Obama: The Real Pro-Life Candidate

Obama has a huge opportunity to
win over an unlikely voting bloc: pro-life voters. The debate over
reproductive rights has for decades existed in the abstract; it’s been
a back and forth volley over "values" that’s heavy on emotion and light
on fact. But the facts reveal surprising truths and they ought to be
hammered home by Obama. The data show that the pro-choice approach is
more effective at achieving what the American public views as
"pro-life" goals — i.e. reducing the number of abortions, preventing late
term abortion — than the so-called "pro-life" approach.

McCain may campaign on the "immorality" of abortion but the policies
he supports seem to lead to lots more of them. Isn’t it time to turn
the tables? Obama should hold McCain and and other anti-choice leaders
accountable for their failure to find solutions to the high rates of
unintended pregnancy and abortion. He has the opportunity to change the
debate. It’s not about abortion; it’s about preventing unwanted

And it is the pro-choice movement that is finding effective ways to
do that. This is the unacknowledged fact that should be broadcast loud
and clear during this election campaign. Here’s the message: It’s
pro-choice policies that result in dramatic declines in the need for
abortion. That’s a truth both pro-choice and pro-life voters would be
interested to know.

The pro-choice movement, and pro-choice politicians, alone champion
wider access to birth control, and birth control is the only proven way
to reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion. Obama shouldn’t get sucked
into the silly debate about whether the Pill is an abortifacient since
even the anti-abortion movement’s most respected physicians agree
there’s no scientific evidence that it is. He should ask why McCain
hasn’t championed campaigns to reduce unwanted pregnancies. The
electorate should be reminded that it’s the pro-choice movement and
pro-choice elected officials that have fought for health insurance
coverage for contraception as well as to bring new and more effective
contraceptives to market. (Emergency contraception, for instance.)
Also, let’s not forget that the birth control pill itself is available
to Americans entirely because of the efforts of the pro-choice movement.

Check out any NARAL affiliate’s agenda and you’ll see that most
pro-choice work is devoted to increasing access to prevention. Up until
Bush ordered it removed, the Centers for Disease Control’s website had
a "Programs that Work" area for sex education programs that
quantitative data showed resulted in reductions in the teem pregnancy
and STD rates. Every program was comprehensive sex-ed, the kind
promoted by the pro-choice movement. Not one was abstinence-only, the
program that preaches that teens simply shouldn’t have sex, which
"pro-life" forces favor. Obama supports the comprehensive sex-ed
programs that have been proven to work, McCain supports
no-sex-until-marriage programs which have been proven to fail.

Obama could remind the voter that only 11% of sexually active women
don’t use contraception and from this 11% comes 50% of the nation’s
abortions. Ninety-one percent of the American public strongly favors
contraception because of this very reason. Very few voters are aware,
however, that not one pro-life organization in the United States
supports contraception. Or that instead, pro-life groups have been
spearheading campaigns to prevent Americans from accessing birth
control. No less than 80% of self-described pro-life voters strongly
support contraception. Few know that McCain has a long legislative
resume devoted to voting against access to contraception and prevention.

McCain and the right to life movement may have sanctimony on their
side but, so far, sanctimony has proven ineffective in preventing
abortion. Study after study suggests the right to life approach, which
McCain has helped execute for decades, is actually the root of the
problem: leading to more abortions and later ones too.

Obama should pose this question to McCain: Do you support couples
having access to safe and effective birth control options, including
emergency contraception? When questioned about his position last year
McCain told a reporter: "I have to find out what my position was. Brian
(a campaign staffer), would you find out what my position is on
contraception…I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it." (No
president has led more attacks on the right to use contraception than
Bush has.) Birthcontrolwatch.org, a group that alerts the public to
attacks on the right to contraception, offers more questions Obama
could ask McCain–many would be devastating bombs to lob during, say, a
televised debate.

Not only would it be refreshing to see Obama go on the offensive, it
would be wise. Scanning the globe we discover the countries where
abortion is most rare have the strongest pro-choice policies. The
countries with the strongest "pro-life" policies are the ones with the
highest abortion rates, often twice our national average. These are the
nations that have implemented what our "pro-life" movement strives to:
banning abortion, making contraception hard to come by, and preaching
abstinence-only to teens.

The "pro-life" paradox appears everywhere its policies are in place.
School districts in the conservative South are almost five times more
likely than in the liberal Northeast to teach abstinence-only. Southern
states also have the highest rate of new HIV/AIDS infections, the
highest rate of STDs, as well as the highest rate of teen births.
Whereas new cases of AIDS decreased or remained constant in the
Northeast, Midwest, and West, the South alone experienced an increase.

Results should matter. The electorate, bamboozled and misled by the
Bush administration on so many issues for so long, is hungry for fact,
proof, and truth. Obama should not skulk and apologize for agreeing
with the majority of the American public on reproductive rights.
Allowing Americans to make their own important life decisions is a core
conservative ideal. Not only is McCain mucking around with Americans’
most important decisions, he’s imposed policies that result in outcomes
that, even by his own measures, should be considered disastrous.

If Obama takes the gloves off he will discover a much larger
cheering section. When the discussion is about prevention,
contraception and results, the pro-choice candidate wins big. Obama
should reveal to the American public that the pro-choice approach, his
approach, is effective, safe and working wherever it’s been tried.

This article was originally published at The Huffington Post.

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  • invalid-0

    But you’re making the mistake of assuming that “Pro Life” activists and supporters are arguing in good faith. They aren’t. They’re liars.

    All evidence suggests, actually insists, that the true goal of the pro life movement isn’t preserving “life,” but ending the sexual revolution and turning the clock back to before Griswold V. Conneticut.

    Obama might be able to win over low information voters who feel Abortion is icky but who still want to have sex, but no amount of good governance or effective, truly life saving policies will win over the pro life crowd.

    • invalid-0

      You’re absolutely right about pro-life activists. But there are a lot of voters out there who lean toward the “pro-life” candidate because they genuinely care about the fetuses. Some of those voters could be won over if they could be made to realise that it’s actually pro-choice policies that are most effective at reducing the abortion rate.

  • invalid-0

    ** Undercut their lying label! **

    “Pro-life” ranters are not pro-life. They are pro-birth. The dogma used to be called pro-natalism. It’s an androcentric, completely misogynistic, demand that no impediment whatsoever on *births* be permitted by law.

    What happens to mother and child after birth is irrelevant since the “laws” of nature will then cull the weak from the strong. “Pro-life” is really pro-death — ultimately the western religious death impulse in full cry.

    Its victorian pseudo-scientific justification belongs to social darwinism (really, created by Herbert Spencer). However, that’s merely a gloss on western religious demands rooted ultimately in late neolithic pastoral nomadism — 6,000 years of god damned male domination, when will it end?

    It should be obvious that for fundie and RC alike pro-birth is not pro-life. In fact their ideology is pro-Death — creating disease, poverty and ignorance worldwide through overpopulation, damning safe non-reproductive sex, and blocking responsible medical research.

    © 2008

    • http://fulltiltboogie.wordpress.com invalid-0

      THANK YOU!

  • invalid-0

    What a completely twisted dis-informed argument.

    Sparta practiced eugenics by allowing babies to die. They didn’t practice it by making as many as possible. Do you even know what eugenics is?

    Susan B Anthony was against abortion.. I guess she was pro-death.

    What’s funny is you go out of your way to prove pro-lifers are liars, the cheerleaders and celebrities of the pro-life movement are liars, but you could have proven they’re pro-death by how much they like to make excuses for war and how easily they generalize the actions of 19 amateurs with a whole culture. You have plenty of pro-death evidence right there, but you go for the long way around.

    The truth is pro-life and pro-choice can talk to each other. The extremes are the anti-abortion and pro-abortion crowd. They can’t stand each other or anyone who isn’t a full-on adherent.

    Eugenics is still alive and well, and you might want to consider that it’s the ones who have the means who are actually behind it and not your average hick. Kind of how many blacks are in jail for drugs but none of them actually have enough money to transport the drugs into the country in the first place. Wasn’t there a story about a CIA torture plane that crashed? It had 4 tons of cocaine. There’s not even a rap star in Compton who has the money to make that kind of purchase. 4 tons. That’s definitely not going to one buyer. It’s going to the middle man.

    The eugenists are the scientific elitists and the govt cranks who prop up that minority. Of course, they’ve poisoned the church as well with preachers teaching people to bow down to FEMA when the population control begins.

    • http://www.myspace.com/saynathespiffy invalid-0

      Susan B Anthony was against abortion..

      You found an early feminist leader who voiced opposition to abortion. Better yet, she’s dead and thus can’t clarify what she’s said or change her mind!

      Look at the context. When she was alive, abortion technology was very, very limited and would probably have killed or injured women very often. People back then knew far less than we do about female sexuality and the human body in general. Of course someone in that time would be opposed to it!

      But times have changed. Abortion is now one of the safest medical procedures there is. For all you know, Susan B. Anthony would have been a hardcore pro-choice activist if she were alive today!

  • scott-swenson

    "What a completely twisted dis-informed argument." Yours that is. Perhaps you’d like to add one more conspiracy theory to your list?
    As to Margaret Sanger, here is the abstract from an academic study entitled Family Planning Perspectives,

    Margaret Sanger, as a young public health nurse, witnessed the
    sickness, disease and poverty caused by unwanted pregnancies. She spent
    the rest of her life trying to alleviate these conditions by bringing
    birth control to America. During the early 20th century, the idea of
    making contraceptives generally available was revolutionary.
    Contraceptive usage was considered a distinguishing feature of the
    ‘haves.’ In recent years, some revisionist biographers have portrayed
    Sanger as a eugenicist and a racist. This view has been widely
    publicized by critics of reproductive rights who have attempted to
    discredit Sanger’s work by discrediting her personally. The basic
    concept of the eugenics movement in the 1920s and 1930s was that a
    better breed of humans would be created if the ‘fit’ had more children
    and the ‘unfit’ had fewer. This concept influenced a broad spectrum of
    thought, but there was little consensus on the definitions of fit and
    unfit. In theory, the movement was not racist–its message intended to
    cross race barriers for the overall advancement of mankind. Most
    eugenicists agreed that birth control would be a detriment to the human
    race and were opposed to it. Charges that Sanger’s motives for
    promoting birth control were eugenic are not supported. In part of her
    most important work, "Pivot of Civilization," Sanger’s dissent from
    eugenics was made clear. By examining extracts from her books, the
    author refutes the notion that Sanger was a eugenicist. Another
    unsupported argument raised by the anti-Sanger group was that Sanger,
    in her position as editor of "Birth Contol Review," published
    eugenicists’ views. It would be more accurate to say that the review
    covered a wide range of opinions and research; the eugenicists views
    were included because they conferred respectability. David Kennedy,
    author of "Birth Control in America," does Sanger a grave injustice by
    falsely attributing to her the quotation: ‘More children from the fit,
    less from the unfit–that is the chief issue of birth control.’ This
    quotation should be attributed to the editors of "American Medicine."
    The only area Sanger is in agreement with the eugenicists is in her
    belief that severely retarded people should not bear children. Several
    authors, including Linda Gordon, argued that Sanger’s interest in
    providing contraceptives to black Americans was motivated by racism.
    This notion is entirely misconstrued by distortions of language quoted
    by Sanger. Rather than wanting to exterminate the Negro population,
    Sanger wanted to cope with the fear of some blacks that birth control
    was the white man’s way of reducing the black population.

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/89950/52E3FA37C124 invalid-0

    Cristina, bravo. Very well written. Totally logical & it gives me hope. There’s just one thing that I fear: given the recent decrease in abortion numbers, how can we avoid the anti-choicers from claiming it is trickle-down from the past 8 long years of abstinence only sex ed? I mean, I agree that it is the pro-choicers & our policies of increasing knowledge and contraceptives that is the real cause. But I think we all know how narrow-minded the anti’s are. They’ll cover their ears, close their eyes and yell BS while pointing to the lower abortion rate.

    Hoping we can avoid the ignorance,

    The Bixby Center, UCSF
    ProChoice? LinkedIn? Join us:

  • invalid-0

    Thanks for the laugh!!!!!!!

    No one that values human life will vote for Obama. Period.

  • scott-swenson

    Dear Anonymous,
    Laugh if you like, but several pro-life leaders in Congress, like Sen. Bob Casey and Rep. Tim Roemer, and others, like Prof. Doug Kmeic, are not only supporting Obama, but have taken active leadership roles in his campaign. Why? Because they realize that to continue the vitriolic political debate of the last 35 years, brought to you by the "pro-life" movement, is folly. They realize that anyone truly interested in preventing abortion, must first embrace education and prevention, as Obama does, as pro-choice Republicans do, as "pro-life" and pro-choice Democrats do. Throw in the independents, and you begin to realize just how small the numbers of people who hold prohibitionist views of abortion really are. Americans are ready to move forward, and there is a growing consensus in the nation around safe, legal and rare; around education and prevention, and that is why when "pro-life" people ask themselves what they really want, they will consider, and many will vote differently than you expect. The choice in this election is between reducing abortions through education and prevention, or overturning one Supreme Court ruling. If all you care about is Roe, then you really don’t care about reducing abortion, because without education and prevention it will never happen. Overturning Roe will only condemn women to unsafe and illegal abortions, it will do nothing to stop it. Nothing.

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • http://obamalies.net invalid-0

    Your argument fails if the numbers you state are wrong. You don’t link to the actual numbers, which makes me think your argument is no better than the Michelle Obama Whitey tape. Show me the numbers, show me the analysis of those numbers. Then show me the interviews with women that have actually had the abortions and the pain and remorse that they feel. Because that’s something the numbers wont show. Your position is also off, because it comes from the position that abortion isn’t a form of murder and assumes that the fetus is not a living breathing human. If you don’t buy off on the fact that fetus is human, you’ll at least agree that it has the potential to become human. So what should the punishment be for preventing something from becoming human?

  • http://www.myspace.com/saynathespiffy invalid-0

    Show me the numbers, show me the analysis of those numbers. Then show me the interviews with women that have actually had the abortions and the pain and remorse that they feel. Because that’s something the numbers wont show.

    You sure about that? Because statistics show that about 1/4-1/3 of American women have an abortion at some point in their life. If most of these women felt pain and remorse about it, you’d be seeing a lot more women speaking out, wouldn’t you? Why is it that only a few are speaking out? Why is it that one of the most commonly reported feelings for women after an abortion is “relief”?

    There are plenty of women who do not regret having an abortion: http://www.imnotsorry.net/ No matter how many “pro-life” people try to make them ashamed, call them murderers and sluts, they will say that they made the best decision that they could have made.

    You don’t speak for women who have had abortions, even if you are one. Believe it or not, everyone’s experiences, feelings and thoughts are unique and different. I feel terrible for the women who regret their abortions. But that doesn’t make it alright for them to say that since it was the wrong choice for them, that it’s the wrong choice for anyone. Claiming that women are ignorant and can’t make choices for themselves as an excuse to make choices for them is a slap to the face of every woman on the planet.

    Your position is also off, because it comes from the position that abortion isn’t a form of murder and assumes that the fetus is not a living breathing human.

    First: Fetuses may be human and alive (and unless they’re of a different species or dead, they are), but they don’t breathe. Sorry to burst your bubble.

    Second: Are you really trying to say that our position is off just because we disagree with you? Seriously? That’s basically a “Your feelings are WRONG!”.

    So what should the punishment be for preventing something from becoming human?

    Since you’re the one who wants to do it, shouldn’t you be answering that?