On Wednesday evening I attended the monthly meetup for Democracy for Pittsburgh. The meetups often feature political candidates and this night was no exception. The candidate was a Democrat who plans to run against a sitting Republican member of Congress. I'm not going to name the person on the off chance that someone reading this will decide to donate money to the guy after reading what I write.
More importantly, his name is not important because he represents something bigger than his candidacy.
He expressed many opinions with which I agree and seemed particularly interested in health care -- with one glaring exception. The exception was that, when asked, he stated that he was "pro life."
Democracy for Pittsburgh is a progressive organization. it is the Pittsburgh coalition for Democracy for America. Democracy for America favors candidates who are fiscally conservative and socially progressive.
Now he did say that he knew what he was walking into. He stated that no pro choice candidate could win in his district. He stated that he hoped to mostly avoid the topic of abortion during his run for office.
When asked outright if he would sign a bill outlawing abortion, he hedged. Later, when a member of the group said that she had been raped and it was her father who had raped her, he said he would support an exception for rape and incest. (Need it be said that if you support an "exception" for rape and incest, that you obviously must support some curtailment of abortion rights?) He also said that he supported the morning after pill and embryo stem cell research.
Perhaps some of you now are thinking, "Hmm, he's sounding a bit more reasonable. He's certainly no religious zealot on the subject."
But, I would posit that his stand is not "reasonable." His stand is the height of hypocrisy.
While I strongly disagree with those who would ban all abortions, the morning after pill and embryo stem cell research; at least their postion is based on a philosophical/religious argument that life begins at conception and life must not be destroyed. Your demands follow reasonably from your views. You do believe in something. Some of those same people would accept an exception for the life of the mother, and this still makes sense in the context of their beliefs as you would now have two "equal" lives at stake and they feel that they cannot ask someone to give up their own life for another.
But, I have to argue that a person who would ban abortions but have an exception for rape and incest is not "pro life" but solidly anti choice.
Is the fetus somehow less "fetus" and more "baby" because the conception occured by an act of rape/incest?
Of course not!
I will put forward that people who believe in this type of exception just find the idea of rape and incest even more "icky" than they find abortion to be "icky." Or perhaps they are able to empathize more with the idea of one of their own (wife, sister, daughter, friend) being forced to carry to term a child conceived of rape. Perhaps they themselves would not want such a child around.
But I do not care to know what psychology is behind their reasoning.
What they are in fact doing is judging how "moral" a woman is who wants/needs to have an abortion. Has she jumped through enough hoops? Has she satisfied my desire to feel comfortable that she is not just some careless, unthinking slut? Has she suffered enough already?
They are deciding that: yes, you have a choice if you have been raped, but you do not have a choice if, say, you already have six children and you do not have the finances or emotional and physical resources to have a seventh. They are judging that, well rape is one thing, but the fact that you are 16, or 14, or 10 just doesn't cut it with them -- it's not ugly enough for their comfort zone.
They truly do not believe that you have a choice in deciding what you will do with your own body, your own person, more than they believe that you are taking the life of a "baby." After all, it is not the fault of the "baby" in question that you were raped or incested, is it?
So then it must be about their comfort level in why you want/need an abortion more than their belief that you are killing a person.
Can anyone please explain to me how this is not hypocritical?
The current Democratic meme that we must welcome pro-lifers and make them feel more "comfortable" in our party says that we believe in nothing as a party. Either we are pro choice or we are not.
I do not mean to suggest that there is no room in the party for candidates who are personally opposed to abortion but who would not impose that belief on others. I fully support your right to believe in whatever you like. I support your right to say you think abortions are wrong. However, I do not support your "right" to prevent women from having the choice to terminate a pregnancy.
Another woman at the meetup was a veteran. She had served in both wars in Iraq. She spoke eloquently about the horrors of the current war -- about the unbelievably gruesome injuries she saw visited upon our troops.
She wanted the candidate to explain to her earlier in the evening (before she talked bout serving in Iraq) why she should have anyone deny her a medical procedure. Yes, that is what she called abortion. And, apparently that is what the candidate was more comfortable thinking about abortions that were from rapes than what he thought of abortions in general.
Now, here's the part where I scold my so-called "progressive" brothers. It was the women at the meetup who asked question after question about abortion. I am not saying that there weren't any strong pro choice men there, but am saying that it is my experience (certainly on this blog and others) that, in general, "pro choice" progressive men are far more willing to "forgive" a candidate for being anti choice. They are far more willing to label pro choice women as being un-pragmatic and lament their insistence on focusing on a "single issue." They are uncomfortable with being accused of being the "Abortion Party." You know, hey, can't we just let this slide (for this candidate...for this election...)?
It is also my experience that the women who are most "strident" on this issue are the ones who were around pre Roe v. Wade. Even if you were in jr. high, like me, when that case was decided, you can remember a time when women did not have the right to fully control their bodies. You remember the laughter, derision and outright hostility towards "libbers." You remember when it wasn't even illegal to pay a woman less than a man for doing the exact same job. You remember a lot.
Those that are a bit older than me remember the consequences of back alley abortions. The hospital wings filled with women suffering from infections or botched operations. The deaths.
I see a lot of outrage in the progressive corner of the blogosphere. There is much to be outraged about. Many of you write outraged posts.
You are outraged by the deaths and injuries of our troops in Iraq...
You are outraged by the deaths of innocent civilians...
You are outraged by the torture at Abu Ghraib...
You are outraged by less life and death matters such as Republican fiscal policies...
But, I see precious few "pro choice progressive" men outraged by the efforts to make back alley abortions the only CHOICE that many women will have...even when those efforts are by candidates that we are encouraged to be "pragmatic about" and support...
Perhaps it's out of your comfort zone.