Tuesday, May 30

The mainstream on abortion and why we're out of it...


I've said it before and I'm gonna say it again: we Dems will never have a firm handshake with a large cross-section of the American People(tm) until we at least reframe the abortion debate. A most frank and much-needed dose of advice came in the May 29 New Yorker from one Winston Simpson, a hog farmer from Missouri:

Simpson described himself as a loyal Democrat...”I’m even pro-choice--that’s how much of a Democrat I am,” he said. He came to that position, he explained, through his knowledge of animal husbandry. “If you’ve ever seen a young heifer get bred too soon, you know what a fiasco that is, which is why I think teen-agers should have access to abortion. But I’m out of the mainstream on this.” He continued, “I always tell people who are running for office that if they want to get elected in Missouri, when someone asks them for their feelings about Roe v. Wade don’t give some long scientific talk. Just say, ‘I’m against abortion’ and move on quick.” [emphasis mine]

If only we could. The author of this interview, Jeffrey Goldberg, goes into more detail regarding reframing the abortion debate on the New Yorker’s website:

Part of the Reagan revolution was getting people to change how they self-identified. Do you think that’s possible for liberals now?

Of course it’s possible, if the Democrats learn how to talk to people. Here’s a perfect example: abortion. Many moderate Democrats are looking at the way they talk to the country about abortion. What we see in a lot of candidates and at a lot of Democratic think tanks is that they’re all pro-choice, pro-Roe v. Wade, but they’re reframing the issue to emphasize not choice and individual rights but abortion reduction.

A recognition that an abortion represents a failure of one sort or the other.

That is not the belief of the hard-core activist pro-choice community. But polls have shown two interesting things: a majority of Americans are pro-choice, and a majority of Americans also see abortion as a moral problem. The Democrats can reach all these people if they show that they, too, believe in this pair of seemingly contradictory ideas. They’re not that contradictory.

Will abortion always be harder for the Democrats than something like Iraq, because of the deeply ingrained, heartfelt feelings involved?

Americans have very heartfelt feelings about national security, too. The way the Democrats can win on national security is to separate Iraq from the larger picture—or to use Iraq, do a kind of Karl Rove jujitsu, if you will, and say that the President has actually weakened our national security by invading Iraq.

I think we Democrats can doe a Karl Rove jujitsu on abortion, too. Here's how:

And while you’re reading this (thanks, btw) please keep in mind that I am a mother of three who has accepted Jesus Christ into her heart, yadda yadda yadda. I've also lived in Alabama for ten years. Here's the talking points:

1. Christian women get abortions. Plenty of them.

Never in pro-life literature does it talk about the large quantity, by some estimates over 20%, of abortions performed on born again Christian women. That article mentions the amazing story of a girl protesting at a clinic the day after her abortion. Then there's that old joke about the three times abortion is okay are "rape, life of the mother, and me."

There are actually two epidemics among women of the born-again persuasion: unwanted pregnancy and eating disorders. Both are based on ignorance, shame, and an self-repressed standard of womanhood that has very little basis in reality.

I’m repeating myself here, but doctors I talk to in Alabama say that the sexual blinders put upon young women in the Alabama Baptist Convention is a serious detriment to their health. They have sex anyway, and they have no idea how easy it is to get pregnant. Honeys, as far as God is concerned, the whole point of sex is to get pregnant.

I remember the time before my third child was conceived. Mr. Blue Gal and I talked about having a third child, and I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m forty years old, I’ve got a history of infertility, I’ll just leave it up to God.“ I’m never leaving it up to God again. God loves babies!

No matter what your pastor says, God/mother nature/the reproductive impulse of the universe, does not care if you are married or not.

It may truly alienate the very voters we are trying to persuade, but the “what if it was your daughter?” question should in some subtle way be brought to the table. Or perhaps not so subtle...after all, what would Karl Rove do? I can imagine the TV spot...a shot of nice white people praying in church, and the voiceover says, "If you're praying for the victims of Roe v. Wade, [dramatic pause, pan over to a weeping blonde pretty lass] don't forget the one in the next pew..."

2. The religious right ground forces have been completely hoodwinked by their leadership on the abortion issue.

The Republican leadership, except for some few true-believers, really has no interest in resolving the abortion issue. Hell, even Laura Bush wants to re-frame the issue, and has said so for years, so therefore no one is allowed to ask her anymore.

The same desire for impasse on abortion could be said of the Planned Parenthood/pro-choice contingency, but I would argue that the Democratic leadership have more cred in terms of wanting a firm, eternal committment to choice, than the Republicans do of overturning Roe. The abortion issue is the biggest cash cow the Religious Right has on their farm, folks.

I’m convinced that a lot of the true believers, those average born-again church goers are feeling quite betrayed already. Those “little people” who donated money over the years to the Christian Coalition specifically to fight lottery proposals in the South are just a little pissed off at Ralph Reed.
Somehow money laundering of Indian casino money is not seen as the Christian thing to do. (Bless his heart.)

We need to point out just what is at stake here, and call the pro-life leadership on this. If you’re worried this will lead them to push harder against Roe, so what? That will wake up those voters who think we don’t need to worry about Roe. We do. I think it’s really important to blow the lid off of how much money is being donated to pro-life organizations and just how much of that money is being spent on so-called administrative costs. This article complains that upwards of 80% of money raised for these crusades goes to professional telemarketers running the campaigns. Who owns them? I wanna know. If this information is not publicly available, just make it up. Again, what would Karl do?

Oh, I’m just kidding.

The thing to do is to raise the question, again and again and again, so that these organizations and mega-churches are put on the defensive. Either they have to release information on fund-raising and how it is being spent, or they will see a drop in their fundraising due to the questions being raised.

See? Betcha Karl’s eating his heart out now...

3. Nevermind abortion. We need to re-frame the issue of accidental pregnancy as a high-priority public health concern.
Yes, libs, we’ll call it “women’s reproductive health” when we’re at the 92nd Street Y, okay? In Missouri, we’re gonna call it accidental pregnancy. NOT “unwanted pregnancy,” which conjures up images of hard-hearted baby-hating prostitutes aborting every other month. Every third person you meet was “an accident,” if their parents were perfectly honest. And every parent of a fifteen-year-old girl counts that accident as their worst nightmare, if THEY are perfectly honest. Publish a cost comparison between flying to that lovely Indian reservation in South Dakota versus flying to Scandinavia for an abortion. Put it in a chart for USA Today, so those Christians who pretend they can read the Bible can read this, and figger out that when Sissy forgets to take her pill, we don‘t wanna hafta learn how to say “take care of it” in Norwegian.

But I digress. I want a national dialogue lecture on how not to get pregnant. I want Oprah to have a book for her book club on how not to get pregnant, so at least one and a half million women in this country will have a partial clue. I want The View to talk about condoms and how often they fail and how to make sure they don’t. I want Seventeen and Cosmo Girl! and Women’s Day and Family Fuckin’ Circle to publish charts showing women how to measure their menstrual cycle and how to know when they are most likely to get pregnant and then tell them not to play Papal roulette but use some serious contraception and here’s how you use it and here’s where you get it.

Memo to Blue Cross/Blue Shield: Remember how Bill Clinton MADE you pay to keep C-section patients in the hospital for the medically-recommended three days? You are gonna fuckin’ pay for contraception, because using contraception is not a “lifestyle,” it’s a part of life. We value your cooperation. Thank you.


  1. The issue of how to frame the abortion question is simple: "I believe it is a private matter between doctor and patient." That's it. That's where the polls are. Visit www.pollingreport.com and then click "Abortion." Poll after poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans, while harboring a certain level of distaste for the procedure itself, still feel it is a private matter and not the decision of any particular religious or political group.

    Also, what American voters like above all else is the ability to state your position and stand your ground, come what may. That is precisely why the Republicans have been so successful. They have taken many unpopular positions and come out on top because voters admire resolve. The spineless Dems seem to be incessantly filtering everything through focus groups and fretting about their image.

    History shows that the self-appointed Guardians of American Morality always represent the minority. From Prohibition to Elvis' hips to Janet's nipple, the vast majority was ambivalent or opposed to the recommendations of the self-righteous minority. It's just that no one is willing to go to bat for liquor and nudity.

  2. Frame the debate ths way:
    1. Universal quality health care for every American, the same as every member of Congress gets. For free. 2. Increased access to high-quality reproductive care and pre-natal care, and that includes new and expanded research on contraception. 3. And on abortion? That's easy:
    a. Safe
    b. Legal
    c. And the circumstances or reasons are none of your damn business.

  3. i have been telling anyone who will listen- for years- that the abortion issue is linked to the contraceptive issue. if we pushed prevention instead of hiding behind the abstinence stupidity- there would be fewer accidental pregnancies. organized religion breeds secrecy, shame, deceit and self loathing. that should be the debate- getting rid of the reason that most americans don't feel like they can talk about real issues in the first place. take away the idiocy of organized religion and you don't have the shame and self loathing that is indoctrinated. prevention, prevention, prevention. otherwise i agree with everything that you posted.

  4. Your points are excellent. I especially agree with your suggestion that we need to recognize an unwanted pregnancy as a failure - a failure to communicate good information, a failure to keep women and girls safe from violent attack, a failure of good intentions between consenting sexual partners, and any of a dozen more types of failure.

    I'm less sure that we can win a language battle with fundamentalists. The right has always bested us on that front because they are perfectly comfortable framing their issues in clear, simple, black and white terms. That is, by definition, the fundamentalist world view. It will always hold appeal for those too lazy to think - for those desperate for simple handles and phrases upon which they can tether themselves to weather all the incomprehensible ills of the world.

    Privacy - as "big daddy malcontent" points out, may be a better course for liberals to follow. New drugs that prevent fertilization from occuring are the biggest new threat to the pro-life movement. That is why they've taken the battle into the pharmacies.

    For these drugs to gain acceptance, however, people have to understand how they work. They are NOT abortifacients, but most people don't know that. Why? Because they don't really understand the science of fertilization.

    We need to push for more and better education in this area. The current government policy of teaching abstinence until marriage is not sex education. It's the biggest failure of all.

  5. To Conservatives:

    May the child you save from abortion be gay.

  6. I remember the time before my third child was conceived. Mr. Blue Gal and I talked about having a third child, and I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m forty years old, I’ve got a history of infertility, I’ll just leave it up to God.“ I’m never leaving it up to God again. God loves babies!

    But I digress. I want a national dialogue lecture on how not to get pregnant. I want Oprah to have a book for her book club on how not to get pregnant, so at least one and a half million women in this country will have a partial clue.
    Blu Gal, honey, I'm trying not to lust for you, what with ya being a married woman et al.

    The real fear/doubts of many is enforced clinical abortions. How many of us might not be here if the decision (choice) were left in the hands of nazi surgeons.

    Difficult topics need to be aired with hard debate. keep hittin hard.

    Laters ... Q

  7. PS - At least when a young girl is pregnant she cannot get pregnant again for another nine months. 9 months? that's less than you have to wait for some other types of surgery in blighty.

    Another mysterious thing some matron or surgeon in their 'wisdom' decided to remove one of the ovaries from young girls having abortions, to reduce or half the chances of more 'accidental' pregnancies.

    I'm still in a dilemma or mental turmoil over clinical terminations for seriously deformed babies, and the offspring of rape cases.

    But like God, I like babies. Otherwise sex is just a little empty, like an exercise (or orgasm) on a 'treadmill' Maybe that is what we should teach teenagers (boys + gals).

    Love ... Q xoxo

  8. Great comments, folks. Doesn't surprise me a bit that BG readers mostly fall in the "hard-core activist pro-choice community" camp. But my point is that just won't fly in Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama... And where are you, Quasar9? BG's dad born in Seaford Sussex.

  9. quasar9: "Otherwise sex is just a little empty" ????

    I love babies, too, but if you feel that sex without the intention to conceive is "just a little empty," that strikes me as really sad.

    Great sex is great sex, and it's out there for all of us from the time we become sexually mature until the day we die. I'm counting on that because I haven't been able to conceive since the age of 35, and I'm years beyond that marker, still enjoying fireworks sex with my partner so often that I would blush to reveal the frequency. There is nothing "just a little empty" about it.

    The best sex happens in a loving relationship. That is what we should be telling our kids.

  10. Hi threadingwater, I have to agree with you "The best sex happens in a loving relationship" - and the best sex for me is not just trying to score a goal, but scoring! But that is just "really sad" old me.

    Blue Gal - I'm this side of the pond. No likelihood of abortion becoming illegal here. You'd just think by know it be a 'redundant' option. Redundant as in accidental or unwanted pregnancies shouldn't be happening. But of course the 'real' world is still a long way short of perfect. Laters ... Q

  11. BG's dad from Sussex. Q not that far - Cambridge. Laters ... Q

  12. Doesn't surprise me that 80% of funding for pro-life groups goes to "administrative" costs. There's money in hot button issues.

    My opinion: I'm pro-life, but believe in legal abortion. I believe life is sacred (I'm not a xian), but I believe it's a personal decision for the pregnant woman. While I'm sure there are woman who just don't care and get one as a form of birth control, the women I know who had them went through gut wrenching agony making that decision. IMO unless it's rape, incest or the mother's life in is danger it is better to place the child up for adoption if the mother doesn't want the baby, but it's not my choice, it is and should always be the woman who has to live with the end result.

  13. You all make great and informed points. I applaud your opinions.

    This topic always lights my fire, from my personal experience to my professional work as a sexual assault nurse examiner.

    To prevent "unwanted" or "unintended" pregnancies at ANY age, we have to begin by
    educating young people about pregnancy and contraception, emphasis on our young girls, obviously Educate until your blue in the face, maybe even until these young men are blue in the balls. But to keep quiet about contraception or abstinence is failing our children. No matter what your reasoning is. You might as well go out and buy your 15 year old a crib and the jumbo pack of diapers, they'll be needing them soon enough.

    Contraception should be accessible to everyone,(As should FREE UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE) but we need to educate that abstinence is the first and most sensible option, considering nothing is 100%.

    We need to also educate our young girls about self worth and encourage them about what they can accomplish in life by participating in sports and academic endeavours, that there is life outside of the "boyfriend-girlfriend" world that teens tend to revolve in. We should spend money emphasizing education and self pride,alongside their sexual health, so they don't just "give it away to anyone" There is a HUGE difference in emphasizing morality and Christianity, and having pride in your own morals is priceless.

    When all this education, contraception, or abstinence fails, as it often does, or God forbid there is an incident of rape, like I often saw as a S.A.N.E provider, then NO ONE has the right to deny a woman to a safe and legal abortion. NO ONE. No matter if you are an unwanted teenager like my best high school friend was or a married mother of 3 like I was. It's the woman's choice, her body, her LIFE. As a free human being in this country, you are entitled and should be guaranteed the freedom to have a safe and legal procedure. One without guilt and shame or the risk of infection or botched procedures.

    How anyone, man or woman, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, has the point of view that anyone can tell a woman what she can or can not do with her body and her life, it AMAZES me. But it amazes me in a terrifying way that fuels my determination to raise a daughter who is filled with self esteem, a sense of self awareness, who is educated about her own body and knows how to make intelligent choices, so her life can be utilized to help others in this country and beyond be just as proud, strong, and moral as herself.

    Stay strong women. We have to hold each other up and teach our young girls how to be strong and proud women.

    Good topic, Blue Gal. Ya got me all fired up. Sorry I rambled on.

  14. Great topic, but greater comments. Thanks, gang.

    And leave it to threadingwater to defend great sex for it's own sake! Woo hoo and how!

  15. Anonymous2:12 PM

    the fruits of your education, or your just plain old common sense, or both, are vividly displayed in this entry on your blog....

  16. Anonymous6:21 PM

    My friend Bob always puts it this way:

    'I'm firmly pro-choice. And the first choice to be made is contraception.'


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