Thursday, August 28, 2008

Are We Really Moving to the Right on Abortion?

Tonight, Barack Obama told the crowd gathered to watch him accept his nomination as the Democratic candidate for the office of President of the United States, "We may not agree on abortion, but we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies."

Those words reminded me of a recent conversation I had with an in-law, in which he called me 'pro-abortion' and I insisted that pro-choice policies -like access to birth control, sex education, and, yes, legalized abortions- actually reduce the number of abortions. I've tried to convince anti-choice family members that, if their goal is to see a decline in abortions, then it is a goal we share - but the pro-choice plan is more humane and more effective. I've also tried to convince friends who go to rallies waving signs that read "future abortion doctor of America" that perhaps their tactics don't help our cause.

Am I part of the movement to the right when it comes to abortion?

The Wall Street Journal suggests that I am:

On the fiery issue of abortion, the Democratic Party has been taking small but notable steps to the right -- continuing to vigorously support abortion rights but adding more support for family-planning and other educational services that would "reduce the need for abortions."

These steps, some begun years ago, are part of the emphasis the party will place in the rest of the campaign on wooing religious voters, many of whom have been unwilling in the past to vote for a Democrat because of the party's long-standing belief that women should be allowed to end their pregnancies at will.

Obviously, the WSJ's phrasing is ridiculous, this idea that our aim is to allow women to "end their pregnancies at will" is intellectually dishonest.

Yet, my question remains - are progressives really moving to the right simply by focusing more in speeches on what can be done to make unwanted pregnancies less common, by putting public emphasis on access to birth control and truthful sex ed - values we've held for a long time?


Monica Clark said...

I don't believe Obama was indicating a move to the right on abortion, he's simply using language that will appeal to a wider audience. A piece was just written by a major political blogger, I'm sorry but right now I can't remember who it was, that said that there are many voters who agree that abortions should be provided legally, but only very sparingly, and they want to, instead of seeing an increase of abortions, see a decrease in the pregnancies that would lead to these abortions. Calling for a decrease in unwanted pregnancies is not saying anyone wants to limit rights on abortions; it's just saying that a campaign should be put forth to help women and men to not get to the point where they're asking themselves if they should have an abortion. You can keep something legal while hoping that the great majority of your citizens don't have to use it, and this is a message that resonates with a large number of swing voters this year. I a large advocate for choice, and I don't feel threatened at all by that verbage being in Obama's speech. I don't think it's cause for alarm.

frau sally benz said...

As you already know, reproductive rights gets me very fired up, but I don't think that we're necessarily "moving to the right" simply because Democrats are (finally) adding to the platform.

The fact of the matter is that for years now, pro-choice organizations have been the leaders in also advocating for better sex education, access to birth control, etc. Pro-choice has never been about being pro-abortion. B/c people (especially politicians) try so hard to remain P.C., they add to the myth that we're a bunch of baby killers. We know that's not true.

I'm always worried about steps taken to give fetuses more rights, even ones disguised as great things (like the death of pregnant women being double murder). That said, I am also hopeful that presenting our position in this way will help people understand what we're really about.

I hope that we CAN come together. As you said, and Obama said, even if we don't fundamentally agree in whether or not a woman has a choice, we already agree that there should be more done to reduce the number of abortions.

Habladora said...

You know, there was another line from Obama's speech last night that perhaps addresses this. I'll paraphrase:

'I won't say that John McCain takes his positions for political reasons. I can disagree with a person's policies without smearing their character' (again, just an approximation of the quote)

The WSJ is trying to suggest that we, pro-choice advocates, are talking about making abortion rare for political reasons, and its a character assassination. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that that this is an active attempt on the part of the WSJ to continue the myth that the pro-choice camp is somehow anti-baby.

For shame, WSJ.

feministblogproject said...

I don't see myself as "moving to the right" in my pro-choice stance.

I mean, I don't want to ever have an abortion. If I found myself pregnant, I WOULD have an abortion. But I don't even like getting my teeth cleaned. I don't like doctors or doctors offices or even the most basic medical test. I hate it. So while I WOULD have an abortion, and I want that option available to me, I would rather, you know, not get pregnant in the first place. I don't think I'll be "traumatized" if I have to have an abortion. I just don't like getting a PAP smear; why would I let myself get pregnant and have to have an abortion rather than preventing the pregnancy in the first place? I don't think there's anything "conservative" about that.

And I bet there are a lot of women out there who feel the same. They want the option to have an abortion if necessary, but they'd rather just not get pregnant in the first place. And so not only do we fight for abortion rights, we fight for preventing those bad situations in the first place.

petpluto said...

I think the WSJ has got it completely wrong, and I think feministblogproject hit it right on the head as to why the WSJ is wrong. There is nothing more pro-choice than to say, "We hold up abortion as a fundamental right for women, but we also hold that the amount of women placed in the situation to warrant an abortion should be lessened -and for no other reason than for the good of women".

When I heard Obama's line last night, I thought about the good of comprehensive sex education in America, in the good of providing condoms and affordable birth control to those who wish to have sex without getting pregnant, and so on. These are the things that would limit the need for abortion, while still keeping abortion legal for when those procedures fail.

frau sally benz said...

The WSJ is trying to suggest that we, pro-choice advocates, are talking about making abortion rare for political reasons

The WSJ is so unbelievably wrong about this, I don't even know what to say to that. It's also even more cynical of them than I'd expect anybody to be.

Do they think it's impossible to be taking this stance simply because we don't like abortion any more than they do? Like I've said before, pro-choice is not pro-abortion. It's not like we used to love killing babies and suddenly we think it's hurting us politically so we're changing our tune. Ugh, why don't these people get it?!

Indecent Idealist said...

Slippery slopes.

No, I don't really believe that *at this time* the Democratic party is moving to the right on this issue, but I do fear that pandering to more conservative voters by choosing -maybe less inflammatory- terminology for the party's stances on women's rights could one day lead to a less liberal party stance.

By using the "fewer abortions" rhetoric, I fear that Democrats *could be* seen as admitting to some moral oppositions to the right to choose. And that is a misinterpretation that I would rather see the party avoid.