Platform meeting

I went to our local Democratic Platform meeting today. I didn’t get a chance to talk about the proposed abortion reduction plank, unfortunately. The way that the meetings are set up, everybody lists the issues they want to talk about, and then the issues are grouped into more general topics. Then, they pick the five or so topics that the most people want to talk about and split up into small groups to hash out the details. Abortion and related subjects fell under “women’s issues and LGBT issues”, but that topic didn’t make the cut. I ended up in the “restoring democracy and the rule of law” small group instead, which was the other subject I’d come to talk about anyway.

Participants were encouraged to submit a write-up of subjects that were important to them but that we didn’t have a chance to discuss in the meeting. The write-ups had to be handed in by the end of the meeting in order to be sent on to the campaign, so I quickly filled up the back of a flyer with ideas on abortion reduction. (I might wish in retrospect that I’d brought something to write with besides a purple pen, but that’s OK.) I wrote that all Democrats, pro-life and pro-choice, should be able to agree on reducing abortion not only by reducing unplanned pregnancies, but also by working to ensure that no woman feels compelled by financial and social pressures to have an abortion. I set out several concrete proposals, including:

* improved access to contraception, and funding for comprehensive sex education;
* direct financial aid for low-income mothers;
* improved parental leave; paid leave; encouraging fathers to take leave;
* subsidized child care for low-income women and students;
* guaranteed health care for pregnant women and children, including unborn children (to cover things like prenatal surgery);
* a public education program aimed at partners, parents, and peers of pregnant women, urging them to be supportive and not abandon the women in their lives;
* passage of the Kennedy-Brownback bill that would provide accurate information and support to families whose unborn child has been diagnosed with a genetic disease;
* passage of FFL’s bill which would establish a pilot program for initiatives aimed at supporting pregnant and parenting students on college campuses. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really remember the details of this.

There are other things I wish I’d remembered, such as health care for postpartum moms (but then, universal health care should be a Democratic position anyway) and economic incentives for job-sharing, flex time, and other family-friendly employment arrangements.

Finally, I urged whoever might be reading to recognize the diversity of opinions on abortion within the Democratic Party, and not to make the mistake of stereotyping opponents of abortion as conservative, anti-woman, religious zealots.

I don’t know if it’ll do any good, but I look at it this way; we may not make any progress with grassroots efforts (at least, not right away), but we’ll never make any progress without them.

(Sorry about the incomplete version of this post that hit the feeds; I hit “Publish” instead of “Save”.)

Democratic platform news

Tony Campolo is planning to call for an abortion reduction plank in the Democratic platform. He discusses some of the financial burdens facing low-income women with unplanned pregnancies, and how helping to relieve those burdens could help more women choose life.

Also, it’s a bit short notice (some of these meetings have already taken place), but the Democratic Party is holding meetings to discuss the 2008 platform. Pro-life Democrats/liberals/progressives/whatevers should take this opportunity to get our perspective heard.

I see what you did there

Abortion Proposal Sets Condition on Aid

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration wants to require all recipients of aid under federal health programs to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and even certain types of birth control. […]

In the proposal, obtained by The New York Times, the administration says it could cut off federal aid to individuals or entities that discriminate against people who object to abortion on the basis of “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

The proposal defines abortion as follows: “any of the various procedures — including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.”

Of course, people who are opposed to birth control* want this so that they don’t have to provide emergency contraception or the pill. Why do I have the feeling we’re going to skip the pesky little step of actually demonstrating that EC and the pill prevent implantation, and just assume for the sake of this regulation that they do?

Nobody has ever accused this administration of making decisions based on evidence.

* I know people who are generally pro-birth-control but are wary of certain methods because of the perception that they prevent implantation. I also know that they’re not the ones driving this bus.

How to get the result you want from a poll

Keep an eye out for news articles reporting overwhelming support worldwide for human embryonic stem cell research.

An online questionnaire was prepared asking 60 questions about IVF ethics; it was anonymous and in a multiple-choice format. For this study, two of the sixty questions were examined: 1) “I believe it is morally WRONG to use embryonic stem cells for research”; and 2) “I believe it is morally WRONG to use embryonic stem cells for medical treatment”. The respondent answered the questions based on their current knowledge. The questionnaire was available online at as well as the patient support sites and .

Let me get this straight:

* The questions don’t specify human embryonic stem cells (though I’ll grant that was probably assumed by most respondents);
* The questions don’t mention that embryos are typically destroyed to obtain stem cells;
* The survey was conducted on three IVF support/advocacy sites. IVF doesn’t have to be done in a way that deliberately destroys embryos, but in many countries it is, so this selects for a group of people who are not opposed to the destruction of human embryos;
* It’s an online survey, and there’s no indication that data were weighted to account for the difference between this self-selected sample and a random sample.

That pounding noise you hear is George Gallup headdesking from beyond the grave.

Overall, we can conclude that people who responded to the survey expressed an overwhelming support for the use of embryonic stem cells for both medical and research purposes, independent of their background.

Sure. What they can’t conclude is that this has any relevance to anyone except the population who took their survey.

This finding is not reflected accurately in public communications or in the socioeconomic environment.

I’m not quite sure what it would mean for a survey finding to be reflected accurately “in the socioeconomic environment” — I think they’re bothered because “It is widely perceived that the public is equally divided in their views toward this controversial subject.” Mostly, it sounds to me like the authors would like to generate media reports claiming that “78% of people worldwide support human embryonic stem cell research!”

And look, they’ve already gotten some.