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God-O-Meter

nrlc.jpgnaral.jpgCan this year’s Democratic platform simultanesioulsy be the the most pro-choice and pro-life in the party’s history?
That’s what Democrats are attempting with <a href="rogressive Revival blognew proposed platform language that supports Roe v. Wade in the strongest possible terms but which also pledges new support to women who decide to carry their fetuses to term. Some pro-lifers are claiming the new language represents a modest but significant victory. Pro-choice groups are saying the language is the most-prochoice in history. NARAL calls it “Pro-Choice Perfection. Can both be true?
God-o-Meter knows that Democrats think they can have it both ways. When GOM sat down with John Kerry after his 2004 loss, the strongly pro-choice Massachusetts Senator discussed what he’d learned about handling the abortion issue while campaigning for president:
“I think the word choice is a bad word, personally. I’m firmly where I have been with respect for the notion that the government doesn’t make that decision; it’s between a woman and God and her doctor. It’s an individual’s job to acknowledge the morality, though, and for a long time I’m not sure we [pro-choice Democrats] did a good enough job with that. I consider myself more thoughtful and understanding of that now.”
It’s this lesson that the Democrats’ new abortion plank hopes to enshrine in the party platform in Denver. Does the new language come right out and acknowledge a moral dimension to abortion? As Steve Waldman notes, it does not:

The key linguistic debate has been whether to “reduce the number of abortions” or “reduce the need for abortions.” Pro-life folks favored the former. Pro-choice folks favored the latter. The pro-choice folks won. In fact, the 2004 platform said abortion “should be safe, legal and rare” – language that’s casts abortion reduction as morally preferable, something this platform does not.

But the new language implies that the abortions should be rarer and, in so doing, presumes that moral dimension:

We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

Why mention a program’s ability to help reduce the need for abortions if you didn’t mean to suggest that’s a worthy goal? True, this language is more morally ambiguous than the stated goal of making abortions “safe, legal, and rare,” as previous Democratic platforms have put it.
But Democrats could make the case that by pledging support for programs that deter women from seeking abortions, the platform includes a more meaningful roadmap to abortion reduction than Bill Clinton’s politically brilliant “safe, legal, rare” formulation. No, the platform doesn’t come right out and say that. But it opens the door pretty wide for folks like pro-life former Bushie Doug Kmiec to make the case.


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