Why Abortion Rights Should Be Extremely Important to Every Liberal
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Sat Sep 08, 2007 at 02:15:10 PM EST
(cross-posted from HotFlashReport)

Abortion, abortion, abortion.

A lot of people say they're sick of constantly hearing about that issue. They're tired of the same old arguments repeated ad nauseum. They're turned off by the "extremists" on both sides who want either all or nothing. They're frustrated by the yawning chasm between pro-choice and anti-choice views that can never be bridged. They're sick of abortion, period. I mean, who wants to think about abortion anyway, or even say the word out loud? It's all so "icky."
So instead, our Democratic contenders for President talk about a "woman's right to choose" and how abortions should be prevented. They want to make abortion "rare," which I suspect hides their real wish - that the abortion issue would just disappear and stop ickying up their campaigns. There's virtually no recognition of the fact that abortion care is already rare in this country, and getting rarer. Poor women and teenagers in particular have already had their "right to choose" taken away, thanks to numerous and onerous state and federal restrictions passed over the years, including the Hyde Amendment that gutted abortion funding.
Let's be clear - abortion rights are absolutely integral to women's rights and extremely important to progressive politics in general. The apparent willingness of many Democrats to throw women's rights under the bus - even to the extent of supporting anti-choice Democrats for office - means they still haven't absorbed the lessons of feminism and the women's equality movement. Basically, it comes down to that crazy radical feminist notion that women are important and worthy of serious respect, just like men.

Is it mostly men who fail to assign sufficient importance to the basic human rights of half the population? Is it mostly men who think abortion is just a "woman's issue" that hardly merits their attention? Perhaps, but I hasten to point out there's large numbers of conservative women who are anti-abortion and anti-feminism, and plenty of wonderful feminist men who truly get it. Take for example Ian MacLeod, whose brilliant and impassioned article "The Question of Choice Shouldn't Be!" spells out exactly why abortion rights and women's rights are so important. Ian has saved me the work of explaining all this, because he said it all quite eloquently. Please go read him.

Which makes me wonder though - how many liberals wouldn't even bother to read an article about abortion, because it's a "woman's issue" and they have much more important things to worry about?  Well, if they happen to stumble across this article accidentally by mistake, here's a few points they might want to consider:
  • Abortion is pretty much a litmus test for any Presidential candidate and any Supreme Court nominee.
  • Abortion is a key election issue that has the power to sink campaigns and candidates.
  • Abortion is a high-profile issue that consistently garners national and local media coverage.
  • The majority of Americans are still largely pro-choice and want to preserve Roe v. Wade.
  • A candidate's strong pro-choice stance on abortion can win elections.
  • The Republican vote gets a huge boost from single-issue voters on abortion (and other right-wing "moral" issues). Democrat voters can take a lesson from that, because their broader focus can sideline abortion rights with the election of anti-choice candidates.
  • Republican administrations have greatly damaged and endangered abortion rights, especially under Bush junior.
  • Abortion rights are fundamental to the rights and equality of half the population.
The last point leads to arguably the most important point of all - The abortion issue is not just about abortion. That's just the deceptive tip of the iceberg - we're being fooled by the way anti-choicers present the issue. They set it up as a conflict between a woman's right to abortion and a fetus's right to life. But that's a false premise. The issue is really about a woman's right to life not just her right to abortion per se. Without safe, legal, accessible abortion, desperate women take matters into their own hands, risking their lives and health to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. 68,000 women die every year from unsafe illegal abortion and over five million are injured. Countless millions more are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term when they can barely even take care of themselves, let alone a baby or another baby. That oft-repeated phrase "a woman's right to her own body" is not just a trite political abstraction - the need to control what happens to our bodies is an instinctual biological imperative that all humans share. Depriving women of that ability amounts to depriving them of their humanity, and their basic right to fight for survival.

When women can't control their fertility, every other human right they have or might achieve becomes hollow or takes a back seat. Without abortion rights, women are reduced to second-class citizens, children's rights become a non-issue, and men stay shackled to traditional roles that rely on women's passivity and submission.
Unfortunately, the political focus on abortion diverts attention and resources from the fight for women's other human rights. As Lynn Paltrow has stated:
The abortion issue is being used to distract attention from the overwhelming number of things American women - whether pro--or antichoice - have in common, including the fact that the United States is one of only three industrialized countries that do not require any paid maternity leave; millions of pregnant women in American are not protected from workplace discrimination, and 43 million Americans, including 8.5 million children are without health care coverage.

To this list can be added many more "women's issues," such as domestic violence, the persistent lack of equal pay for equal work, and the disproportionately small numbers of female legislators. I'm not saying we should downplay abortion rights and focus on these other rights. The point is that our enemies are using abortion rights to keep us from substantively tackling these other issues. We need to decisively protect and enshrine abortion rights for women as the linchpin of women's rights, then serious progress on other rights will naturally follow

Is there hope on the horizon, with the prospect of America's first woman President? Maybe not. This article, "Women's Issues in the Presidential Campaigns?" asks a pertinent question: "Is it possible we believe that having a woman as a serious contender for the Presidency stands in for a discussion of the issues particular to women, including their pesky reproductive health care needs...?" If 2008 brings us the first woman President ever, that would be a significant accomplishment in itself. But the more interesting story is whether would-be President Clinton would be able to effectively leverage her gender to truly make American women's lives better and freer. As it stands now, she seems about as lukewarm on reproductive rights as her male competitors. Will a woman President truly be an asset for American women, or just another distraction from the fight for ordinary women's basic human rights?

Because make no mistake - for our enemies, the fight is not simply about whether (or when or how) a woman can access an abortion. For them, it's about attacking the core human rights of women in general. It's about keeping women "barefoot and pregnant and-chained-to-the-bed" as Ian MacLeod puts it.

How is ignoring this Neanderthal attitude going to help Democrats win the next election?  How is marginalizing abortion and "women's issues" going to make America more progressive? Is there any meaning at all to the word "progressive" when it means throwing half the population under the bus?

Abortion rights is everyone's issue, not just a women's issue. Abortion involves the most fundamental aspect of our existence - reproduction. Women are largely responsible for reproduction, and without them, human beings wouldn't be here, including men. Women's welfare affects everyone, and all of society, and everyone should care. Women hold up half the sky (probably two-thirds of it). Women are our partners, friends, and colleagues, as well as our mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters. When women's equality and humanity are protected and respected, we all benefit from their enhanced ability to act and speak freely. When we trust women to make responsible decisions about whether and when to have a child, we all win because families become healthier and stronger. When abortion rights are championed and secured, the result will be stronger democracy, a more egalitarian society, and truly progressive politics. It's a win-win for everyone.

...piece at Daily Kos, yes? As you well know, this message still hasn't penetrated some brains there. And nobody but you and moiv can do a better job of getting that message broader attention.

by Meteor Blades on Sat Sep 08, 2007 at 05:26:22 PM EST

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