16 February 2005


that is my immediate reaction to a spate of reports (including the one linked above, from this morning's times) that democrats are "rethinking abortion." unfortunately, it doesn't seem as if anyone is actually thinking very much at all. if this is a decision, it's a decision for all the wrong reasons: chuck schumer and harry reid and, my goodness, even howard dean, are so busy rushing to the middle that they've forgotten what's actually going on here. i think the dash to the median voter is going to have some very perverse effects, electorally and otherwise.

i think the first time i ever heard anyone talk sense on abortion was in the early '90's, when i watched a bill clinton speech in which he professed a desire to keep abortion "safe, legal and rare." in a rather startling parallel to anti-gay rhetoric (and much of conservative orthodoxy these days), anti-choice activists seem to forget that no one is thrilled to need or to have an abortion. they pretend that the decision stems from moral vacuity rather than material impossibility. but the truth of the matter is that abortion varies with poverty, not perversity.

that's right, folks. the best way to prevent abortion is not to outlaw it (how many women died from back-alley abortions pre-roe?). the best way to prevent abortions is to institute actual, comprehensive sex ed and, maybe even more importantly, to work on poverty in this country. why do democrats have to cede the moral high ground on this just as on everything else? the republican platform as it stands presents poor women, especially those without reliable access to contraceptives, with an insulting and indefensible hobson's choice: get an abortion, in the face of mounting legal challenges and a minefield of moral opprobrium, or raise a child in dire poverty. that's right: they want to dismantle the welfare state AND institute no-sex sex ed AND outlaw abortion. how is that supposed to work?

at best, the republican position is unrealistic. at worst, it is actively malevolent. class war from above is always an ugly business. so why-the-fuck won't democrats talk about what's actually going on? fine, john kerry, be "personally pro-life." i bet you've never had to face a decision like that, being a member of the moneyed elite and all. but let's stop pretending that abortion is actually an isolated issue. why don't anti-choice activists want to make this about poverty or contraception? because if even a hint of complexity is introduced, they lose.

if democrats don't stake a moral claim on *all* of these issues some time soon (that's as opposed to parroting the republican position, thank you very much bob casey), they are going to sacrifice abortion rights and gain exactly nothing. you think voters believe you lack a strong moral statement now? just wait until you adopt the entire "family values" platform of the OTHER FUCKING PARTY, and see where that gets you.