Friday, August 22, 2008


This section of the platform signals an important change: it constructs "choice" in the reproductive context along a continuum of possibilities ranging from pregnancy termination to childbirth. (p.50)

The provision is clear and direct in announcing support for Roe v. Wade and opposing "any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right." One problem here, though, is that Roe already has been weakened. Not only has the recent ruling on late term abortions significantly eroded the protections of Roe; the 1992 Casey decision dramatically undermined the framework for determining when and under what circumstances women may decide to terminate a pregnancy. So while the platform's unequivocal support for Roe should be applauded, we still need to ask whether the party actually will fight for a return for Roe and/or will fight to reverse the regulations enacted by many states to choke off the exercise of the pregnancy termination right.

Obama's recent efforts to temporize on the abortion issue do not suggest an intention to actively -- as well as "unequivocally" -- support the right announced in Roe v. Wade. Recent comments indicate a fixation on women's subjective decision-making: on one occasion, Obama declared he didn't think women should get abortions just because they are feeling "blue"; on another occasion he told Pastor Rick Warren that "women don't make the decision lightly." These sorts of comments, along with the embrace of parental notification provisions, imply that the central issue is women's judgment, not women's rights.

The platform's defense of Roe is not new -- the 2004 platform contains similar language. What is new is the effort to expand how we think about "choice" by coupling support for abortion rights with support for the decision to bear a child. The elements of this support are briefly listed -- pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and adoption programs. There's potential here, but the devil will be in the details.

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