Pro-Choice = Pro-Rights

Seeing the Forest’s Dave Johnson (who you really should be reading if you’re not already) posts today about the “conventional wisdom” that Democrats ban pro-life convention speakers, which has become a hot topic again with the whole Bob Casey issue (which anyone with the basic ability to Google knows is hogwash; he was barred from speaking because he refused to support the Clinton-Gore ticket), raising its head again as the possible choices for unseating Santorum are reviewed.

I know this may be an unpopular opinion, but I have a real problem with anti-choice Dem candidates, and here’s why: abortion rights is an issue for which one must distinguish between one’s personal belief from one’s political belief. One of John Kerry’s most eloquently stated positions was on this very topic, when, during one of the debates, he alluded to the fact that he is personally pro-life, but separates that from his position of being politically pro-choice.

Pro-life is one of those squirrelly Righty terms that doesn’t say what it really means. Most conservative pro-lifers are, in fact, anti-abortion, both personally and politically. Yet being personally anti-abortion and politically pro-choice are not mutually exclusive positions. It’s that whole “my rights end where yours begin” thing again. There are many people with unwanted pregnancies who do not opt for abortions, even though it is a legal option. Disagreeing with the concept of abortion is different from disagreeing with whether it should be legal, and that’s an important distinction, which we are somehow reluctant to make in the Democratic Party.

There are, of course, those who would argue that their pro-life position is rooted in a belief that abortion is murder, which is what makes this a difficult conundrum…until you look at what being anti-abortion really means. It means that you are telling women they are not autonomous beings, but instead
vessel(s) for whom no plan or hope or possibility or circumstance, however desperate, matters more than being a nest for that "itty bitty zygote."
It means telling women that you should have more control over their bodies than they do.

In what other circumstance would we tell women that they are required to submit their bodies to the whims of others? Why, if a woman’s body is not her own, is rape illegal? Despite the apocryphal stories of legions of women who use repeated abortions as a method of birth control, many of the women who seek abortions do so after taking all the necessary precautions, and if, after doing so, they find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy as a result of failed birth control, why is their right to make decisions about whether their bodies will effectively serve as incubators for the next nine months any different than their right to make a decision about whether they willingly have sex?

The argument that abortion is different because abortion prevents life is simply not tenable; you cannot extricate the (arguably) laudable goal of protecting all potential life from the oppressive nature of denying women an opportunity to control their own bodies and their own destinies.

Conservatives love going on about the “special rights” that groups like the LGBT community are “always asking for,” but it seems to me that demanding the right to have control over another human being’s body is exactly the definition of a “special” right indeed—so “special,” in fact, that it’s not to be found anywhere else among our many laws (excepting, perhaps, punitive law, such as capital punishment).

There is room in our tent for pro-life Dem candidates, but only those who are resolutely pro-choice in their voting. And as for the centrist bloggers who assert that abortion is an issue on which we should be willing to compromise, it’s very generous of you to be willing to sell my body to the GOP, but my womb—or any other part of me—isn’t for sale.

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