Dems’ Proposed Platform Language Emphasizes Reproductive Justice Principles

So-called "liberal" evangelical clergyman Jim
Wallis wanted
to push "abortion reduction" into the Democratic Party
Platform. Democrats
for Life wanted
to extend health care coverage to fetuses (among other
measures, including an abortion reduction plank). Neither prevailed. Instead, the
proposed 2008 platform sheds
2004’s "safe, legal and rare" language in favor of a far more
expansive position in support of abortion access: "The Democratic Party
strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a
safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and
all efforts to weaken or undermine that right." The Dems also sign on for "affordable family
planning," "comprehensive age-appropriate sex education," and, surprisingly, given the scantly-opposed Hyde Amendment, support abortion access
regardless of a woman’s ability to pay for abortion care.

Cheering already? There’s more. Reproductive health care is included in the section entitled "Affordable,
Quality Health Care Coverage for All Americans," affording women’s health
advocates a measure of cautious optimism that reproductive health care coverage
might be included in
the mainstream progressive fight for comprehensive health reform. That
section also demonstrates the Democrats’ sensitivity to the extent to which
ideology has replaced science as the determinant of women’s health care
standards in the Bush administration:

We oppose the current Administration’s
consistent attempts to undermine a woman’s ability to make her own life choices
and obtain reproductive health care, including birth control…We will never put
ideology above women’s health.

whole section on "Opportunity for Women" talks
about fighting sex discrimination in pay, in math and science, and in the
workplace, and states an "unprecedented"
opposition to sexism itself. And this
year the platform explicitly includes a commitment to repealing the global gag
rule and restoring funding for UNFPA.
The 2004 platform argued for none of those.

Whose Common Ground?

Democratic Party evangelicals — including Jim Wallis himself — characterize the proposed platform’s stance on abortion as a step toward "some
sorely needed common ground
." But three of the four of the specifically reproductive health-related planks I mentioned — support for Roe and for family planning, and acknowledging economic barriers to abortion access — characterize the
2004 platform, too. Wallis is right that it all sounds different now — but not because Dems are hesitant about the moral dimensions of women’s reproductive autonomy. If anything, the opposite is true.

Let’s closely read the sections on choice in the 2004 and 2008 sections. In ’04, the platform stated, "We stand firmly
against Republican efforts to undermine that right [to choose]. At the same
time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion
should be safe, legal, and rare." Sure,
accessible and affordable family planning can and does help reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy (a fact acknowledged in the 2008 platform – "We also
recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of
unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions"), but the ’08 platform proclaims its support for family planning independent of what effect it might have on the abortion rate. This year, Dems support "access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education" because both "empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives."

And what about those adoption incentives? No mention of those in ’08. Significantly, the adoption rate doesn’t have any affect on the rate of abortion, as the ’04 platform
implies it does. (In fact, only a miniscule number of women bear children with the intent to relinquish.) Suggesting that adoption incentives might
offset the need for abortion is politically appealing but factually untrue.

The practical distinctions
between the ’04 and ’08 platforms may not be vast. But there’s a world of difference between
supporting access to family planning because it expands women’s reproductive
self-determination – as we see in the ’08 language – and because it can reduce
the abortion rate – what ’04 supports.
An advocate for the latter doesn’t care whether family planning is
voluntary or coercive, and pays little attention to whether a woman is using contraceptives
in the context of her sexual health education and empowerment and overall access
to health care. The 2008 document
correctly emphasizes, first, reducing unintended pregnancy – not abortion alone. Crucially, the ’08 platform also supports the
rights of low-income women who do wish to parent to take care of their own
children, instead of suggesting that abortion or adoption are poor women’s only

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


Abortion Is a Moral Choice

Jim Wallis may be content, but evangelical author Tony Campolo threw
down the gauntlet: he wants Obama to proclaim that "abortion is a moral matter" at this weekend’s Saddleback
Civil Forum. Writes the TrailBlazers

author Tony Campolo, a member of the Democratic platform-writing committee,
said he wants to see Barack Obama talk about reducing abortions this weekend
when he and John McCain appear together at Saddleback
Church in Southern
California. Campolo said dealing with economic problems that
prompt some women to get abortions is important. But he wants Obama also to say
abortion is a moral matter — and that any efforts that reduce it are merited.

Obama, try saying this: abortion
is a moral matter. Why? Because access to safe abortion "is a measure of the value of women’s lives." Writes Linda Hirshman, "It is time to
revive the moral argument for protecting a woman’s right to choose." For
Hirshman, as for many feminists and religious people, the choice to terminate a pregnancy can be just as morally sacrosanct as the choice to sustain one. For the first time in many years of party platforms, the Democratic Party may be on its way to recognizing that.

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  • invalid-0

    Good Job on ensuring than anyone who thinks this was actually a step forward to reducing abortions will realize they are just deluding themselves. Phew! We almost had some pro-life people thinking that democrats were showing some respect for their position. Instead, you help shove it in their faces that they are deluding themselves. Maybe now they can rally again to support the Republican candidate and we can keep everyone safely polarized so those Christians can go back to the Right where they belong. I mean we could have looked at this as a victory for both sides by noting that the platform supports the legal protection for abortion as it always has, but also explicitly supports women’s choice to bring their unborn child to term, which has been missing in previous language. The “pro-choice” language may be stronger, but that may be part of the compromise to ensure that ardent pro-choicers still see the platform as strongly supporting them as the platform also works to accomodate suggestions from progressive religious leaders. If you’re lucky, though, those cooky Christian moralists will start quoting you over and over to show that the new Democratic platform is even more pro-abortion and emphasizing that voting for a Democrat (no matter how much one may support all their other great policies), is simply morally unacceptable.

  • emily-douglas

    Advocates for reproductive justice have always supported a woman’s right to bear a wanted child, with the support she needs from the state and her community. The right to safe pregnancy and safe motherhood are critical feminist concerns. Framing these as "accommodations" to the progressive (still anti-legal abortion) evangelical movement obscures the true aims of the pro-choice movement, and it undercuts our underlying emphasis on women’s human rights and autonomy. Progressive evangelicals may (I don’t know them all) support women becoming mothers because that could decrease the number of abortions in the US. I support women’s rights to become mothers because I trust women’s decision-making and value their physical and emotional autonomy.

    If I’m lucky, progressive evangelicals will realize that abortion is a morally sound decision.

  • invalid-0

    What was most interesting to me about Wallis’s (and his cohorts) reaction to the new language? The piece that states that the party “strongly supports a women’s decision to have a child” somehow got reframed as a victory for anti-abortion folks. Women– and families, grandparents, gay dads–should have the economic and social support they need to support their right to conceive and raise a healthy, thriving child. Is supporting that right somehow anti-abortion? Umm, no. It’s a different issue altogether, and I get concerned when a person’s need and right to have economic support systems in place gets conflated with childbearing. Anti-abortion folks are already trying to make it look like I have to choose between supporting a woman’s right to have an abortion and a woman’s right to have a child (I support both–no big surprise to any reproductive and sexual justice proponent); now I only get to have economic and social support as a woman if I choose to have a kid? I want it, expect it, and will fight for it–for myself and other women and families–no matter what.

  • invalid-0
  • amanda-marcotte

    And the "pro-life" belief that women are second class citizens is one of them.  Sorry.  Next you’ll be asking the Democrats to "respect" the beliefs of racists.

  • invalid-0


    Resolved: There is no truth.

    A soon as one says there is no truth, he is affirming a supposed truth: that there is no truth. That there is no truth is now a truth, which is a non-possibitlby as the proposition deviates from the fact that the law of non-contradiction must be maintained or the proposition is invalid or unreasonable.

    Morality is the measure by which an objective act is judged to be right or wrong in itself.
    Individuals cannot change the objectivity of an act in itself to alter the rightness or wrongness of an act based on subjective choice of what a mere individual considers to be right or wrong because then all acts based on subjective choice that any individual could do would have to be considered permissible. But that proposition goes against the law of non-contradiction.