Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reaction to the Democratic Party's new abortion plank language

The Trail (Washington Post's campaign blog) provides the old vs. the new language in the Democratic Party's platform's abortion plank and reports,
On a conference call Tuesday, a half-dozen anti-abortion pro-Democratic thinkers and religious leaders claimed victory for the party's new abortion plank, which they said took a big step in their direction by more explicitly stating the party's support for women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term. By doing so, they said, the Democrats were moving closer to the middle ground where most Americans reside -- not wanting to criminalize abortions, but wanting to reduce the number performed.
Jen, a prolife liberal, who blogs at Turn the Clock Forward, believes prolife Democrats made a difference and should be proud. She writes,
Yes, the support for abortion is still there. But because of pressure from pro-lifers, there’s far more support for nonviolent options. Because of pressure from pro-lifers, the Democratic Party explicitly committed itself to supporting women’s decision to choose life....

We did this, and we should shout it from the rooftops. I’m not saying that pro-choicers don’t want to support women who carry to term, or that pro-lifers were the only ones who pushed for it. But that language wasn’t there in 2004, was it? We made the difference. There’s a lot more to do, and I don’t want to gloss over that, but let’s be proud for a moment.
Pro-choice blogger Dana Goldstein (whose ridiculous defense for Barack Obama's opposition to Born Alive legislation I previously blogged about) doesn't see it the same way,
Lastly, it's worth saying a bit more about the abortion language in the platform draft. Some conservatives are interpreting the platform's mention of adoption and a woman's right to choose motherhood as a new attempt to reach out to mixed and anti-choice Evangelical and Catholic voters. But I also think the platform is a significant victory for reproductive rights advocates. The Clintonian formula of "safe, legal, and rare" has been scrubbed. The adoption stuff is hardly new....

I simply don't see this as a modification of the party's pro-choice stance. Rather, it's a strengthening of that position and a re-articulation of the commitment to helping low-income expectant mothers.
Pro-choice feminist Linda Hirschman sees the new platform as a step forward for pro-choicers because it "offers an opportunity to put an end to this self-destructive cycle of Safe, Legal, and Rare, otherwise known as regret, depression, and self-denigration. In its place, it can finally argue for the value of women's lives."

You can read the platform language change and judge for yourselves. My feelings on the platform language change probably fall more in line with Steven Waldman, editor-in-chief at Beliefnet, who writes,
It seems to me that, on balance, if you're pro-life this platform is about the same as the 2004 platform -- slightly better in some ways and, actually, slightly worse in other ways....

Where it's worse: the platform actually drops the language from the 2004 platform that abortion "should be safe, legal, and rare." That breakthrough formulation, popularized by Bill Clinton, reiterated support for legal abortion but rhetorically endorsed the idea that society would be better off with fewer abortions. By contrast, the 2008 platform emphasizes the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies and the "need" for abortions. It's a subtle but important difference that preserves what pro-choice activists wanted: absolute neutrality on the question of whether society is better off with fewer abortions.
As long as the Democratic Party's abortion plank calls for tax-dollars to be used to pay for the abortions of poor women (an action which would drastically increase the number of abortions performed), any language calling for the number of abortions to be reduced or for abortion to be "rare" is rhetorical window dressing which means next to nothing in my book.

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