Sarah Palin

Whatever else I might think about the Republican approach to abortion, I’ll say this — their new VP nominee walks the walk.

By inspirational contrast, Palin, says of her new son, Trig: “I’m looking at him right now, and I see perfection. Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?” Three days after she gave birth, Palin was back in her Anchorage office with her husband and Trig. “I can think of so many male candidates,” she tells the AP, “who watched families grow while they were in office. There is no reason to believe a woman can’t do it with a growing family. My baby will not be at all or in any sense neglected.”

I hope that her presence on the ticket will bring greater awareness of the needs of mothers, and of women’s concerns generally. That could only be a good thing.

ETA: Looks like I was optimistic.

FQILtA, Part 2: Both candidates, on abortion

The comments to Part 1 gave me the idea for this one. It isn’t so much a follow-up as just a Question I’d Like to Ask both Barack Obama and John McCain.

ME: What are the most compelling arguments for your opponents’ position on abortion? What do you agree with and disagree with about those arguments, and why?

Also, I have a couple of questions for John McCain:

MCCAIN: And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president. And this presidency will have pro-life policies. That’s my commitment. That’s my commitment to you.

WARREN: OK, we don’t have to beleaguer on that one.

ME: Sure we do! Senator McCain, what specific pro-life policies are you referring to?

Do you believe that the government has a role in reducing the demand for abortion? If so, what policies do you have in mind that would help people prevent unplanned pregnancies and make it easier for women to choose life for their children? What, if any, are your goals for abortion reduction? You may use whatever metric you like.

What outcome would constitute success for your pro-life policies, and what would constitute failure?

FQILtA, Part 1: Obama on abortion

I didn’t watch Rick Warren’s Saddleback Presidential Forum — if I had two hours to spare, I’d spend them doing something a lot more enjoyable than watching the last nails get hammered into the “No Non-Christians Need Apply” sign on the White House. I did read the transcript, though, and without further ado, here are some Follow-up Questions I’d Like to Ask Barack Obama:

WARREN: At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.

ME: Let me reassure you, Senator, that nobody’s expecting the definitive answer to this question from a political candidate. What is your personal view on the question of when a human being begins to have human rights? What philosophical and legal principles shaped that view?

OBAMA: And so I think anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue, I think, is not paying attention. So that would be point number one.

ME: Some abortion advocates are celebrating the removal of the language stating that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare” from the Democratic platform. They believe that it denigrates women to say that abortion should be rare, and consider the new platform a victory for their view that giving birth to a child and aborting her are equally moral choices. Do you agree with their interpretation?

OBAMA: And so, for me, the goal right now should be — and this is where I think we can find common ground. And by the way, I’ve now inserted this into the Democratic party platform, is how do we reduce the number of abortions? The fact is that although we have had a president who is opposed to abortion over the last eight years, abortions have not gone down and that is something we have to address.

ME: What are your goals for abortion reduction? You may use whatever metric you like. What outcome would constitute success for your policies, and what would constitute failure?

“This is Quantitative Research 101”

Warren Throckmorton is compiling reactions to the recent report (PDF) from the American Psychological Association’s Mental Health and Abortion Task Force. Among them is a comment from David Fergusson, the pro-choice author of an extensive study on the effect of abortion on young women in New Zealand. Fergusson isn’t impressed with the Task Force for drawing a sweeping conclusion based on evidence it admits is flawed and incomplete:

[…] In this respect, the response of the APA committee to this situation appears to follow the type of logic used by the Tobacco industry to defend cigarettes: since, in our opinion, there is no conclusive evidence of harm then the product may be treated as safe. A better logic is that used by the critics of the industry: since there is suggestive evidence of harmful effects it behooves us to err on the side of caution and commission more and better research before drawing strong conclusions. History showed which side had the better arguments.

Rachel MacNair offers a more inside view:

Though I keep my ears attuned, the task force membership was appointed and explicitly not open to any more nominations by the time I first heard about it.

Actually, there never had been any call for nominations. Membership had been decided by Division 35, psychology of women, and the Council apparently rubber-stamped the selection. I knew the fix was in at that point and subsequent events have confirmed this, but I gamely kept trying to talk about balance and science.


Setting aside the quality of the study itself, citing only one study in support of a politically-desired conclusion cannot be explained in any other way than a politically-motivated exercise. This is not a debatable point. This is Quantitative Research 101.

Pro-life Dems should be proud

Forget about what we didn’t get, for a second. (Though I do want to talk about that in another post.) Look at what we did get. Look at what we did.

Here’s the Democratic platform statement on abortion from 2004:

Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman’s right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

Absent any pressure from pro-lifers, absent any push for abortion reduction, what would have changed about that statement? What would have been the motivation for change? I’d have expected a stronger statement of support for birth control, given the recent attacks on contraception, but that’s about it.

Here’s the statement from the draft platform for 2008:

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 Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. 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.

So, as you’d expect, there’s expanded language about contraception and sex ed, and that’s great. But that’s not all — look at what else has been added.

Yes, the support for abortion is still there. But because of pressure from pro-lifers, there’s far more support for nonviolent options. Because of pressure from pro-lifers, the Democratic Party explicitly committed itself to supporting women’s decision to choose life. Because of pressure from pro-lifers, the platform is stronger on reproductive justice for women. Want to just mull that over for a second? I know I do.

We did this, and we should shout it from the rooftops. I’m not saying that pro-choicers don’t want to support women who carry to term, or that pro-lifers were the only ones who pushed for it. But that language wasn’t there in 2004, was it? We made the difference. There’s a lot more to do, and I don’t want to gloss over that, but let’s be proud for a moment.