But Roooooooooe!

by Shaker Astraea

For all their "but Roe!!!!" bullying, fauxgressives don't really get it when it comes to the importance of reproductive rights. They just don't understand what a crucial issue it is to women of various political backgrounds, women who have profound disagreements in other areas. If they did understand, they wouldn't haul out the big ol' Roe stick to bully us with when they want us to fall in line while then being perfectly willing to forget about it the rest of the time. This especially applies to Democratic politicians who want the support of liberal women, but aren't willing to make a strong stand for choice while running for office.

I don't know how many times I heard in the past six months that Obama needed to tiptoe around abortion so he wouldn't scare away the Independents. (Of course, I was also told to trust that he would defend reproductive rights once he was in office, so I guess it's okay to lie to get the Independents).

NARAL sponsored a poll that challenges these assumptions. In fact, NARAL has shown that Obama can gain not just Independent women, but Republican women as well by being strong on choice and making his position clear (not to mention us pesky Clinton supporters who aren't ready to back Obama). By being a champion for choice and attacking McCain's pro-life record, Obama could differentiate himself from a candidate portrayed by the media as a moderate and falsely attacked by pro-life groups as less than ideal. By standing up for choice, Obama would strengthen the Democratic party by winning the support of pro-choice women.

NARAL lays all this out very clearly. Promoting a pro-choice message:
Moves the swing vote by drawing Independent women toward Obama.

Generates crossover support by moving pro-choice Republican women toward Obama.

Consolidates the base by bringing home Democratic women.
Of course, I don't give a shit about Obama or the Democratic party. Anyone who's familiar with my comments on Shakesville probably realizes that. I care about women. And it will help women immensely to have a Democratic presidential candidate who stands up for choice, not just in response to specific questions or on one page of his website or wedged into speeches. In national ads, given prominence. Being pro-choice is not something to hide. And it will help women if the Democratic party would wake up to the importance of protecting not just Roe v. Wade, but actual access to reproductive choices.

NARAL's poll focused on Republican and Independent women in important battleground states and found that when the difference between Obama and McCain's positions on choice are stated clearly, Obama gains 13 points among pro-choice Independent women and 9 points among pro-choice Republican women. Overall, the impact on the general election is significant:
Once balanced information about Obama and McCain's respective positions on choice is introduced, Obama gains 6 points, with his overall lead in these twelve states expanding from a net two points (47-45 perconet) to a net 13 points (53-40 percent).
That is huge. Also huge:
Among pro-choice Independent women, pro-choice Republican women, and liberal to moderate Republican women, the issue of abortion produces a larger advantage for Democrats than the economy, the war in Iraq, or health care.
Get that, Democrats? Pro-choice positions aren't just window dressing for pro-choice women of any political persuasion.

In the survey, the women were polled as to their support for Obama vs McCain. Then they were read this statement: "Now let me read you some statements about the candidates running for president: Barack Obama believes that the decision to have an abortion is profoundly difficult for women and families and that these decisions are personal, between a woman, her family, her God, and her doctor, and that politicians should stay out of it. As president, Obama will oppose any constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. John McCain is pro life and on the issue of abortion, he opposes a woman's right to choose. McCain says that, quote, 'abortion is a human tragedy,' and believes that we must end abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade. As president, he will nominate Supreme Court judges who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the issue to the states." (If you are a fan of fancy schmancy power point presentations, like me, NARAL has a good one here that lists all the questions and shows how support for the candidates changed after women were told the two candidates' positions.)

This comment on a US News and World Reports story inadvertently makes a point for pro-choicers (emphasis mine):
Under the guise of conducting a poll, they caught the attention of concerned citizens and fed them a glamorized portrait of Obama. meanwhile, they contrasted with a hard facts-only description of McCain, peppered with pro-choice wording ("opposes a woman's right to choose.")
"Tanya" is right in a very limited sense. Pro-choice wording worked. It brought pro-choice women who would otherwise have voted for McCain over to Obama's side. Enough to make a very significant difference in the general election. How many times have we been told that we have to use their language? That we have to show respect by refraining from attacking republicans as anti-choice? NARAL's poll shows that to be as much bullshit as pro-choice advocates always knew it was.

The democratic party needs to decide, once and for all, that it is the party of choice, dammit, and be proud of their support for women's equality. Decide they don't want to woo pro-lifers at the expense of damaging the fight for reproductive justice. Because the democrats can win enough pro-choice Independent and Republican women to make a difference.


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