Tuesday, September 2

More on Palin, Religion, and abortion...

Not a photoshop.

A fellow blogger asked me for my thoughts about Sarah Palin's religious extremism, and if the Democrats should pursue that term of endearment and risk re-opening the Reverend Wright controversies....My thoughts:

It doesn't matter at this point. Everyone's made up their minds about Obama. He's either a Muslim or he's a Black Panther/Weather Underground or he's what he is, a politician who has a base, and likely a faith, in the Black Christian Church.

Palin is still a blank page. And more and more it's figuring she was CHOSEN BY the religious right wing of the party. That's the issue here. McCain didn't choose her, James Dobson etc. DID. If you listen to Rachel Maddow you'll see that's the point she keeps dancing around and around, when David Effing Gregory will let her.

Also, it is clear that her religious motivations fuel her policy decisions. That makes them open game. If Obama ever said "well, I want the Church to determine when women seek various forms of healthcare" that would be an issue, too.

I'm going to re-post some stuff I wrote earlier on abortion, because that is the issue here, the only issue that makes Sarah Palin the GOP Vice-Presidential candidate.

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.

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?

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 an eighteen-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 Pullout 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. Excellent analysis.

    Much of the problem is due to the fact that we've never correctly addressed sexuality in this country.

    The Baptist girls here I pitied because they had such an intellectually stunted conception of, well, conception.

    I'm admittedly more in the hardcore activist territory regarding conception, but I will heartily agree that any unwanted pregnancy is a tragedy. I think the procedure itself is a necessary evil.

    If we don't talk about it honestly without playing coy games or worse yet, avoiding the particulars altogether we'll never get anywhere.

  2. This is a great analysis. I just wrote to a certain blogger on that same topic. I do worry about the Wright wound, but honestly you put it in a way that got around my glum demeanor tonight.

    I just hear the right closing ranks around Sarah Palin and this turning into a cluster fuck.

    Sorry, I am in a real downer tonight, off to bed for me!

  3. Anonymous9:47 PM

    I think we need to take back the issue and the framing of it. Your suggestions are perfect for doing that.

  4. Anonymous10:14 PM

    And when Oprah does her book, I want a chapter for young women on what sex is supposed to feel like.

    Then she could go one better and take a portion of the proceeds to supplement the availability of K-Y and women-controlled prophylactics in supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods - particularly on the reservations.

    I swear, the "feminine hygiene" section of the Safeway juuuust outside the Navajo reservation made me weep. Tampax, pads, and not a contraceptive sponge or tube of lube in sight.

  5. This is great stuff, BG. I've been so frustrated with the FEMINIST movement over the past decade that the leadership is not doing more to frame the abortion issue.

    It has also been my experience that far too many Democratic stratigists are men, who don't know how to talk about abortion so they encourage candidates to stay away from it. I think that's a big mistake.

    Since the early 70's the religious right, under the leadership of Jerry Falwell and others, have defined the abortion issue. They got a boost from Ronald Reagan in the 80's. But even with THAT, I'm convinced that Republicans don't really want Roe v. Wade overturned because they NEED it as an organizing tool. Much the same way the need same-sex marriage. They know that if Roe is overturned, and a federal marriage amendment passed, their fundraising -- and by extension their organizations -- would dry up. It's been the lifeblood of the religious right for decades.


  6. Anonymous12:23 AM

    Love YOUR take on it all BG, don' like Goldberg's!!!

    Any time you REFRAME this away from Roe v Wade you LOSE!!!

    It's like executive signings, it's pure Rovian/Gingrichian reframing, to move the center further right, so you CAN label anyone left as LOON!

    Nope, time to head it off, call them whackaloons for what they are, and FIGHT for Roe v Wade, or lose it all either slowly like we are, or all at once with just ONE MORE SUPREME!

    I like YOUR framing, it's NOT reframing . . . *G*

  7. Anonymous1:20 AM

    ...most of the above,especially from Akibini, and all of what you wrote, Blue Gal. Of all the things you recommend I really do think that a book from Oprah, in her book club, would do a lot. ... and no more of that between a woman and her pastor stuff from Obama, concerning abortion.

  8. i hadn't seen this before. deep thanks.

  9. "ta vare pa" Seriously. (The "pa" is visually ironic if you're discussing the rate of teen pregnancies and the incidence of rape and child abuse within the family unit, but it's pronounced "poe.")

    Right on! BG. But, a side note on your point about making health care providers pay for contraception - group health policies and the coverages they will or will not provide, are negotiated between employers and the insurance providers. While I fully support a government mandate to pay for contraception, it's also important to point out to men and women in the workforce that they should be demanding this coverage from their employers. It's not the monolithic, faceless "insurance company" that's denying this benefit, it's the guy in the office down the hall from your desk.
    I'm not apologizing for the health insurance industry (they are scum) just pointing out the interconnectedness between employers and the health insurance contracts they offer to their employees.

  10. Beautiful in that "blunt force trauma" sort of way :-)

  11. Anonymous6:44 PM

    My great aunt, a devout baptist from AR, once told me "Abortion is terrible, but people ought to mind their own business!"

    I disagree about the frame needing to be RvW. The issue to me is: Govt interference in PERSONAL affairs. This is an easy case to make, and one the vast majority of voters agree with...even men! When framed as "Do you want the Government to interfere with you and your Doctor?", the answer is as American as apple pie.


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