Looking Beyond the (D): New Anti-Choice Dems Join Congress


Pro-choice advocates added
elected-official ammunition to their cause this November, and, indeed,
the pro-choice Democratic Party is in power in both Congress and the
White House. But some anti-choice Democrats are working hard to show
that not everyone in the party supports legal abortion and reproductive
health.  This November, five of anti-choice Democrats were elected
to Congress, bringing the total number of anti-choice Dems to 30.

Many pro-choice initiatives — like the Prevention First Act, or zeroing out abstinence-only funding — require the support of socially conservative Democrats to make
it through Congress.  With so much hinging on that support, pro-choice
advocates need to know who these anti-choice Democrats are, what they
believe and what reproductive health policy positions and legislation
they intend to support.   

Democrats
for Life of America

(DFLA), the national organization of anti-choice Democrats, has supported many of these anti-choice candidates.  Of fourteen candidates endorsed for Congress in the 2008 elections, five candidates
won their elections; Rep. Bobby Bright, Rep. Parker Griffith, Rep. Steve
Driehaus, Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, and Rep. John Boccieri.  They
join 25 anti-choice Democrats in Congress.

Representative Bobby Bright
(D-AL, 2nd District) is the former Mayor of Montgomery. 
Bright sits on the Agriculture, Armed Services and Small Business committees. 
Bright is best known for his views opposing evolution in favor of intelligent
design and voting against SCHIP.  Representative Parker Griffith
(D-AL, 5th District) was a member of the Alabama Senate,
representing the 7th District from 2006 to 2009. The 5th
district includes parts of Madison County and Huntsville.  Representative
Steve Driehaus (D-OH, 1st District) is a former four-term,
Democratic member of the Ohio House of Representatives, representing
the 31st District from 2001 to 2009.  Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA,
3rd District) is a civic leader and successful small businesswoman. 
Dahlkemper has served as Director of Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier
Park (LEAF) in Erie, Pa. for the past ten years.  Rep. John Boccieri
(D-OH, 16th District) is a pilot who served in the Air Force
and Ohio Air National Guard.   

What all five have in common
is their endorsement by DFLA, which endorses candidates that they are
confident will work hard to promote and pass legislation that will "protect
life at all stages."  The DFLA endorsement brings with it the
expectation that candidates, if elected, will support and advocate for
that organization’s key legislative proposal, the Pregnant Women Support
Act. The Pregnant Women Support Act proposes to assist low-income women
who wish to continue their pregnancies to term.  Cristina Page reviews the highlights:

It would provide financial, medical,
educational assistance, insurance coverage for those in need who ordinarily
would not qualify for it. A woman can get nurse home visits, counseling,
shelter, help with child care, assistance to help her stay in school,
and a lot of other services that may broaden her choices.

And Cristina points out low-lights. Not only does the bill not once mention family
planning initiatives, the bill also would:  "Create a new pilot
program for "Life Support Centers" to offer comprehensive
and supportive services for pregnant women, mothers, and children."  Many suspect that measure to be a way to funnel
funds to crisis pregnancy centers which often mislead women about their
options and bully them into not seeking abortion services.

That’s where the new anti-choice
legislators and their stance on reproductive justice issues come into
play. It would be naïve to downplay legislators’ anti-choice ideologies
simply because they are Democrats.  These anti-choice Democrats
are serious about their support of the Pregnant Women Support Act as
it currently is written, Life Support Center thorns and all.  While
pro-choice advocates should reach out to anti-choice Democrats on prevention
issues like comprehensive sex education and access to birth control,
we should also be mindful that just because someone is hanging out in
the Democratic Party tent that doesn’t mean that they agree with every
part of the party platform. 

That is why so many are looking
to the Pregnant Women Support Act to see what, if any, common ground
will be found.  In many ways we can use that legislation as a means
evaluate how much give anti-choice legislators have and where they may
have it. Will anti-choice Democrats support revisions that would guarantee
medically accurate counseling at those Life Support Centers?  The
bill also seeks to codify the regulation that extends coverage under
the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to both low-income
pregnant women and unborn children, which is an attempt to create independent
rights in law for a fetus.  Will anti-choice Democrats support
revisions eliminating that measure to preserve the life of the bill? 

A glimpse of the future may
be found in the recent negotiations over the stimulus bill.  While conservative
"blue dog" Democrats rebelled against the economic stimulus package
, moderate Republicans broke ranks with
their party
to
join Democrats in Congress and pass President Obama’s stimulus package. 
Party loyalty took a back seat to prudent policy. Compromises were made
just as with any piece of legislation, but the core of the stimulus
package remained and was passed.  The same may hold true for the
Pregnant Women Support Act and other reproductive health care policy
if pro-choice advocates look beyond party affiliation to forge alliances
based on a legislator’s commitment to common sense reproductive health
policy.  Compromises will have to be made, but only time will tell whether
those compromises will be good or bad in the eyes of pro-choice advocates
and if those making the compromises will have a D or and R after their
name. 

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  • invalid-0

    Thanks Pamela, for this story.
    Webster defines Platform as something one stands on,a statement of policy for a political party. Apparently the DNC would like to change that definition. I’d suggest writing letters of complaint to the DNC Chair, but since he, too, is anti-Choice, it would fall on deaf ears.
    It’s time to wake up to this oxymoron of “Anti-Choice Dems”, and demand that the party stand by it’s platform. I’ve yet to hear from a single Democrat why it’s OK to disregard Women’s rights/Women’s lives in this manner. Next time you get a request for funds to the Democratic party, instead of giving them a check, give them your 2 cents worth, “Not one dime to any entity that supports anti-choice candidates!” A lighter shade of red is NOT blue, let’s make them earn that D they put after their name.

  • invalid-0

    If you look in the phone book under “Abortion Alternatives” you will see the list of crisis pregnancy centers in your area. Can there be a question as to what kind of services you will NOT find when looking for “Abortion Alternatives”?

    That said, the crisis pregnancy center in my area, Durham, NC, provides medically accurate information that does include descriptions of abortions. There is no pressure to carry the pregnancy to term. They will help women who are not pregnant, who may have small children, who have issues with domestic violence, or who have had abortions. No one is turned away. They provide everything for free – including pregnancy and STD testing, ultrasounds by state-certified medical professionals, parenting classes, referrals to adoptions services when requested, and material assistance that may include cribs/strollers/diapers/wipes/clothing for babies & mothers/toys/bottles/formula and often gift cards. Not a penny of tax dollars. Volunteers donate time and materials.

    Regardless of how much money is spent on family planning, there will always be unplanned or crisis pregnancies. These centers will be there to help women and families.

  • http://www.vasumurti.org invalid-0

    “The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

    —Hubert H. Humphrey
    Forty-three percent of Democrats agreed with the statement that abortion “destroys a human life and is manslaughter.” (Zogby Poll, December 2004)
    Sixty-seven percent of Democrats would outlaw some or all abortions. (Gallup Poll, May 5-7, 2003)
    Seventy percent of high school senior females say they would not consider abortion if they became pregnant while in high school. (Hamilton College/Zogby Poll, January 2008)
    Eighty-nine percent of Americans favor informed consent for women seeking abortions. (Gallup Poll, 2002)
    Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe abortion should have stricter limitations. (CBS News Poll, January 2008)
    Twenty-nine percent of Democratic Convention delegates disagreed with the statement, “Abortion should be generally available to those who want it rather than under stricter limits or not permitted.” However, 52 percent of Democratic voters as a whole disagreed. This large discrepancy between party leadership and membership indicates a serious problem that Democrats For Life of America (DFLA) wants to rectify.
    Fifty-nine percent of Democrats favor a ban on partial-birth abortion. (Gallup Poll, November 1, 2000)

  • http://www.vasumurti.org invalid-0

    Pro-lifers and pro-choicers agree on everything except the timing; i.e., the time to decide when to have a child is before fertilization, not after. Abortion is not a confrontation between misogynistic oppressors of women and cold-blooded “baby killers,” rather it is a rational, secular debate on when human rights should begin.

    Unfortunately, both sides are engaged in a propaganda war. Dr. Bernard Nathanson (co-founder of NARAL; a physician who presided over some 60,000 abortions before changing sides on the issue), wrote in his 1979 book, Aborting America:

    “…the Right-to-Lifers are not in favor of all ‘life’ under all circumstances. They are not in the forefront of the save-the-seals crusade. They are not devotees of Albert Schweitzer’s ‘reverence for life,’ or its equivalent in Eastern religions, in which the extinction of cows or flies somehow violates the sanctity of the cosmos.

    “Turning to the human species, they do not necessarily oppose the taking of life via capital punishment. Where were they when Caryl Chessman was executed for a crime he likely did not commit–and a rape at that, not a murder?

    “They were likely not notably in the opposition while the United States was sacrificing lives on both sides of a questionable war in Viet Nam.

    “They are not ‘pro-life'; they are simply anti-abortion. ”

    However, Dr. Nathanson goes on to say about those who object to being labeled “pro-abortion” and prefer to call themselves “pro-choice”:

    “This is the Madison Avenue euphemism of the other side. Who could possibly be opposed to something so benign as ‘choice’ ? The answer is: Almost anyone–depending. The diehard opposition to civil rights and public accommodations for blacks Americans in the ’50s and ’60s was ‘pro-choice’ with a vengeance. Some whites wanted the ‘right’ to serve hamburgers or rent hotel rooms to whomever they wished.

    “Most of us now oppose the concept of choice in such ugly claims. The true question is, ‘What choice is being offered, and should society sanction that choice?’ In any honest discussion we must focus upon what is being chosen, without hiding behind the slogan.”

    On the Democrats-For-Life e-list several years ago, Louis Shapiro asked: Why do supporters of abortion rights, who dislike being labeled “pro-abortion” and prefer to call themselves “pro-choice,” object to “Choose Life” license plate frames as well, when the slogan capitulates to the other side by inferring “Choice” ?!

    And women aren’t out there getting “recreational” abortions, either. A Feminists For Life pamphlet, What Women Really Want, from the mid-1990s says:

    “Since both sides of the abortion issue agree that no woman wants to have an abortion, it is a cruel hoax to call abortion a woman’s ‘choice.’ No woman should be forced to choose between relinquishing life and career plans or suffering through a humiliating, invasive procedure and sacrificing her child. Abortion is a last resort, not a free choice.”

    We see those on the pro-choice side opposing even reasonable restrictions on abortion. Our laws require parental notification or consent if minors want tattoos or pierced ears, why should abortion be exempt? The decision to take a life is very grave, so why is it unreasonable to require a 24 hour waiting period, to give a new mother time to think things through, rather than make a decision in haste? The pro-choice rhetoric that women are capable of deciding for themselves whether or not to carry a child to term means they ought to be able to make *informed* choices. The informed consent or “women’s right to know” laws advocated by pro-lifers are consistent with pro-choice rhetoric. Even many on the pro-choice side are uncomfortable with abortion during the later stages of pregnancy: yet they are often reluctant to support a ban on partial-birth abortions–a procedure which is never medically “necessary,” and which former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan likened to infanticide.

    In Guerilla Apologetics for Life Issues, Paul Nowak points out that Planned Parenthood opposes even reasonable restrictions upon abortion, such as 24 hour waiting periods, parental notification, informed consent, etc. Nowak writes: “Planned Parenthood opposes clinic regulations, despite the fact that in many states there are more restrictions on veterinary clinics than self-regulated abortion facilities.”

    Since the goal of the pro-choice movement is to “keep abortion safe and legal,” why does Planned Parenthood object to clinic regulations?

    Again, both sides are engaged in a propaganda war.

  • invalid-0

    “The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

    —Hubert H. Humphrey

    Well if this is really the case then the entire rethug party has failed and failed repeatedly for over 30 years. And you say the democrats are out of touch? What’s with the severe reductions or in most cases just taking away the “safety net” for poor and low income families and individuals. Would this, in a lot of cases, especially NOW in this economic climate, reduce abortions because people could actually afford to have a child? (or another child?)

    And if this quote is a distillation of what you REALLY believe- why are YOU not out there advocating for a single payer healthcare system- to take the profit motive out of medicine? So that childbirth could actually be affordable to working class women and poor women? No? You’d rather lecture women about what to do with their bodies and shame them because they had to make hard choices? Oh well. Keep up with that veil of false sincerity- maybe some gullible people will believe you when you say you really care.

    Also- anyone can pull statistics to support their POV. It’s harder to actually back what you are saying up with reason.
    But I guess that’s the appeal of statistics huh?

  • invalid-0

    Pro-life Democrats work tirelessly to help change our society to reduce the numbers of abortions. Read more about us at http://www.democratsforlife.org.

    You might also read more about Vasu Murti, who is a noted author on animal rights and vegetarianism. Various other noted Pro-life Democrats are intimately involved in gun control, immigrants’ rights, restorative justice issues like abolishing the death penalty, homosexual rights (see http://www.plagal.org), protection of the environment, reducing military spending and ending the wars, and the list goes on. While we may disagree with one another on these other issues, pro-life Democrats all favor a strong and vibrant governmental and non-profit safety net for women and families.

    To back up my pro-life position with reason is very simple. It is a biological fact that from the moment the sperm and egg’s fuse and form a new complete genome that a new human life has begun developing. Reason proves that all human lives have an equal right to live. Reason also allows me to weigh the life of one individual human in utero against the recognized burden on his/her mother for at least nine months. When the woman’s health and life are not jeopardized by carrying the unborn child to term, reason compels me to protect that unborn human being. When a choice denies the humanity of the unborn, it is not so hard a choice.

  • colleen

    "Pro-life Democrats work tirelessly to help change our society to reduce the numbers of abortions."

     

    This is demonstrably untrue. Y’all work tirelessly to reduce the status of women. 

     

    "Read more about us at http://www.democratsforlife.org."

     

    I used to read it a great deal more often when y’all published your membership list. But, like the DLC, you folks now make us work to determine which Democrats  wish to reduce the status of women to biblically ordained chattel while you codify your primitive religious beliefs. I note that you’re bragging about the ‘blastocysts are people’ bill in ND. Way to go! Let’s reduce the number of abortions by criminalizing the most effective forms of contraception at the beginning of a depression that you blue dogs, just as much as the GOP, are responsible for. You must feel so proud of yourselves.

     

  • sayna

    I think that your attempt to frame this argument as a simple matter of timing is inaccurate and does a great disservice to both arguments. There are massive fundamental differences between the two that cannot be reconciled and huge issues that you are ignoring.

    Pro-life people believe that it is acceptable to force a woman to remain pregnant for nine months and give birth against her will. Pro-choice people believe that this is cruel and a violation of her basic human right to bodily domain (which includes life, liberty and pursuit of happiness). Pro-life people would do this for the sake of a zygote/embryo/fetus, and typically take it as far as conception. They are in favor of restricting a woman’s rights for the sake of a non-sentient cell. This is far from a secular argument because the only reason one could support such a policy is that they believe ensoulment or something similarly supernatural and intangible occurs at the moment of conception. It is not a rational argument either because there is no justification for favoring the rights of a being that is physically incapable of thinking and feeling over a woman who is clearly conscious and will suffer as the result of forced cildbearing.

    We see those on the pro-choice side opposing even reasonable restrictions on abortion. Our laws require parental notification or consent if minors want tattoos or pierced ears, why should abortion be exempt?

    Because parents will typically not kick their daughter out of the house if they find out she harbors intentions of piercing her ears or getting a tattoo. Because those are cosmetic services and abortion is a medical one.

    Please think about the consequences of parental consent: this would allow the parents and not the young woman decide if she will continue a pregnancy. Parents will be allowed to force their daughters to give birth. This is absolutely disrespectful and cruel. It treats minor girls as property rather than people.

    The decision to take a life is very grave, so why is it unreasonable to require a 24 hour waiting period, to give a new mother time to think things through, rather than make a decision in haste? The pro-choice rhetoric that women are capable of deciding for themselves whether or not to carry a child to term means they ought to be able to make *informed* choices. The informed consent or “women’s right to know” laws advocated by pro-lifers are consistent with pro-choice rhetoric.

    These restrictions treat even adult women as though they are fickle and incompetent! If this is such a big decision that a woman should be forced to wait 24 hours even after she has clearly made up her mind about abortion why are there no similar laws about a woman who wishes to seek prenatal care because she intends to carry to term? That’s an even more life-changing decision and carries far more health risks. Why assume that women know what they want when they agree with you and that they don’t know what they want when they disagree with you? Why consider one choice more valid than the other?

    Such laws also make inaccurate assumptions. Medical facilities are already required by law to ensure a patient’s informed consent. What’s worse, most of them contain unverified or medically inaccurate information or the irrelevant opinions of pro-life groups*. And, again, you ignore the fact that this is yet another hoop women have to jump through and yet another thing you are forcing them to do.

    *irrelevant, of course, in the sense that they have no signifiance to the woman and her decision and the fact that she has already heard them unless she happens to reside under a rock.

    Since the goal of the pro-choice movement is to “keep abortion safe and legal,” why does Planned Parenthood object to clinic regulations?

    What are these regulations and what do they seek to do? Are they actually useful, or are they just more hurdles placed in the way of a woman’s access to abortion? I’ve already explained how the above restrictions are irrelevent, disrespectful and obvious attempts to pressure women into agreeing with the pro-life movment.

    And again, you’ve ignored the fact that abortion and family planning clinics already have to follow the same safety and consent laws as any other medical facility.

  • sayna

    As my home state of California recently made clear, the majority of Californians oppose same-sex marriage. By your logic in the above post, banning gay marriage is acceptable because that’s what the majority supports, even though it would take away people’s rights and liberties, treat them as inferior and cause them severe emotional distress.

  • colleen

    I would also note that the claim that pro-choice is somehow outside the political mainstream is cherry picked wistful thinking  and the notion that the extreme views of the men and women opposed to the most effective forms of contraception are shared by less than 10% of the population.

    Here’s a link http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm to a large set of polls on the subject to see what I mean by cherry picking.

    Social conservatives have destroyed the republican party.  If Dem strategists and pols listened to these guys they will do the same to the Dems.

  • http://www.newquestcity.com/newcities/NC/0750.cfm invalid-0

    I don’t think we’ll ever have a compromise between the two camps – pro-choice and anti abortion. It’s amazing how many men get on the band wagon of one side or another and never put themselves in the shoes of women.

    • http://www.roomfurniturechina.com invalid-0

      why are YOU not out there advocating for a single payer healthcare system- to take the profit motive out of medicine? So that childbirth could actually be affordable to working class women and poor women? No? You’d rather lecture women about what to do with their bodies and shame them because they had to make hard choices? Oh well. Keep up with that veil of false sincerity- maybe some gullible people will believe you when

  • http://www.brisbaneaccommodation.tv/ invalid-0

    At the end of the day, regardless of personal beliefs, this is matter of personal choice and providing the infrastructure to support the person(s) involved in whatever choice they make. We may no agree with it, we may loath it but we (the majority anyway) live in societies that value our own right to think for ourselves and make our own decisions.

  • http://www.snickers-clothing.co.uk invalid-0

    really interesting writing,

    thanks

    gaby

    • http://www.fordhammarketingsociety.com/ invalid-0

      Absolutely Gaby,

      It’s things like this that make you take step back and reexamine things, politically that is. I’m interested to see what develops from this. We are in a tough time, and its necessary for us to step up or step out.