The Darker Side of Hope (And the Audacity of 'Our Posterity')
In light of the excitement and anticipation surrounding Hillary Clinton's speech at this week's Democratic National Convention, some may have missed the short address delivered by Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a few hours earlier. In her short oration, Richards praised Barack Obama's commitment to women's health care and admonished his opponent by pointing out that the presumptive Republican candidate "voted against real sex education, against affordable family planning and, if elected, John McCain has vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade."
She has little to worry about. Roe v. Wade is here to stay and come mid-November, I suspect we will all be referring to her preferred candidate as president-elect Obama. Nevertheless, Richards brought to mind an interesting question: aside from being generally pro-choice and believing that the issue of when life begins is above his " pay grade " (that certainly doesn't leave the rest of us any hope of understanding the issue, especially when he starts earning a president's salary ), what do we know about Obama's position on abortion? The most revealing way to answer this question is to take a look at the senator's voting record.
Planned Parenthood is right in endorsing Obama as the candidate who will stand by the organization's principles, most notably, a woman's right to choose. He has repeatedly shown his support for the expansion of abortion rights by, for example, voting against bills that would prohibit tax funding of the procedure. This is in spite of stating at the recent Saddleback Faith Forum that he would like to reduce the number of abortions that take place in this country. But perhaps most disturbing is Obama's record on partial-birth abortion .
Shauna from CA
August 29, 2008 at 05:32 PM
It will be interesting to see if any pro-choicers have anything to say to that. Looks like they haven't so far. As someone who is still trying to decide who to vote for in November, I appreciate knowing this about Obama. The analogy of safe sex to safe drunk-driving was excellent. On SO MANY issues, people don't realize, or refuse to acknowledge, how their "personal choices" have consequences that can and will affect others.
Alma Sove from San Diego
August 29, 2008 at 06:11 PM
The abortion issue in America will always bring up a lot of anger and divisiveness in political discussion. I will try not to fan those constantly burning embers, as I fundamentally disagree with one of your premises-- specifically, b/c a representative of the Nat. Coalition of Abortion Providers said way back in 1997 that the majority of P-B-A's are performed on "healthy women on healthy fetuses" that this should end the discussion on whether this is infanticide, or part of a mother's right of privacy in birth control. While the 5 month mark seems late to me personally to finally decide whether to proactively keep or end a pregnancy, it doesn't mean that P-B-A's are the principle option women who receive abortions opt for. In other words, women choose to end a pregnancy long before the 5 month+ mark. But with the abortion debate, it's so often all or nothing -- ban on all abortions, or full protection for all abortions-- and it's difficult for either side to compromise or say, "okay we'll give on this one issue if you agree not to go after the rest of the matter." I believed Obama during the Saddleback interview when he said he wanted to reduce the number of American abortions. I can also reconcile his voting record on P-B-A's w/that sentiment b/c of the delicate task of negotiating compromise when discussing abortion. I understand your piece is meant to address the P-B-A part of the discussion and don't think of this as 100% anti-choice rhetoric. I just think that you may have painted Obama's comments during Saddleback a bit too broadly.
August 29, 2008 at 08:43 PM
Alma, to address the comments you made in your second paragraph: for me, yes, abortion does happen to be all or nothing. But I think an important point I was trying to make was that it ISN'T for a lot of pro-choice politicians. The example that I brought up was Barbara Boxer, who is a prominent supporter of a women's right to an abortion and yet even she sees partial-birth abortion as going too far. I think I was providing commentary that is rarely addressed: that Obama is, as you would expect, faithful to the Democratic party platform. But what not a lot of people realize is that he has voted to the extreme side of left on several occasions, and maybe this is an important fact that voters should be made aware of. He is not a moderate. I was discussing with my husband how I cannot imagine the emotional damage that a partial-birth abortion must do to a healthy, 5-, 6-, or 7-month pregnant woman who decides to have this procedure done. She may go into it believing that she is just terminating a pregnancy and removing a fetus. However, if a baby came half way out of me alive and kicking before it was murdered, I personally don't know how I would live with myself. So yes, it IS often all or nothing, and it certainly is for me. But I think a lot of people have acknowledged a difference between early abortion and partial birth abortion. A healthy body halfway born with a beating heart outside the womb is undeniably alive. I'm not sure I believe it matters whether the statements made by rep of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers was made 10 years ago or yesterday. Is there some evidence that the statistics have changed? If you read the article that I linked to, you will notice that he corrected himself on a previous lie--a lie he had told to try to lesson the harsh reality of partial-birth abortion. Now, interestingly, we have a Republican vice-presidential candidate who has a child with Downs Syndrome, a disease that (this is based on something I was told; I'll have to look it up) has been greatly reduced by prenatal screening coupled with abortion. Perhaps some would believe it too harsh for me to say that this is playing Hitler. But as someone with a genetic disease that can be detected in the fetus and has been a reason for abortion, I can tell you that I take it as a slap in the face--no one has any right to tell me that my life is not worth living simply because I would be miserable with this hardship. I'm not miserable--and I'm not sure what we have become, if we are seeking to have only perfect babies for the supposed sake of their own happiness. My guess is that we are seeking perfect babies for our OWN convenience and happiness, and their welfare makes for a nice, feel-good excuse. But when I hear that someone has had an abortion because their fetus had Cystinosis (the disease I was born with), I honestly think, "Wow. This kind of prescreening didn't exist when I was born. But I'm thankful that even if it had, my parents (because yes, it wouldn't have just been my mother's decision) would never have considered it. A baby is a blessing." I have gone down a different path here, but perhaps it is all related. Regardless, I certainly respect your view and appreciate your comment. It's a subject that's good to talk about, and certainly a difficult one. I hope I have not offended, and you have certainly not offended me.
August 30, 2008 at 03:36 AM
I learned a lot from this thoughtful blog. Thank you for sharing your opinions. I liked the comparison of drunk driving to safe(r) sex.
Mike Fresco from San DIego
August 30, 2008 at 08:43 PM
Things definitely just got much worse with Sarah Palin's (excuse me, whose?) nomination for vice president. This ultraconservative, Science-ignoring, choice-denying and environmentally entirely unconcerned if not destructive NRA woman really just must not make it to the White House. What a ridiculous and dangerous choice and strong demonstration that McCain is way beyond his peak. He should retire, as almost everybody else of his high age does. Obsession with power (and with defending big oil interests) does not help - the presidential office is too important. Maybe, he can become mayor of a small town, he obviously seems to like that function. McCain should retire now, before he causes real damage to this country and the world. His alter ego Bush has already done more than enough.
Adam from Chula Vista
August 31, 2008 at 05:17 AM
Why such the hang up on the issue of abortion? If Roe v. Wade is here to stay (as I believe it is), then isn't the entire affair a mute point? If it is indeed a mute point, then why is so much attention directed towards a presidential candidate's perspective on the issue? Granted, partial birth abortions are gruesome, but atrocities far greater take place every day unchecked in the world beyond the U.S. I realize since these international victims are not Americans, it is difficult to find any sympathy for their plight. Alas, life goes on. For all those who believe abortion is a paramount issue in America today, please temper your frustrations and increase your patience as the rest of us attempt to tackle issues that really matter, issues that have tremendous impact (i.e. the economy, the Iraq War, Change v. Four More Years of Bush). Since abortion is apparently outside any legal challenge, try and look at it as a philosophical, religious, or moral issue. If you are still following me, you should now be able to relax your brow somewhat as you ponder this: for all the lives eliminated from the gene pool by abortion, there may be an equal or greater number of lives added to the gene pool with the advent of reproductive medicine and its dubious contribution: fertility drugs. It's a sick world we live in... Are we any better off in the presence or absence of either or both of these procedures? Who knows?
Matthew C. Scallon
September 02, 2008 at 05:52 AM
@Adam from Chula Vista: "For all those who believe abortion is a paramount issue in America today, please temper your frustrations and increase your patience as the rest of us attempt to tackle issues that really matter, issues that have tremendous impact (i.e. the economy, the Iraq War, Change v. Four More Years of Bush)." Let me paraphrase. What's important to me is important; what's important to you doesn't matter. There's the best definition of so-called "pro-choice" position I've seen so far. BTW, it's not beyond legal argument, since the Supreme Court is within one justice of overturning Roe. @Alma Sove: "I understand your piece is meant to address the P-B-A part of the discussion and donâ€™t think of this as 100% anti-choice rhetoric.." It's spelled "pro-life;" it's also pronounced the same way. Give it a try. You might find out, as Nat Hentoff did so many decades ago, that pro-life liberalism isn't a oxymoron but a redundancy.
Adam from Chula Vista
September 03, 2008 at 04:22 AM
Come now Matthew, little one-liners will not get you far within this crowd, particularly if you have an opposing point of view. How will I know what you think with such simplistic (yes, not clever, but simplistic) retorts? Could you be more vague? Seriously, if your argument is more than one-dimensional, let's hear it. In particular, your definitions of pro-choice and pro-life, how abortion is as equivalent an issue as economies of scale and war, and your perspectives on the future profile of the Supreme Court as it relates to Roe v. Wade. Need I spell more? Ok, one more, avoid paraphrasing another's writing. It is a foregone conclusion that if one is unable to express one's own thoughts substantively, there is little chance he/she will be successful in expressing another's. I await your response with anticipation.
September 03, 2008 at 08:55 PM
Adam, I'd like to make a comment on the following statement: "Granted, partial birth abortions are gruesome, but atrocities far greater take place every day unchecked in the world beyond the U.S. I realize since these international victims are not Americans, it is difficult to find any sympathy for their plight." All I would like to suggest - respectfully if I may - is that you exercise caution when generalizing those with opposing views. I took offense to this statement because I actually value life, all life, very highly. Gruesome acts take place every day, in America, overseas, caused by Americans, caused by others, caused by abortions, caused by rapists - you name it. It is nice that you acknowledge that these things are gruesome, but please do not assume that I value one kind of life over another. Perhaps you sympathize with innocent Iraqis. I applaud you for this. Too many innocent Iraqis, including Iraqi children, have suffered or died in the midst of this tragic war that seems to be without end. They should be given life and liberty. (I was a student of international affairs and of Arabic. Believe it or not, my Republican Party affiliation does not make me an American supremist, who, as you put it, does not sympathize with the plight of anyone else.) I merely take the position that the unborn (or, in the case of partial-birth abortion, the partially born) are entitled to life and liberty as well. I merely take the position that loss of life through abortion is tragic, without diminishing the tragedy of other lives loss. So please, in the name of respectful dialogue, do not make offensive assumptions about my views. (But by all means, feel free to disagree the positions I have explicitly taken and stated - those that require no assumption on your part.)
September 03, 2008 at 09:43 PM
Part 2 As I was saying when I was (perhaps wisely) interrupted by npr Verbosity Control, how can "birth control," which is contraception to prevent conception, be used (as by Alma) to include abortion? Sounds Orwellian. Is this some Brave New World, "progressive," expanded definition? Incidentally, the satirical proposal for Safe(r) Drunk Driving Education is a great example of illustrating absurdity by being absurd. As for Mike Fresco, he seems extremely agitated that McCain should have the temerity to name Palin as vp running mate. Methinks Fresco doth protest too much. Surely this extremist neophyte will be handily destroyed in debate by 35-year incumbent senator Biden, so why the concern? I feel your pain, Mike, and also your concern, expressed in your urgent demand for McCain's immediate retirement. Again, if he's the superannuated incompetent boob (qualified perhaps as "mayor of a small town") you believe him to be, why worry? Do you fear other voters may lack your keen critical discernment? Since McCain will stubbornly refuse to concede, I suggest you calm down and enjoy the next few weeks, which promise to be one of the most interesting campaigns ever. Your candidate continues to lead in the polls and has a good chance of maintaining the lead if his handlers are able to limit his extemporaneous speech appearances, where his verbosity, indecisiveness, and equivocations are obvious. This is why he was wise to turn down McCain's proposal for Town Hall meetings with a q & a, give-and-take format. Better to stick to the scripted, teleprompter-facilitated performance of which he is an acknowledged master. Better also to attack any revisiting of mentors, associates, and supporters in his formative Chicago years, and also any questions of accomplishments in his political life, which are nil.
September 03, 2008 at 10:12 PM
Part 3 Finally, I conclude with the unedifying comments of Adam. By the way, Adam, the word is "moot", not "mute." Different words, different pronunciations, different meanings. First, I notice the ridiculous, nonlogical assertion that we should not have a "hang up" about abortion, even the "gruesome" partial-birth abortion, because there are atrocities elsewhere in the world. Then, sighing deeply, you utter the faux profundity, "Alas, life goes on." Not for some, Adam I reject your gratuitous, snide implication that Americans have no sympathy for the unfortunate overseas. Speak for yourself. You are grossly uninformed or willfully ignorant. And much more than sympathy is involved. The U.S. is spending billions overseas on AIDS relief alone, providing life-saving drugs to hundreds of thousands. (cont.)
September 03, 2008 at 10:44 PM
Part 4 (cont.) My family, as well as thousands of others, contribute generously to some of the many non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian relief overseas. A member of my family was immediately sent to Bangladesh with a group, to provide medical assistance and humanitarian aid when the disastrous cyclone struck in 2007. Other members of my extended family have foregone lucrative careers in the U.S. and permanently located overseas to provide medical services and other aid, without charge, to the poorest of the poor, financed by individuals, without federal money. So I find your ignorant remarks offensive. Get off your patronizing and condescending attitude toward those who believe life (and yes, unborn innocent life) to be the preeminent issue. (cont.)
September 03, 2008 at 11:05 PM
Part 5 (cont.) By all means, support your candidate(who has condoned infanticide to ensure a successful abortion), but don't impugn and insult those who advocate for life from its earliest stage to its end, and yes, the AIDS stricken, and sick and starving in Africa and world-wide. And please, tell us what you're doing to alleviate suffering overseas, which you believe is neglected (surely not by yourself, but by others). I don't agree with your repeated assertion that abortion is beyond any legal challenge, but will reserve that for another day. With your philosophical bent, you make the rather mystifying and ambiguous pronouncement that "It's a sick world we live in." I agree that it is a sick world - to the extent that it's populated by some very sick people.
Matthew C. Scallon
September 04, 2008 at 06:04 PM
@Adam from Chula Vista: Come now Matthew, little one-liners will not get you far within this crowd, particularly if you have an opposing point of view. How will I know what you think with such simplistic (yes, not clever, but simplistic) retorts? Could you be more vague? "Seriously, if your argument is more than one-dimensional, letâ€™s hear it. In particular, your definitions of pro-choice and pro-life, how abortion is as equivalent an issue as economies of scale and war, and your perspectives on the future profile of the Supreme Court as it relates to Roe v. Wade. Need I spell more? Ok, one more, avoid paraphrasing anotherâ€™s writing. It is a foregone conclusion that if one is unable to express oneâ€™s own thoughts substantively, there is little chance he/she will be successful in expressing anotherâ€™s. I await your response with anticipation." You obviously have never read any of my previous comments. If you had, you would never accuse me of "one-liners," You also would never have accused me of a lack of depth. You certainly wouldn't have accused me of monodimensionality even if you would certainly have disagreed with me. Now, I could repeat everything --and I mean everything-- I've said before, if you prefer. But, I'd rather not b/c 1) I don't like repeating myself, especially when there's no guarantee you'll pay attention the second time I wrote something and 2) I'm far too busy doing all of those things that your side of the baby-killing debate accuse us pro-lifers of not doing. If you are truly interested in what I have to say about baby killing and the equivalency to other issues thereof, press the ">" at the bottom of the page. Also, look at my comments on the different "Horton Hears a Hoo" blog entries in "Political Fix" and "Culture Lust." For that matter, since we're both Chula Vistans, meet me at the Bayfront Trolley station after work. I'll go into great detail with you while riding my bike home.
September 04, 2008 at 07:09 PM
Part 1 of my 5-part comments disappeared into the ether, fated to wander aimlessly undelivered, doubtless due to my glitch, so I herewith reprise it. I began by saluting Jessica for her well-written, well-supported, and persuasive "Darker Side" blog of Aug. 28. Your personal story, Jessica, in your rejoinder to Alma, was poignant and impactive. The arrogant presumption of saying that life is not worth living for someone with Down syndrome (or other genetic disease) is breathtaking, and belied by the facts. Yet, as you intimated, there is solid evidence that 90 percent plus of pregnancies with a Down syndrome diagnosis are terminated, often with the encouragement of medical personnel. Stephen Hawking, almost completely paralyzed with the progressively debilitating ALS disease, has made unparalleled contributions to his special fields. Should he be told his life has not been worth living? An interesting article appeared in the Washington Post by commentator George Will, titled Eugenics By Abortion: Is Perfection an Entitlement? The question apparently increasingly can be answered in the affirmative, resulting from "pressures to terminate their pregnancies from medical professionals and insurers," and "modern pressures that include the perfection-is-an entitlement attitude of some expecting parents." Will describes the satisfying and independent life of his own Down syndrome son; when he was born in 1972 the hospital geneticist asked the parents if they intended to take him home. I found Alma's comments baffling, where she says partial-birth abortion is "part of a mother's right of privacy in birth control." What? Birth control by killing?
September 05, 2008 at 04:45 AM
@Adam from Chula Vista:"Come now Matthew, little one-liners will not get you far within this crowd, particularly if you have an opposing point of view. How will I know what you think with such simplistic (yes, not clever, but simplistic) retorts? Could you be more vague? " This must be your first time. Welcome. Now, take a look at ALL of the previous comments I've made about the right to life in ALL of the previous blog comments before you make the mistake of speaking on behalf of "this crowd," as though somehow this crowd is your crowd or that my point of view is the opposing point of view. Once you've read all of my comments concerning the right to life, then you can explain how all of my comments are "simplistic," "vague," or monodimentional. Better yet, as a fellow Chula Vistan, I can meet you at Bayfront Trolley Station after work, and I can tell you all about my position regarding the right to life. I will be carrying the sign which reads, "Take my wife, please."
Adam from Chula Vista
September 14, 2008 at 06:52 PM