The Maverick Steps Back in Line

Carole Joffe

If John McCain insists on placating the anti-choice fanatics in his party, let him start paying a price.

In 2000, in a debate just before the South Carolina primary, John McCain
confronted his opponent, George W. Bush, for the latter’s failure to
disavow the Republican party’s plank on abortion. McCain repeatedly
asked Bush
, "Do you believe in the platform on abortion the way it is
written — with no exception for the life of the mother, no exception for
rape or incest?"

McCain appeared incredulous that Bush could support such an extremist
platform, without those exceptions. In 2007, McCain reaffirmed his
commitment to change the Party’s platform to reflect these changes.

That was then. Now it is widely assumed that McCain will drop his call
for these changes. In the words of Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, for
McCain to continue to call for a revised platform, "would be political
suicide…I think he would be aborting his own campaign because that
is such a critical issue to so many Republican voters."

Are Perkins and other Christian conservatives courted by McCain, such as Senator Sam Brownback, co-chair of the nominee’s Justice Advisory
Committee, correct in their view that a challenge on the abortion plank
would doom his run for the presidency?

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This question, of course, captures the larger dilemma swirling around
McCain’s candidacy — go too much to the Center and lose the base, swing
too much to the Right and lose the independents and moderate
Republicans (yes, there still are some left). Which is more costly a
strategy for him? Or put another way, how long can McCain get away with
at one moment seeking the endorsements of right-wing preachers whose
statements are every bit as incendiary as those of the Rev.
Jeremiah Wright, and at the next, go on the Daily Show and act like a
very charming and hip person who could not possibly believe the
outrageous positions he is forced by circumstances to take?


McCain’s "maverick" image has misled a considerable number of voters
into believing he is for abortion rights.

In fact, he has long been opposed to abortion. The differences now is
that the "straight talker" appears more than willing to overlook his
previous more thoughtful positions in order to please his extremist
friends. Several years ago, McCain was on record as saying reversing Roe
would not be a good idea, because of the likelihood of women resorting
to illegal and dangerous abortions; today, he calls for the immediate
overturning of Roe
.

While McCain struggles to keep both the right and the center happy, it
is our job, as progressives, to let the American people know what his
party — and presumably, he — is capable of supporting. The utterly draconian nature of the Republican party’s official position on
abortion has not gotten the attention it deserves, either from the
media or, surprisingly, from abortion rights advocates themselves. No
exception
for the life of the woman?!

Recall that South Dakota voters in
2006 voted down a ban on abortions that had a life exception, but did
not have one for rape and incest. Assuming there are reporters and
debate moderators willing to call him on it, how possibly will McCain
defend a position on abortion that, even if symbolic, is breathtaking
in its callous disregard for women?

There is no question that in the coming general election campaign Barack Obama (assuming
he will be the Democratic nominee) will be targeted by antiabortion
forces because of his support for abortion rights. In particular, we
can expect that Obama’s expressed disagreement with the most recent
Supreme Court decision on abortion, Gonzales v. Carhart, will be
relentlessly revisited in TV and radio ads to selected audiences. Obama’s statement after the decision voiced his concern that the Court for
the first time upheld an abortion law that did not allow an exception
for women’s health.

Since this decision involved a ban on a rarely used procedure, that
has been successfully sensationalized for years by opponents as
"partial birth abortion," and which many Americans find upsetting, we
can expect Republicans to hammer him on this point.

But I believe that if Americans are told that John McCain, and the
party for which he is a standard bearer, stand behind the proposition
that it is preferable that women die, rather than have an abortion,
that will be substantially more upsetting. Words matter. If McCain
insists on placating the fanatics in his party, let him start paying a
price.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.