The GOP’s use of abortion as a wedge issue hurt them more than it helped them in the November election. I believe Barack Obama would have won anyway. But I also believe that had John McCain chosen Joe Liberman or Tom Ridge — both pro-choice — as a running mate instead of Sarah Palin, the vote among Independents would have been a lot closer.
Given what looks to me to be a clear reality, what will Republicans do? What will Democrats do?
Digby says the White House issued this statement today (I can’t find it elsewhere):
“On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects womenâ€™s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a womanâ€™s right to choose.
“While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.
“On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere.”
This sounds good to me. Even so, there is some twitchiness on the Left that talk about reducing the number of abortions is somehow going to lead to making concessions to the anti-reproductive rights crowd. In the same post linked above, Digby writes,
But, as you all know, I mistrust all this “common ground” business. So far, it’s perfectly fine. We have always been for access to contraception, comprehensive reproductive health care and education and help for expectant mothers. Let’s hear it for the progressive agenda being considered “common ground.”
But, I am curious as to what the people who believe abortion is murder think they are getting out of this. We know that many of them do not believe in birth control and the last thing they want is to educate people in anything but abstinence. Yet they have supposedly signed on to this common ground concept, so they must feel they have made serious concessions. What do they want in return?
I hadn’t heard the anti-reproductive rights crowd had “signed on” to anything. I sniffed around, and apparently some religious policy wonks in Washington came up with some “third way” manifesto that is being pushed as the “common ground” on which pro- and anti-reproductive rights people are supposed to meet. As Fred Clarkson says, what’s being left out of the “common ground” is a clear support for a woman’s unfettered right to elective abortion, at least until the late second trimester. Thus, “abortion reduction” is being taken as a code for “abortion restriction.”
A few points: First, it’s important for everyone to understand that the hard core of the anti-reproductive rights movement hasn’t “signed on” to anything. This third-way, common ground business is being promoted by what Fred C. calls the Religion Industrial Complex — “that sprawling array of political manufacturers and journalistic conveyor belts that deliver their products to market from Inside the Beltway.” This RIC is made up of people like Jim Wallis and Amy Sullivan, who have promoted themselves to media as spokespersons of some vast and reasonable moderate religion movement but who in fact aren’t speaking for anyone but themselves and their careers. I know a great many genuinely religious progressives (including Fred Clarkson, who is very nice), and they are as fond of Wallis as they are of heartburn.
So, basically, no one is behind the common ground manifesto except the people who wrote it. But news media haven’t caught on to that yet, and probably a lot of politicians haven’t, either.
The anti-reproductive rights movement never will compromise, because they are fanatics. There have been several times since the Roe v. Wade decision in which some do-gooders attempted some kind of “common ground” approach, in which the emphasis would shift from banning abortion to reducing the rate of abortion through various programs. It seems like such a fresh, original idea every time someone thinks of it. These attempts are always futile, because anti-reproductive rights people cannot be reasoned with and will not budge from their extremist positions. (And see? I’m even being nice and not calling them “Fetus People.”)
In another article, Fred quotes the Rev. Anne C. Fowler:
“… the moral reality of womenâ€™s lives is that sometimes abortion is the best moral choice.” …
â€What is missing from this document,â€ she continued, â€œis recognition of the sacredness of all life, and a moral tradition that allows us to weigh relative values, of potential life versus a lived life in its full spiritual complexity.â€
I can already see the religious absolutists latching on to that word “relative.” They cannot abide “relative.” In their world, everything is either absolutely right or absolutely wrong; absolutely good or absolutely evil. But the real world isn’t like that, nor are all systems of morality based on absolutes.
The idea that abortion is sometimes the best moral choice is the view of many major religious institutions representing tens of millions of American Christians, Jews, Unitarians, and others. Many of these institutions are represented in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), including major mainline Protestant denominations (such as the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ), the major bodies of American Judaism, and such organizations as the YWCA.
As I believe I’ve already written, Buddhism generally discourages abortion but considers imposing moral absolutes on people to be worse.
I agree with the Rev. Fowlers that it must be said that sometimes abortion is the best moral choice. I think most people understand that, even if they cannot articulate why it is true.
However, I don’t think that talking about reducing the rate of abortion is necessarily a bad thing or always a code word for “selling out women’s rights.” If we really did “expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services” it would almost certainly reduce the rate of abortions. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that.