill BEFORE it was laden with non-Iraq related pork- some Republican senators blackmailed soldiers, and their families, by adding special interest benefits to the bill that were not associated with soldier security. This is not "flip-flopping"- it's reading the WHOLE bill and looking at what is necessary spending. If anything is a lesson here, it shows that the 'flip-flop' myth of Kerry has been easily generated by the continual right-wing marketing machine, and that the "liberal" media hasn't countered this with 'fair and balanced' reporting. And... "In terms of stem cell research, what would the anti-abortionists do with the extra embryos? " Yeah, really. I would add questioning what the implications would be for sperm banks and fertility clinics.

  • Peter (unverified)

    There probably are some on the left who are casual about abortion, just as there are those on the right who are casual about advocating killing doctors...but honestly nobody is pro-abortion, just some who think that it isn't the best policy to use a baby as punishment for sex, and that the government shouldn't use religious standards for an individuals personal medical decision.

    Also on the 87 billion. Perhaps Democrats need to learn to lie in unison like republicans. The vote on 87 billion was a vote against the lack of commitment to pay for the 87 billion, a vote against the lack of oversight on the contracting process, the lack of details on how the money was to be spent, and the little bits and pieces stuffed into what was supposed to support the troops. A protest vote against the failures of Bush to support the troops, or spend american money wisely wasn;t a threat against the troop because the senate had caucused and the bill passed 87 to 13.

    The bush lie about Kerry raising taxes a zillion times is another example. They count every vote on committee or the floor in which taxes aren't lowered- that isn't raising taxes. They count votes in which taxes are shifted- that isn;t raising taxes, they also count votes that never happened- that isn't raising taxes. Plus, there was a time when conservatives would pay for what they spent, they were sort of tax less spend less- or at least they pretended to be. While democrats were tax and spend- at least it was a responsible budget.

    Now the right just go with the free lunch mentality, as in rich people get a free lunch by stealing it from old ladies, and our kids future incomes.

  • brett (unverified)

    The vote on 87 billion was a vote against the lack of commitment to pay for the 87 billion,

    Wow. That's tortured logic. Kerry voted against the bill, pure and simple. The fact that he claims to have done it because of added pork doesn't change that. A far more likely explanation is that he needed to move left on the war because Dean's antiwar stance was attracting lots of Democratic primary voters. Kerry has to accept the consequences of his no vote, regardless of his reasons for doing so. If you really think Kerry has consistent positions on Iraq, you should watch this video:

    rtsp://real.stream2you.com/RNC/RNC07200.rm (Real)


    http://media1.stream2you.com/rnc/072304v2.wmv (WMV)

    I know, I know, Republican propaganda, etc. But the video consists entirely of Kerry's own words on Iraq, from 1991 to the present day. How many of you knew that he voted against the first Gulf War?

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    Kerry voted against the bill, pure and simple.

    We can't just look at things in black and white. We have to look at the motivation too. It's like saying the Oregon Republicans agree with Nader's stances on issues because they tried to help him qualify for the ballot.

  • brett (unverified)

    Or like saying Oregon Democrats don't agree with Nader's stances on issues because they successfully prevented him from being on the ballot. Right?

    I agree, let's look at motivations. So check your July 26 New Yorker, and you'll find this quote from a Kerry staffer to journalist Philip Gourevitch, on why Kerry voted against the appropriations bill:

    "Off the record he did it because of Howard Dean. On the record he has an elaborate explanation."

    Hard to get clearer than that.

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    Exactly my point. Things are not always black and white as you said. "Pure and simple."

  • brett (unverified)

    It's very black and white. He believed in the war but voted against the money for political reasons.

    The point made above, which I thought you were defending, was that Kerry had non-political and sincere reasons for voting against the money. The quote from his staffer shows that the exact opposite is the case.

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    Nope. I'm saying that one should look at motivation instead of looking at the mere act. If I was defending Kerry, I would have said "his motivation is blah blah blah." Brett-OMG- now I remember! Law school buddy! E-mail me.

  • pdxkona (unverified)

    Who watches this stuff anyway? Many of us...switching volume back and forth from CSpan streaming online and PBS on television. Just. Can't. Get. Enough...

    "My name is pdxkona (head nods down in shame), and I (sniff)... am a political junkie."

    (That was humour, folks- being politically active or aware is not something to really be ashamed of...) Thanks for being there and giving us an inside view!


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