Why I Didn’t Write a Check for Obama Last Night

Gloria Feldt

Obama's recent comments backing away from a comprehensive mental health exception to the federal abortion ban and supporting abstinence education are far more likely to alienate feminist voters than win over conservative ones.

I was planning to attend Barack Obama’s big fundraising reception in
New York Wednesday night and make the maximum contribution to his
campaign, but I have torn up the invitation.

My decision
isn’t about the money, though the thought of writing a check for $4600
takes my breath away. It seemed important to do my part to prevent
the 100% anti-choice John McCain’s election and a de facto third Bush
term.

I supported Hillary Clinton in the primary because I
believe she’s the most capable of meeting the enormous challenges the
next president will face undoing the damage to women’s rights, health,
and justice caused by Bush. Still, I’ve admired Obama since I met him
at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Later, in Washington after
he was elected, I sensed he was genuine in his commitment to women’s
equality. So, despite my still-raw feelings about Hillary’s concession,
I was prepared to go forward this week and commit full support to Obama.

Then the danger signs started.

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I’ve spent enough years on the political frontline to know that before
getting that post-inauguration chance to do cleanup work, let alone
start on new initiatives, any Democratic candidate must first navigate
the political crucible that immediately engulfs him or her upon
becoming the party’s nominee. And it doesn’t surprise me that Obama
would seek to broaden his base by meeting with groups such as
evangelicals and conservatives who are unlikely suspects to become
Obama voters in large numbers. But I am shocked at the magnitude of
what Marie Cocco has properly dubbed Obama’s "pander tour."

During
the last two weeks, the thunderclouds of doubt have gathered ever more
ominously until they cast Obama’s character into serious question.
First there was a distant rumbling in his sudden support for FISA, followed by his support for the Supreme Court’s ruling expanding the right to handguns. His statements about religion in public life
and intentions to expand faith based funding programs made me nervous, though he did temper his comments with talk of Constitutional
protections for church-state separation.

By the time he
started parsing what reasons for abortion the law may deem acceptable or not — infantilizing woman and
devaluing their moral capacity and human right to exercise it — and sounding for all the world like he was
withdrawing his long held opposition to the federal abortion ban, I was
seriously questioning whether this man would have the necessary mettle
to withstand any challenges at all. Or worse, is he just another
politician swaying with the winds and running for cover at the hint of
a little thunder?

He’d obviously allowed the anti-choice misstatement of the abortion ban’s
provisions to frame his answer, when any lawyer ought to know that
buying into your adversary’s argument is guaranteed to doom your own.
He replied to their questions as though the abortion ban law concerns
only abortions late in pregnancy — when in truth it states no time or
gestation factor and could seriously limit access to abortions much
earlier in pregnancy. Equally disturbing, his words override the
principle of medical judgment in what constitutes risk to the woman. As
transcribed in Relevant Magazine:

Strang:
…there seems to be some real confusion about your position on
third-trimester and partial-birth abortions. Can you clarify your
stance for us?

Obama: I have repeatedly said that I think it’s
entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term
abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the
health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that "mental distress"
qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious
physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real,
significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term.
Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I
think we can prohibit late-term abortions…

But the last straw
was his comments on sex education, when he gratuitously offered up
language coded to out-triangulate any triangulating he had ever accused
Hillary of doing:


Strang: You’ve said you’re personally against
abortion and would like to see a reduction in the number of abortions
under your administration. So, as president, how would do you propose
accomplishing that?

Obama: I think we know that abortions rise
when unwanted pregnancies rise. So, if we are continuing what has been
a promising trend in the reduction of teen pregnancies, through
education and abstinence education giving good information to
teenagers. That is important-emphasizing the sacredness of sexual
behavior to our children. I think that’s something that we can
encourage. I think encouraging adoptions in a significant way. I think
[is] the proper role of government.

Just when state after state has recognized the damage done by abstinence
programs and withdrawn from federal funding for them, we’re going to
have a president committed to abstinence education? I don’t think so.
And this coming from a man who in the Senate is a sponsor of the Prevention First Act and the Freedom of Choice Act? I certainly hope not.

In
the big picture, Obama’s character begins to appear as someone who is
quick to deflect, demur, defer to his challengers. The dreaded
flip-flopper, whom voters always see as a loser. When the frame is
focused on reproductive rights and health specifically, we see a
candidate who is either uninformed (not likely) or speaks with an
unacceptable lack of moral center about abortion, sex education, and
family planning.

I truly hope Obama will have sense enough
to
recognize that he’s a lot more likely to persuade women like me to
support him than those who push him to betray his previously
stated pro-woman principles and will almost certainly abandon him at
the ballot box anyway.

For now, he has a long way to go to convince me my $4600 would be a good investment.

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