Abortion Reduction: Plank or Prank?
By Matthew Sutton of Medford, Oregon. Matthew is an attorney practicing law in Medford, Oregon and is the group administrator of Oregon South for Barack Obama. He was recently elected as a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Oregon's Second Congressional District.
As a first time Delegate to the Democratic National Convention, I am still learning about my role. I often ask, "What else will I be doing in Denver other than having balloons drop on my head?" I don't have all the answers yet, but my hope is that I can contribute in a positive way to what could mark a meaningful and historic transition for our Nation.
This new role has also piqued my interest in the formation for the Democratic platform. If indeed Barack Obama will be the leader of the Democratic Party, will the platform reflect his political philosophy that has energized so many of us? That we can make real progress in the U.S. by finding common ground with others without sacrificing our core principals? That solutions are more likely when we discuss them in earnest without demonizing our opponents? That we can disagree without being disagreeable?
One testing ground for these questions will be the proposed "abortion reduction plank" that made the news last week. In case you missed it, Rev. Jim Wallis highlighted how he will push for this plank aimed at reducing abortions, by enhancing women's choices rather than infringing upon the right to choose. This plank would seek to make adoption easier, provide support for lower-income women, and increase pregnancy prevention efforts.
Although such a plank is a potential "win win" for pro-choice and pro-life advocates, it has set off vigorous debate in progressive circles such as Daily Kos and in the reproductive health community. Is the "abortion reduction plank" a legitimate policy proposal that Democrats can rally behind? Or is this an election year gimmick aimed at attracting more conservative "values" voters who are disenchanted with Senator McCain? Is it both?
What do I think? You are asking the "rookie" delegate? I believe that this is a meritorious proposal worthy of our serious consideration. For far too long, both sides of the abortion debate have failed to find common ground due to the vehemence of the heated discussion. This has been a big factor driving the tiresome "Red States, Blue States" mentality that has driven so many voters to not even consider our ideas or our candidates. In this way, it has become more difficult for us to make progress on issues of war and peace and environmental protection.
And isn't this is the right time to find common ground on this issue? Our nominee has been a consistent and firm supporter of preserving the right of a woman, rather than the government, to make her own reproductive choices. Yet he has also fought the canard that we hear every election cycle that "pro-choice" means "pro-abortion". He has stated that "No one is pro-abortion" and was an original co-sponsor of the Prevention First Act. If we can join him in finding common ground on this divisive issue, perhaps we will be in a stronger position to move on and make progress on other critical issues of our day.
July 01, 2008
Posted in guest column.
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Jul 1, '08
It seems to me it's a matter of funding. Would the efforts for adoption make less funds available for abortions? If so, Perhaps that funding loss could be conpensated via harvesting of the aborted fetus cells/organs. The revenue generated from the harvests could go to fund more Planned Parenthood Centers / Advertising. I'd like to see solutions and new ideas.
Jul 1, '08
Yes, yes and double yes. Unless you can get "out of" the linguistic boxes which form the boundaries of this issue we will never move forward. Also, unless we can recognize the political and financial interests of both sides in keeping this box just as it is--this, too, is preventing us from moving forward.
Jul 1, '08
Thank goodness for this sanity.
I hate when people ask me about my views on choice and ask: "So are you pro-life or pro-choice?"
I always just say, "Both."
Jul 1, '08
Obama has campaigned as one who hopes to unite our citizens, one who wants to reach out to find common ground. This si a very good example of how to do it. He stands on the principle of a woman's right to choose, yet acknowledges that abortions also cause emotional strain for many women (and those around them). Let's keep the medical procedure safe and legal. Let's try to reduce the need for the procedure. Lets fund infant health and welfare programs in the spirit of a progressive society.
Don, you ask: "It seems to me it's a matter of funding. Would the efforts for adoption make less funds available for abortions?"
I don't see how these are related. At the current time, no federal funds are used to fund abortions. A better question to ask is if we can redirect war funding to social programs like infant/child support.
Jul 1, '08
The extended quote from Senator Obama is "nobody is pro-abortion, abortion is never a good thing."
"It's your choice, but it's a bad choice" is hardly a pro-woman position. It's soft-pedaled moral condemnation. Either you think abortion should be safe and legal or you don't, the rest is superfluous. I guess for politicians trying to not offend, what they actually believe regarding abortion is superfluous.
Jul 1, '08
Of course it should be safe and legal.
But I think it's fair to say that if someone is having an abortion, then something bad has happened -- their birth control failed, it turns out their partner is an abusive jerk, etc.
If someone is having an abortion, it's not a good thing -- but that doesn't necessarily, mean that the person having the abortion is a bad person or even that they've made bad choices.
Jul 1, '08
Congratulations for putting serious consideration to your delegate responsibilities.
The false split over values between the Democratic and Republican parties was well documented in Michael Lerner's book, The Politics of Meaning, in 1997. He has some follow on books as well. George Lakoff's books are useful as well in formulating the new Democratic platform.
Keep us posted on the evolution of your ideas and from the convention.
Jul 1, '08
This is the wrong tactic.
NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon has consistently worked with partners across the state to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy in Oregon, by providing seamless access to contraceptive and family planning services--including access to emergency birth control (Plan B). With nearly half of all unintended pregnancies ending in abortion, this is the route to reducing the need for abortion. While this plank claims to increase "pregnancy prevention" its focus on abortion reduction as a means to get at this is backwards. Anything that carries the appearance of inviting further limitations on safe and legal access to abortion services only endangers women.
[Editor's note: Laura called to let us know that this comment reflects her personal views, not those of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon or NARAL Pro-Choice America. See below for more details.]
Jul 1, '08
Could you address the dissonance between this statement in Matthew's original post - and your comment above?
Matthew: In case you missed it, Rev. Jim Wallis highlighted how he will push for this plank aimed at reducing abortions, by enhancing women's choices rather than infringing upon the right to choose. This plank would seek to make adoption easier, provide support for lower-income women, and increase pregnancy prevention efforts.
Laura: Anything that carries the appearance of inviting further limitations on safe and legal access to abortion services only endangers women.
Jul 1, '08
Why is a man dictating policy in what is, essentially, a woman's issue? As a man, This issue is none of my business and I am at a loss as to why men, other than me, want to dive into something that is clearly none of thier concern.
Leave the women alone and let them decide and dictate what is right for them.
Jul 1, '08
"In case you missed it, Rev. Jim Wallis highlighted how he will push for this plank aimed at reducing abortions, by enhancing women's choices rather than infringing upon the right to choose. This plank would seek to make adoption easier, provide support for lower-income women, and increase pregnancy prevention efforts. "
Does making adoptions easier involve open adoptions--or at least allowing adults to know something about their birth parents? Why isn't pregnancy prevention a good thing?
What would this do for those women who are rape/incest victims or have been warned that a(nother) pregnancy could be hazardous to their health? (When told that might be a low percentage, I mention a friend who died in childbirth--she was married to someone in the military and this happened in a military hospital.---This "calls out" that small minority who believe that the life of the fetus from the point of conception is always more important than the life of the mother and no one should argue with them.)
Research the views of former Democratic VP and Senator Hubert Humphrey-reportedly he had the same moral objections to abortion as to capital punishment and nuclear war.
Be aware there are Democrats who personally oppose abortion but are full of good works for kids after birth and not in-your-face on the subject with others.
As far as the role of a delegate, take it from a 1984 national delegate: you'll get lots of mail and phone calls before you leave (best to answer all poll questions because there is pressure on anyone who doesn't respond to all). Make sure to open all the mail you get--it may be issue based, or it may be a certificate for a free something or other from a local merchant.
In 1984 when Tom Harkin was first running for US Senate, it was against an Right to Life-endorsed incumbent. Maybe by now the anti-abortion folks have figured out that glossy pictures of fetuses don't win them votes. Back then they were still using them. On a day I was sitting in the middle of a row, some RTL type guy was walking down the aisle trying to give away glossy fliers. I yelled to him that I would like to write a message on the back, so he passed one down the row. I wrote on it "If you folks call yourselves pro-life DEMOCRATS, why aren't you supporting Tom Harkin?" and passed it back to him. He vanished quickly.
The Democratic platform is currently in the hands of the Platform Comm. and there should have been members of that committee from Oregon (unless the procedure is totally changed) selected when delegates were selected. The information on other members should be available publicly or at least to all delegates--if not contact DPO or DNC.
The proposed platform is generally (all conventions are different) debated on the floor. I was one of a hardy band in 1984 supporting Minority Platform Plank #5. It basically sought bullet point precision on foreign policy rather than a section about as clear as oatmeal. There were whips in each delegation chosen by the supporters of the Minority Report. We knew we had won when the Mondale folks declined to contest it.
As a delegate, make it a point to attend as many issue-oriented events as possible (the best chicken wings I ever had were at the Central American party near the convention hall in the multipurpose room of a senior citizen facility, and I met interesting delegates and saw some nationally famous people.
Try to take some time each day to walk somewhere in Denver (if only around your hotel) as that will help prevent weight gain. I wish you the selection of quality food in the convention center that we had in SF.
News people love talking to delegates. Especially if you are clear and concise. I remember one of our delegates standing just behind the TV lights giving me a thumbs up at what I was saying to a famous ABC reporter at the Mayor's party the day we arrived.
Try to meet as many famous people and ordinary people as possible. In the latter category, I remember especially some people from Massachusetts, Montana and Iowa. It is a social networker's paradise!
If you see anyone in person who you have admired for years, I found the best ice-breaker line was "Hello, my name is ------. I'm a delegate from Oregon, and just wanted to tell you I really admired it when you said/did..........." In the case of one very famous newsperson, the response was "Thanks, I'd forgotten I had said that".
Those of us who have fought the abortion battles for years have discovered that there are those who oppose abortion because of moral concerns backed up by years of volunteer work with kids---including nonprofit efforts from child care to food bank and Operation School Bell (taking kids to the store to buy new school clothes). These people can be reasoned with.
There have been people who worked with disabled kids who said to RTL types, "OK, come volunteer at my facility for a week and then I will listen to anything you say". For those interested in rhetoric rather than reality, they usually don't last very long in such volunteer roles.
I discovered also that when I was talking with someone, the sentence "Our family was a foster family for awhile when I was in high school, what has your family done to help kids?", that would separate the folks full of good works from those who think women are responsible for unwanted pregnancy but men never are. That second group appears to be smaller than it once was.
One other thing, and it is important when someone talks about banning abortion being "pro-life". The Republican takeover of the Senate in 1980 when Reagan was elected was fueled in large part by Right to Life money. Back in the days before easily accessible databases, this sort of research was harder than it would be now. But someone (a single parents lobbying group, if memory serves) matched up the voting records of those who got RTL money with those who voted for Reagan's cuts to social programs. (When Sen. John Heinz was still alive, he said of Reagan's attempt to count ketchup as a vegetable in school lunch programs, "our family has always regarded it as a condiment". )
The folks elected without RTL money were more likely to oppose cutting the budgets of maternity/infant/child programs (the sort of thing Humphrey had always supported) than the folks who took RTL money.
One never knows what effect one's words can have on another individual. One afternoon I ran into a young man who had moved from E. Oregon to the Willamette Valley and was dealing with culture shock. He walked up to me and said "Isn't it great that------ is pro-life?". It had been a long day so I just said "Webster wasn't talking about abortion when he put the definitions of pro- and anti- in his dictionary. Exactly what have these people done to benefit kids (pro-life) or are they merely opposed to abortion? Next time I saw him, he said that had made him think and he'd gotten involved in CASA--Court Appointed Special Advocates for kids involved in the court system.
Some of the more rabid anti-abortion types have a tough time realizing that their protests don't change minds, just make people angry. They don't understand that 50 people standing on a street corner holding signs saying ABORTION KILLS CHILDREN for an hour is 50 volunteer hours which could have gone to help actual pregnant women or actual kids.
Anyone who knows the family of a child born prematurely or almost so (27 weeks and 5.5 lbs is the dividing line, I think) knows the challenges faced by a family where there are 2 loving parents, at least one grandparent and other support, as well as good income and good health insurance. What happens to such infants who don't enjoy those benefits? Too many in the anti-abortion movement seem to have the attitude "we get them born and then they are someone else's responsibility". HUHH???
Also, over the years, many religious people have decided that the Beatitude "Blessed are the peacemakers" directs them to work to make all children wanted, well fed, well cared for children, rather than just violent protests which involve vandalizing abortion clinics and / or killing the personnel inside. Prosecution of such terrorists also helped.
Bottom line, a debate which addresses the above issues might be healthy -- given that our "5 under 35" legislators and all in their age group would have to read books like ABORTION IN AMERICA or THE STORY OF JANE (not a woman named Jane but an organization) to know what it was like before Roe v. Wade. Back then, if a woman was raped, as likely as not she would be sent away to relatives or a home to have the child, who would then be adopted and the whole incident never spoken of again.
Griswold v. Conn. was the first court decision to make contraception legal even for married couples. Unless there are extremists who think every child conceived should be born but government spending to help those kids is just "wasteful social spending", we need to have a public discussion of whether people believe "every child should be a wanted child" makes sense or is just a slogan to be argued over as part of a process of political polarization.
In some ways, this is the old "ideology vs problem solving" or "enemy oriented vs solution oriented" philosophical debate about politics in this country. I'm on the problem solving side, and have little use for anyone of any persuasion trying to ram ideology down our throats.
Jul 1, '08
Maybe it's because overwhelmingly those making the laws and policies that would affect this are men? Or because Rev. Jim Wallis is one who speaks on many of these issues that have been so polarized by some in the religious community?
I'd definitely recommend reading the link above that you'll find on Rev Wallis' name so you can get the full details.
From the story:
I see this plan as a way to get more conservatives to support family planning services. They don't seem to get that supporting the services and giving them the funding they need means you decrease the number of abortions. For some communities, it is the fact that you can reduce abortions by funding these services that will speak to them.
He never said it was a bad choice. He's saying that something has gone wrong, something has gone bad, etc. You don't just wake up one day and say with a smile "I'm going to go out and have unprotected sex today so I can have an abortion." Something bad/terrible has happened to you - a condom broke, you were raped, etc. and you've made the very difficult decision to have an abortion. It's a good thing that the option is there - but it's not a good situation or one that people want to find themselves in.
I haven't met anyone who is pro-abortion - they're pro-choice. You want people to have the choice to have the abortion if they need one - but you're not going to be out there encouraging everyone on the street to have one.
Jul 1, '08
If someone is having an abortion, it's not a good thing
Doctors who perform abortions help women at what are often very difficult times in the women's lives. This is a good thing. If a woman is having an abortion in order to save her life, it is a good thing. If a woman is having an abortion instead of waiting for the trauma (and perhaps medical danger) of delivering a severely deformed fetus, it is a good thing. We may quibble about other reasons why abortions are performed but I hope at least these examples are clear for most folks reading Blue Oregon.
Abortion makes many people uncomfortable for many reasons but to use your own personal discomfort as a basis from which to categorically define a medical procedure performed on women as "bad" does not strike me as eiher reasonable or pro-woman.
Jul 1, '08
Regarding Wallis, it's worth looking into other positions that he's been advocating for. While he remains a true evangelical, most of his initiatives have poked Dobson and the Focus on Family crew in the eye.
I beleive that he really is looking to neutralize some of the venom and political posturing with an eye toward finding areas of common interest with people of good will across the spectrum.
The fact is that the political theocrats hate this guy for his failure to stay on message.
A lot of christians taht I know are hoping that some good may come of all of this, and I concur, but will keep a sharp eye out for possible erosion.
Jul 1, '08
Doctors who perform abortions help women at what are often very difficult times in the women's lives. This is a good thing. If a woman is having an abortion in order to save her life, it is a good thing. If a woman is having an abortion instead of waiting for the trauma (and perhaps medical danger) of delivering a severely deformed fetus, it is a good thing.
See, I think you're not understanding what is being said. The fact that the access is there, that there are doctors there to help you, etc. is a good thing.
That these women are often having to go through situations that are from bad (a condom breaking) to the worst (rape, potential of death if you carry the baby, etc) is what is the being described as bad. They're having to go through situations that you would never want to wish on someone else.
Jul 1, '08
Truffula wrote... Doctors who perform abortions help women at what are often very difficult times in the women's lives. This is a good thing.
If a woman is having an abortion in order to save her life, it is a good thing. If a woman is having an abortion instead of waiting for the trauma (and perhaps medical danger) of delivering a severely deformed fetus, it is a good thing.
Yes, of course. But it's not a good thing that the woman's life is in danger, or that they've got a severely deformed fetus.
I think we basically agree here, but are just approaching it differently from a rhetorical standpoint.
I am an absolutist when it comes to the right-to-choose. But it's highly unlikely (never?) that an abortion is a happy thing. It may be the best option of many bad possible outcomes, however.
Efforts to reduce the number of abortions through better education, better health care, and the empowerment of women are a positive step forward.
And politically speaking, that position may serve to defuse opposition from well-meaning folks in the middle. (Though we'll never find common ground with anti-abortion terrorists and fanatics.)
Jul 1, '08
I can say that personally I have real concerns about anything that dresses itself up as prevention, but uses loaded language like abortion to get at its meaning. If the purpose is to reduce unintended pregnancy, let's just call it that. It just makes me uneasy to use the word abortion without being clear as to what we are talking about.
That said, this is only my personal opinon and this is rumored language, nothing that has been actually proposed, so perhaps speculating about it at all is pointless.
NARAL Pro-Choice America is confident the platform will continue to emphasize the Democrat's long-term commitment to the pro-choice position and recognizes reducing the need for abortion by preventing unintended pregnancy is a longtime pro-choice goal.
Jul 1, '08
While I doubt this will lead to any productive blog conversation, I actually DO have several pro-abortion friends and am pro-abortion. We have a remarkable pro-birth bias in this society. I think way too many people have kids that would be better un-had.
We continue to overpopulate the earth and destroy our own habitat and cause the extinctions of other species.
I'm not saying that everyone should have an abortion, or that abortions are a positive experience, I'm just saying that I think abortions are often the best choice for people, for the planet, and, ironically, for our future generations.
Yay! for abortions.
Jul 1, '08
And you have to remember that conservatives have been successful in convincing a large section of the population and the elected officials that funding groups like Planned Parenthood is supporting increased abortions. We have to push the fact that actually is is funding an organization that does everything that it can to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and therefore reducing abortions.
It's one of those things that we have to reframe to show that we're not trying to increase the number of abortions. Or that Planned Parenthood isn't pro-abortion - it's pro-women, pro-choice, and pro-health. That's how we're going to be able to get those who are a bit more conservative on issues like abortion (but with us on all the other stuff) to vote for our candidates. And we're going to need them if we're going to put people into office who will support expanding access to family planning services. And hopefully that expansion of access will remove a huge roadblock to getting service - having a certified copy of your birth certificate. Because we all know you don't need one of those to have sex or give birth.
Jul 1, '08
See, I think you're not understanding what is being said.
I think you're interpreting what you want to hear in what is being said. So it goes.
Jul 1, '08
Actually, your role as a delegate IS to have balloons fall on your head :)
Seriously, just because I'm a man doesn't mean I have no right to have an opinion on the issue of abortion. For example, I have no problem with a woman having an abortion to save her life, restore her health, or remove the result of rape or incest. I have no problem with a woman having an abortion instead of carrying a fetus to term for adoption, or making that decision for a variety of reasons, even if my wife and I would not make the same decision.
I do have a problem with women (or couples) aborting for sex selection reasons, as apparently occurs in societies such as China that value male children over female children. Just because I'm a man doesn't mean I have no right to object to such abortions. Of course I realize that my objections shouldn't be law, if for no other reason that disallowing an abortion for sex selection reasons would be, in practical terms, unenforceable.
As for Rep. Wallis' proposal, I believe it represents the mainstream of the Democratic party, and is an excellent response to the bloviations of the anti-abortion movement. It represents the position taken by both President and Senator Clinton, if I am not mistaken. And it also represents the optimal policy result for this issue.
Jul 1, '08
”Why is a man dictating policy in what is, essentially, a woman's issue? As a man, This issue is none of my business...”
That has to be the most idiotic argument ever posed. Leaving aside the moral/ethical/biological aspects of the issue, if it concerns tax dollars it concerns all citizens, including men.
There’s no such thing in our society as a “women’s” or “men’s” issue.
Jul 1, '08
I don't see this as reaching out to conservatives, really--there is no compromise of progressive positions that I see. Women should be able to self determine their repro health; we support increased education and access to health care. I agree with someone upthread that the job is to convince the right that family planning resources can greatly reduce unwanted pregnancy.
I think it's an excellent proposal.
Jul 1, '08
As a man, This issue is none of my business and I am at a loss as to why men, other than me, want to dive into something that is clearly none of thier concern.
I agree with Buckman Res on this statement. Family planning is a father's issue as much as a mother's.<hr/>
For me, the real disconnect on the "Right" is their inability to promote the sex education programs--not the "abstinence only" gibberish--that would inevitably lead to fewer abortions. (As would easy access to birth control pills and other birth control.)
But I think we'll never see agreement across the political divide to promote public policy that includes sex education because legalized or criminalized abortion is only one emblem of a wider set of values. I don't think dialog between two sides is possible in a political debate when they view each other's stated goals as offensive, immoral or oppressive. It's easy to mock anti-abortion protesters who also oppose sex education, but I don't find them any more unyeilding than those, including some who posted above, who mock or dismiss out of hand the deeply held beliefs of others that abortion is murder or that its prevelence in society drives or reflects a basic disregard for human life. In that sense, the debate over abortion is a debate over much more basic principles that neither side is going to abandon. I support on-demand access to abortion, but I recognize my position is not one that allows for compromise. Some issues can't be bridged, and this is probably one of those. The best you can hope for is a majority.
Jul 2, '08
"I hate when people ask me about my views on choice and ask: "So are you pro-life or pro-choice?"
I always just say, "Both.""
Jul 2, '08
Well, right now Oregon accepts the Federal Title V abstinence-only funding and does not provide any of it's own funds to enhance the programs available to make them comply with our state comprehensive sex education law. Schools say that they expect health teachers to be qualified to teach about sex and sexuality, but do not prioritize getting the training for teachers who may ahve stated as PE or Science teachers to be able to address this topic sensitively and maturely in a VERY hot political climate.
So, I think enhanced pregnancy prevention efforts that comply with the comprehensive sex education policy in Oregon would be a great thing, if that meant actually funding contraceptive and all-options education in public schools.
However, I also agree that framing this as abortion reduction is a cop-out. There is no need to contribute to anti-abortion rhetoric.
Further Kari, and anyone who agreed with his first statement should reconsider their words -- pro-choice means that women ALWAYS have the right to chose abortion, regardless of the circumstances.
Jul 2, '08
I don't see it as discouraging women from having abortions. I see it as providing a woman with plausible choices in the event that she has an unexpected pregnancy. I don't have a problem with it being called abortion reduction, as that fairly characterizes the idea and appeals to the right in a productive way. I suspect that women sometimes do choose an abortion because they lack other realistic choices. Nothing about this plan discourages an abortion if a woman chooses that option - it just increases her options. Isn't that what feminism is all about? Allowing women to make their own choices?
Jul 2, '08
rose wilde, what many people are saying is that we are anti-abortion. we're pro-choice, to a point, in that we think women in bad situations should have options and not be judged for using them.
but we think pregnancy prevention through honest education and birth control availability is extremely important, so women don't end up in bad situations to begin with. that is also a legitimate, feminist woman's choice: the choice to use condoms or birth control pills or morning-after pills to keep from undergoing surgery and no small amount of hassle.
by opposing this, you really are saying you want abortion to be the only birth control choice for women. you're like: abstinence only education? bring it. pharmacists won't stock plan b? fine. insurance won't cover birth control pills? awesome!
obviously that's not what you really think, but when pro-abortion people (apparently you do exist) get all grouchy about intelligent pregnancy prevention, that is how they come off.
incidentally, i looked up the prevention first act to see what john mccain thinks of it. it was killed in committee, despite having something like 136 co-sponsors.
Jul 2, '08
Regarding the term "abortion reduction", Wisconsin passed a bill in the 1980s called something like "The Abortion Reduction and Family Responsibility Act of 1985(?)
It was something like 9 pages long (a pen pal mailed it to me back in the days before email).
Story was that legislators got tired of the feuding and told all the lobbying groups from all sides to get together and write a bill they could all support.
To the consternation of the "parental consent" lobby in Oregon and elsewhere who wanted doctors to be sued if there wasn't paperwork proving parents had been notified,this bill handled "parental notification" a different way. This bill created advocates who would personally accompany any girl afraid to confront her parents, and both the advocate and the teenage girl would notify the parents in person. Paternity would be established so that the parents of any minor father would be as responsible for raising the child as the parents of a teen mother. That was called "grandparent responsibility".
It legalized abortion, birth control, sex education.
This is not what those who want to punish anyone who performs or even discusses abortion wanted.
I did hear that when Republicans took over Wisconsin in the early 1990s they curtailed or overturned the law.
There are Republicans who want to make abstinence-only the only sex education even though studies show it doesn't work. There are are politicians and activists who want all abortions banned for any reason ("pro-life" if a mother dies or a rape victim is not really a crime victim because the child "deserves to be born"?).
It is interesting that US Senate Bob Casey has learned to moderate his rhetoric on abortion rather than being as in-your-face as his Dad.
It is time to look at voting records. Mark Hatfield did not support a "life begins at conception" bill, although no one doubted his "pro-life" credentials. Saying "I'll support a partial birth abortion ban when you show me that term used in a medical textbook " (it is a focus group term, not a medical term) is not what some anti-abortion advocates want to hear. Asking people who oppose abortion if they have any adopted kids is an interesting exercise.
So is asking a "pro-life" activist/ politician what programs they support for mother and child nutrition.
It was those "liberals" LBJ and Hubert Humphrey who supported nutrition programs for women and children. They could hardly have forseen the survival of children born after 26 weeks and/or weighing below 6 pounds with the help of modern medicine. Do the "pro-life" folks have any concern for such kids? Or is it, "well they were born, now they are someone else's responsibility"?
My experience over the decades is that there are people who want to discuss such details. However, the most adamant (and sometimes verbally abusive) anti-abortion advocates want us all to chant "abortion is murder" and not think beyond that.
Jul 2, '08
A few decades ago I was in Finland and discussing the issues of abortion with the parents of my friend. Scandinavian countries were some of the first to offer free, safe, and legal abortions. I said, "many people in the US believe abortion to be murder. Are there Finns who believe the same, and if so, how did Finland overcome this objection?".
My hosts replied, "we believe abortion is murder."
"But you support legalized abortion?" I asked.
"Yes. With legal abortions we are only risking one life."
As many have pointed out, those who adamantly oppose legal and safe abortions often undermine their argument by showing subtle or outright disregard for either the health of the mother or the child post-birth.
Jul 2, '08
"This plank would seek to make adoption easier, provide support for lower-income women, and increase pregnancy prevention efforts."
I'm trying to figure out why "making adoption easier" is included in this plank. There are no impediments for women who wish to relinquish children, there are many more prospective adoptive parents than women relinquishing children. To use a market analogy, it's a seller's market. The only way to make adoption "easier" would be to increase supply, to somehow convince more women to relinquish, and in the context of this plank there is the implication that we should convince women to relinquish rather than abort. Adoption already acts as a program that redistributes the children of poor women to the middle class, adoption has become a middle-class entitlement issue, along with assisted reproductive issues, so this plank will probably find little opposition on its face. But we should look at it for what it really is, and not get bogged down over parsing and frames.
Jul 2, '08
Some female friends of mine have characterized Obama's statements, which I would paraphrase as "abortion is never a good thing" and "keep abortion safe and legal but make it rare", as quite distressing. These friends feel it is the usual patronizing stuff that fails to recognize a woman's autonomy.
I fully realize there are anti-abortion Democrats (like Sen. Casey of Pennsylvania), and I'm not for running them out of the party, because after all, THEY are not running on a single issue, are they? But Obama's statements do give me pause.
The Wallis "abortion reduction" idea is intriguing but, like the "legal but rare" formulation, runs a significant risk of infringing on female autonomy, as well as turning into a bit of preachiness. Sure, a woman should always have the choice of giving birth and then relinquishing the child for adoption. But suppose she decides that she simpply doesn't want to carry the pregnancy to term, and that adoption is not relevant?
Is there really a lot of difference between these two?
--The anti-choice zealot saying, "You must carry the pregnancy to term." --The "abortion reductionist" saying, "gee, adoption is an option, you should carry the pregnancy to term because, well, gosh, abortion makes me uncomfortable."
Jul 2, '08
Per Ron Morgan's comment, those of us who have considered adoption know how onerous the process is. Foreign adoptions became common not only because of the, uh, domestic supply shortage, but also because the entire process is very expensive, time-consuming and stressful. For all intents and purposes, any adoptive parent has been LICENSED after having his or her personal life scrutinized in minute detail. Not quite like having a child biologically....
Jul 2, '08
Some female friends of mine have characterized Obama's statements, which I would paraphrase as "abortion is never a good thing" and "keep abortion safe and legal but make it rare", as quite distressing.
See, this is where I disagree. I see his comments as being more along the lines of "being in the situation of needing an abortion is never a good thing" and that "abortions should be safe and legal, but we should do all we can to decrease the need for them."
Like we've said, there are a variety of reasons that lead to the need for an abortion, from condom breakage to rape to the health of the mom. None of these are good situations to be in. Thankfully, abortions are safe and legal and there as an option for the woman.
But doing more before the woman ever gets to that situation could really help her to never have to go through that situation. Real sex education is a start. Doing more to catch and prosecute rapists is another - many areas have a backlog of years on DNA tests from rape kits. Another would be increased education with girls about reporting when they are being sexually molested. And yet another would be making prenatal care more easily available for women so that they can find out early about health related issues that could lead to the need for an abortion.
While yes, these all can decrease the need for abortions, it does more than just that. It empowers women, for one. But even more importantly, it helps a woman to never have to go through what could be one of the worst moments of her life.
Yes, I want abortions to be 100% safe and legal. If a woman wants to have an abortion, she should have that option. However, I'd like to do everything I can to keep her from ever having to deal with that unwanted pregnancy in the first place.
Jul 2, '08
I used to be against abortion until I really dug into the stats.
Most of the women who abort are Democrats.
So I say - go forth and abort!! Tell your friends, and they can tell their friends, and so on and so on.
I now proudly celebrate abortions, and march in parades.
Jul 3, '08
Jenni Simonis: Yes, I want abortions to be 100% safe and legal. If a woman wants to have an abortion, she should have that option. However, I'd like to do everything I can to keep her from ever having to deal with that unwanted pregnancy in the first place. [my emphasis]
It's the "keep her" formulation that is patronizing, I would suggest.
Jul 3, '08
Matthew, I'm sorry to say that Barack Obama in recent days has been sacrificing some of my core principles with apparent alacrity, as well as going back on things he said while campaigning against Hillary Clinton (here I am thinking about NAFTA and trade issues) in ways I find disturbing.
The rhetorical problem here is this: It has the potential to change the terms of the debate into "how do we best reduce abortion," which opens it up to a whole lot of things that aren't in what Jim Wallis has said or probably what Obama means.
Call it "Abortion Reduction by Expanding Access to Information, Birth Control and Practical Choices" in the title of the plank and maybe you get closer. Defining simply "abortion reduction" as the goal and not defining the methods as those that increase women's control of their bodies and lives is no good.
Putting birth control into the mix is increasingly important. A radical but substantial portion of the anti-abortion movement is seeking to define (legally in some cases) "life" as beginning with fertilization rather than implantation in the walls of the uterus, which is the usual medical definition of the beginning of pregnancy. There is a large proportion of fertilized eggs which never implant, naturally, and hormone-based birth control works in part by preventing implantation, which is why "Plan B" works using the same chemicals as other birth control.
This effort is tantamount to redefining hormonal birth control as abortion.
NARAL-Pro Choice is circulating information on John McCain's having an anti-birth control voting record. A lot of the votes are very old, however. But he is an "abstinence only" guy on sex education, and has some more recent votes against public funding for birth control.<h2>I would say that I am pro-abortion rights and believe in a woman's right to control her own body.</h2>