Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Katha Pollitt of The Nation is forcing me to eat some ill-considered words. On July 11, I wrote: "Call me a shortsighted if you will, but abortion is a minor issue. In fact, if Roe v. Wade were reversed, Republicans would suffer. Their main snare for suckering people away from the Democrats would evaporate." Don't bother calling me shortsighted. I'll do it for you.
As Pollitt pointed out, overturning Roe would open the issue in fifty state legislatures. If you think the nation's divided over abortion now, wait till you see that brouhaha. Sure, New York and California would legalize abortion and many others would not. In fact, that was the trend in 1970. New York was easing its ban on abortion, which meant that well-to-do women, no matter where they lived, could travel and get one, but many poor women were out of luck. The disparity is what drove the court to rule as it did in 1973. If Roe were overturned, the same disparity would exist again, with consequences not just for the women involved. I've reported on this blog before that a study done by two university social scientists discovered that twenty years after Roe, the crime rate dropped across the nation. Forcing women to have children they don't want or can't adequately care for has consequences for all of us.
We can't hand the right Roe v. Wade in hopes of watching them stew in their own juices. We're going to have to fight to keep it and find ways to talk to all those who aren't right wing zealots. In that regard, I think Howard Dean has the idea. On May 25, I quoted him:
When I campaigned for this job [as DNC Chair], I talked to lots of Democrats. And there are significant numbers of pro-life Democrats in the South. And one lady said to me, you know, “I’m pro-life. I don’t like abortion. I would never have one. I would hope my daughter would never have one. But, you know, if the lady next door got herself in a fix, I’m not sure I should be the one to tell her what to do.” Now, we call that woman pro-choice, but she thinks of herself as pro-life. The minute we start with the “pro-choice, pro- choice, pro-choice,” she says, “Well, that’s not me.”
But when you talk about framing this debate the way it ought to be framed, which is “Do you want Tom DeLay and the boys to make up your mind about this, or does a woman have a right to make up her own mind about what kind of health care she gets,” then that pro-life woman says “Well, now, you know, I’ve had people try to make up my mind for me and I don’t think that’s right.” This is an issue about who gets to make up their minds: the politicians or the individual. Democrats are for the individual. We believe in individual rights. We believe in personal freedom and personal responsibility. And that debate is one that we didn’t win, because we kept being forced into the idea of defending the idea of abortion.

We must argue our case with tact and shrewd tactics--and hope that the Court doesn't do a 180 on abortion.


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