Monday, July 14, 2008

Democratic Party's Stance On Abortion

Opinion Piece Examines Democratic Party's Stance On Abortion
Medical News Today
09 Jul 2008

Suggesting to women that the Democratic Party's "commitment to abortion rights is what should drive their vote," while simultaneously suggesting that "given the choice, having a baby is a more moral choice than abortion, will be understood for what it is: condescending and sexist," Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for Choice, and Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, write in a Salon opinion piece.

Concerns among Democrats about how to deal with "disaffected" supporters of former presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) "involves focusing on women's understandable fears that a John McCain administration would limit abortion rights and even overturn Roe v. Wade" and promises that "Democrats will clearly do better," the authors write. They add, "That's why it's so remarkable that in recent weeks, Democrats, including Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, havesuggested that the party may need to take another crack at tempering its strong platform support for abortion rights by making 'abortion reduction ... a central Democratic Party plank in this election.'"

Kissling and Michelman write that reducing the need for abortion is "sound policy" and that the abortion rights movement has been supporting such an agenda for two decades. They question why the Democratic Party platform should be framed by groups "who seem ignorant of the fact that the platform already contains all the elements necessary to reduce abortion," such as access to family planning and promotion of an "economic program, health care reform and protections for women's equality that would, if enacted, make it more possible for women who become pregnant and wish to continue those pregnancies to keep and raise their children in a secure environment." Kissling and Michelman note that, ironically, Sojourners and Democrats for Life do not promote contraception as part of an abortion reduction strategy. They add, "The stakes for women could not be higher, and Democrats need to do better in defending the moral right of women to choose, in every way: to choose to have a baby, to choose to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, to choose to terminate a pregnancy."

Kissling and Michelman point out that two bills are "languishing" in Congress that focus on reducing the need for abortion: the Prevention First Act (S 21, HR 819) and the Reducing the Need for Abortion Initiative (HR 1074). "Moving these bills before the election will give us a yardstick by which to measure members of Congress' commitments to meeting women's needs while recognizing their rights," according to the authors. They add that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) could use his skills to garner support from Wallis and others to make "pregnancy and motherhood a real choice for everyone; to make sure abortion is a choice and never a grim default and, when it is a choice, is safe and legal and never stigmatized by Democrats." In addition, policies supporting women's rights must be a high priority for Obama, Kissling and Michelman write, adding that although "both men and women have a stake in women's well-being, women's preeminent role in developing policies that affect their lives must be a central commitment of the senator and the party." As "feminists who have proudly and enthusiastically supported Obama for some time, we are convinced that this is exactly the approach he will take," the authors write, concluding, "And while this approach is as old as feminism, it will be a breath of fresh air in the party" (Kissling/Michelman,Salon, 7/7).

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