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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Historic News! Having children is the anti-abortion thing to do.

So the Democratic Party has come up with new wording for its "abortion plank." I would be happy with it... except. Except what the Washington Post today called the "left-leaning opponents of abortion rights" are happy with it, too.

Okay. If I made new year's resolutions (and if I made them in say, August), then one of mine would be to stop seeing everything in such a polarized fashion. Do I want to find common ground with progressive Christian folks who write blogs called God's Politics , don't believe in abortion but do promote social justice (though I'm struggling to see how those two stances co-exist)? Theoretically, sure. Are they making it hard for me? Yeah.

First, here's what the 2004 language was:

Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

Now, here's the new language:
The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

So it's great that the Democratic Party is still supporting a woman's right to choose, and I am so glad they kept the phrase about ability to pay--access is of course one of the crucial ways that abortion rights have been undermined historically. Yay for them for including language that addresses the links between "comprehensive" sex ed and healthy outcomes. Though I bet they are still only talking about sex ed for teens that addresses contraception--not truly comprehensive, is it? How about sex ed for everybody that addresses pleasure, respect, body integrity, choice?

In a conference call to the media yesterday (the link I had has been taken down, hmm. Wonder why?), a bunch of liberal Christians, including Rev. Tony Campolo, member on the Democratic Platform Committee, Rev. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland Church (Orlando, FL), author of A New Kind of Conservative and former President of the Christian Coalition, Douglas Kmiec, Chair & Professor of Law at Pepperdine University, and the former Dean of the The Catholic University Law School, and Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder and CEO of Sojourners, the largest network of progressive Christians in the United States (and author of the aforementioned God's Politics blog), hailed the language as an anti-abortion victory.

Wallis said, "It's never been as explicitly stated that the Democratic Party supports a woman's decision to have their child, and offers her practical support to have her child. It's an historic step forward."

Let me just say that, as a mother of a three-year-old child, that I agree--The Democratic Party should be building into every part of its agenda support for parents and families to raise their children--free health insurance, extended family leave, free childcare, better schools, indoor playgrounds, drop-your-kid-off-when-they're-having-their-fiftieth-tantrum-of-the-day centers, an answers-to-why-questions hotline, etc. And that, by the way, has nothing to do with abortion. Could increased minimum wage, better maternity leave, daycare funding and access to contraception for low-income women have the side benefit of reducing abortion, as Campolo posits here? Maybe. Is that the reason we need those policies (at a bare minimum)? Hell no.

But come on, is it really historic and anti-abortion to say that the Democratic Party supports a woman's decision to have their child? Is that how polarized things have become? As a parent, a supporter of a woman's right to choose (to choose, everything--when, how I have a child, with whom, whether or not I call my kid Apple, and so on...), I feel so uncomfortable with a group trying to find common ground co-opting and framing language that supports the choice of having a child as being somehow anti-abortion. Or positing that the only reason that a woman (or family in all of its definitions) needs economic assistance is to stop her from having an abortion.

I do like the idea of finding common ground, dammit. It's one not-made New Year's Resolution in August I want to stick with. (Plus, no coffee after 4pm. Well, a mocha is okay.) But to find common ground we have to acknowledge, in the end, that choice, economic freedom, the right to healthcare extend beyond our ability to churn out babies, and that our churning out those tantrum-throwing, why-asking, ridiculously-named babies might, just, be a pro-choice decision, too.

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  • I'm not entirely sure what to make of this post. You ask if that's how polarized things have become. I think the answer is yes. There was a time when I would have agreed with you, but having spent some accidental time at far-left blogs and other sources, there are a decent number of people that have spent so much time clinging to pro-choice rhetoric that pregnancy is viewed as a sort of disease and an unfortunate curse upon women who should be allowed to have a good time without the inconvenience of pregnancy. I think explicitly stating that the democrats support BOTH choices a woman can make is a good thing. I like thinking that pro-choice supports women in making either choice, including the choice to have a child. That hasn't been explicitly stated in the platform and I am glad that it is. I also think for those who struggle with the democratic position on abortion and see it as a moral issue, this is a place where compromise is possible. Explicitly stating support for pregnant women to help avoid the tragic decision to abort a child is grounds where there can be compromise, even if each side has different reasons for supporting the legislation (or perhaps, one side just has MORE reasons for supporting it). It helps Christians do something about an issue that they feel is a moral concern.

    By Anonymous Brian, at Wed Aug 13, 12:59:00 PM PDT  

  • Well, I am entirely sure of what to make of this post: not to confuse governmental support for mothers and families with a woman's right to choose. It seems fairly clear to me, Brian. The two are and should remain mutually exclusive, and to blur the line or to think that the line can be blurred is to confuse apples with oranges (the latter of which just might be the future name of my unborn child, considering that Gwynnie already took Apple.) Meanwhile, pro-choice doesn't necessitate a firm hatred of pregnancy, although i do see the resemblance between such a state of being and an X-Files plot (think about it, a human being slowly grows under your belly flesh...Well, not yours Brian, but perhaps one day mine.) And as a woman considered to be in her child bearing years, with a somewhat strange perception of pregnancy (admittedly sci-fi; decidedly not disease-esque) I am aware of the damper it would put on my social life, as well as the rest of my life as I know it. Which is why, when and if the time should come, I’ll be counting on you, dear Brian, to babysit.

    By Anonymous bonibell, at Wed Aug 13, 01:32:00 PM PDT  

  • Actually, the Democratic party has moved from their historic support of the right to choose ABORTION, and has finally conceded that it's okay if once in a while some woman makes a choice that's not abortion.

    This is a move toward middle ground between the Democratic platform and prochoicers. It's nowhere near conceding a milimeter, much less an inch, to the idea that abortion is less than the ideal.

    By Blogger GrannyGrump, at Wed Aug 13, 08:57:00 PM PDT  

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