Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 23, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

ABORTION....I have to confess that I'm bewildered by the big abortion controvery that's apparently brewing in the Democratic party:

The fight is a central theme of the contest to head the Democratic National Committee, particularly between two leading candidates: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who supports abortion rights, and former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, an abortion foe who argues that the party cannot rebound from its losses in the November election unless it shows more tolerance on one of society's most emotional conflicts.

.....If Roemer were to succeed Terry McAuliffe as Democratic chairman in the Feb. 10 vote, the party long viewed as the guardian of abortion rights would suddenly have two antiabortion advocates at its helm. [Harry] Reid, too, opposes abortion and once voted for a nonbinding resolution opposing Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

This genuinely doesn't make any sense to me:

  • What's Roemer talking about? The Democratic party is no more "intolerant" on this issue than the Republican party just on the opposite side. There aren't any pro-choice folks in the Republican leadership, after all, and if it's lack of tolerance you're after, just look at the humiliating process Arlen Specter had to go through recently just to get a Senate committee chairmanship.

  • I'm usually in favor of more inclusive language, greater sensitivity, etc. etc. But obsessing about the emotional turmoil of getting an abortion just doesn't work. Since we fundamentally believe that there's nothing wrong with pre-viability abortion, shouldn't our job instead be to persuade women that they shouldn't feel emotionally whipsawed if they choose to get an abortion? It's awfully hard to take both sides.

  • There's no issue that doesn't hurt you with at least some voters, but of all the "moral values" issues out there, abortion is one of the few in which the Democratic position is also the majority position. If we feel the need to pander on some culture war issue, why pick this one?

The odd thing is that this is a social issue where I'm more comfortable with policy changes than I am with rhetoric changes. I can live with parental notification, for example, but mainly because I think abortion really should be treated like any other medical procedure. And I don't object to bans on late-term abortions (with appropriate safeguards, of course), but that's perfectly consistent with Roe v. Wade.

Rhetoric, on the other hand, really can't be watered down very much. You either believe in a right to choose or you don't. I don't see how you can tap dance around a core principle like that.

Kevin Drum 1:48 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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