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May 23, 2005

Abortion: Issues and principles

Kos argues that choice is not a core principle of the Democratic party.

Problem is, abortion and choice aren't core principles of the Democratic Party. Rather, things like a Right to Privacy are. And from a Right to Privacy certain things flow -- abortion rights, access to contraceptives, opposition to the Patriot Act, and freedom to worship the gods of our own choosing, or none at all.

Kos's point is that Democrats shouldn't allow hot-button issues and well-organized interest groups to distract us from the big picture. Fair enough--but that's just a platitude. Obviously, it's better to be wise than foolish, better to be politically effective than ideologically orthodox. And it's better to be rich and happy than poor and sick, too.

I get tired of Panglossian appeals to the big picture. If we care about privacy, equality before the law, separation of church and state, and the other Core Democratic Values, we'll fight for them when they're threatened. Right now, threats to choice impinge upon all of the above and others besides. Politically, we can't fight for principles in the abstract--we've got to actually step up to protect our rights where they're threatened. That means putting a very high practical priority on persuing pro-choice politics.

Sure, compromise is sometimes worthwhile, especially if we're compromising on relatively trivial matters or bargaining for very high rewards. I'm sure we're better off with the prolife Harry Reid as Senate majority leader than we would have been with many of his pro-choice rivals. We can't talk about compromise in the abstract. It drives me crazy when democrats lecture each other on the need to compromise on issues without explaining which issues and what we can expect in return. Compromise on Reid, defeat the nuclear option? Good deal. I'll take it.

Compromise on abortion rights, and get what?

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Comments

To be fair, I don't think the post was suggesting compromise on abortion rights, just expressing frustration that NARAL could endorse Lincoln Chaffee who is increasingly a tool of a party that doesn't share his personal views on abortion. I don't know anything about Jim Langevin. I also think one must look past the "pro-life" label to figure out what, if anything, will actually flow from that stance. It's one thing to declare yourself pro-life and in favor of free prenatal counseling, screening, and care, and another to declare yourself pro-life and in favor of an aggressive agenda of packing courts with "anti-choice" judges. Lincoln Chaffee, in spite of his personal views, apparently is not opposed to the latter, and would apparently support a lot of concrete action in opposition to keeping abortion legal. NARAL seems to be acting from an overly narrow perspective of what it means to support the legality of abortion.

"Compromise on abortion rights, and get what? "

I agree. There are a multitude of little issues that we could give on - how late, how young, federal money etc. But none of it gets us anything except a reputation for weakness.

There are no useful compromises with the opposition that can be made. The only practical matter is in dealing with our own potential electorate. That is not really an issue of what stance you take, but rather how loudly you take it.

But... saying that we respect everyone's right to privacy in their personal lives (and that includes abortions, folks) is just a better message politically. If you show that you believe in a right to privacy which includes these four or five things you are creating a positive image and idea. It also allows this formulation of rights to include men, and the concerns that they have about privacy, and helps removes the abortion debate from the "dead babies" continuum.

Yglesias has tried to make a case for compromising on constitutional abortion rights, and although I'm not necessarily convinced, I do think that there are at least a number of arguable gains from the compromise (not necessarily net gains, but at least some payoff). Specifically, backing off of constitutional protection for abortion, or being willing to roll it back, might take a lot of the air out of the sails of the originalism crusade, which might end up protecting a lot of endangered legal doctrines - other reproductive rights, right to privacy in consensual sexual conduct, the robust federal commerce power needed for regulation of labor, product safety, antidiscrimination, etc. Of course, there's an opposing argument that it would just embolden and accelerate the originalist movement - and determining which is more likely requires political predictive powers that I certainly lack.

Compromise on abortion rights, and get what?

why lindsay, you get to see all your favorite programs helping people avoid or plan a future after pregnancy get turned into jesus-stations.


but honestly, compromise is only possible if the other side is willing to come halfway, or at least fake it. when the other side wont budge, it's not a compromise, its a surrender. and the bloody history of this nation is a no-surrender kinda dealie, you know?

"But... saying that we respect everyone's right to privacy in their personal lives (and that includes abortions, folks) is just a better message politically"

Not necessarily. Not all of politics is vote-getting. True, a broader "privacy advocate" message works better at the polls, but a more focussed message works better to raise funds. The extra money you raise with the more ardent approach can be used to get more votes than you lose. This is most effective when compartmentallized and "PAC'd". Candidates with ardent, focussed views raise PAC funds in locked-up districts, while candidates in contentious districts go with a broader message.

Who is Professor Pangloss here?

A would be operative like Kos faces a stark fact - pro abortion positions have made Republicans of natural born democrats.

Privacy is not an abstract right, that is a straw man.

But, for those whose emotional identity requires pro choice be insisted on as part of the cathecism rather than as a limit of government power, well, when principles are at stake, results don't matter I guess. Kinda abstract right like.

Abortion is a litmis test, and it should be. But it's not the only litmus test. IE: So far Harry Reid is better than pro-abortion Dashel. Why does everything have to be either or?

What Kos is getting at is that the Republicans vote as a block and should they win the filibuster war with the Nuclear Option, you will certainly lose any hope for the "Prochoice" laws, as well as much, much, more.

As Senator Biden has just elucidated on the floor of the Senate, the filibuster debate and the Judicial Nominees isn't about abortion rights or rights of the people of faith... it a raw power grab by "The Constitution in Exile" crowd who want to do away with not only abortion rights, but the entire "New Deal" and take us back to the 1920's.

Why stake everything on an unconstitutional manuver in Congress? Becasue all of the things that Bush can't do in Congress he can mandate in the courts through his judicial appointments.

Declare Unconstitutional: Social Security, the minimum wage, the 40 hour work week, over-time pay requirements, environmental protection laws, environmental health and safety standards in the workplace and... yes abortion rights too and a whole lot more.

Kos's point was if you focus on one issue... you lose everything!

take a good look at who the appointees are:

HAYNES'S WAR ON HUMAN RIGHTS: President Bush has
nominated Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes
IV for a second time. Haynes led the group of
attorneys responsible for the memos contending "the
president wasn't bound by laws prohibiting torture and
that government agents who might torture prisoners at
his direction couldn't be prosecuted by the Justice
Department." Haynes's nomination was derailed when "he
was asked by the Judiciary Committee to provide
material about his role in the [torture] issue and
failed to do so." Haynes also developed and defended
the administration's policy of incarcerating "U.S.
citizens without counsel or judicial review" which was
rejected as illegal by the Supreme Court. Another
Haynes product: the rules for military tribunals
planned for Guantanamo Bay that was described as
"unjust, unwise, un-American" by the Economist
magazine.

BROWN'S WAR ON MAINSTREAM VALUES: Bush is determined
to install California Supreme Court Justice Janice
Rodgers Brown to the federal courts. The New York
Times described her record as a "war on mainstream
legal values that most Americans hold dear." It's not
hard to see why. Brown on seniors: "Today's senior
citizens blithely cannibalize their grandchildren
because they have a right to get as much "free" stuff
as the political system will permit them to extract."
Brown on New Deal programs, such as Social Security:
"The New Deal...inoculated the federal Constitution
with a kind of underground collectivist mentality. The
Constitution itself was transmuted into a
significantly different document...1937...marks the
triumph of our own socialist revolution." Brown,
ignoring Supreme Court precedent, has argued that
racially discriminatory speech in the workplace is
protected by the First Amendment. She has also
denounced the Supreme Courts landmark ruling U.S. v.
Carolene Products; a view which, if adopted "would
signal the death-knell for a vast range of health
labor, and environmental standards it enacted during
the last century." Learn more about Janice Rodgers
Brown.

PRYOR'S WAR ON WOMEN: Bush also renominated Alabama
Attorney General William Pryor. His confirmation to a
lifetime appointment on the federal bench would be a
huge blow for women's rights. Pryor considers Roe v.
Wade to be "the worst abomination of constitutional
law in our nation's history." Further, he has defended
restrictions on abortion in Alabama even when they
lacked "the constitutionally required exception to
protect the health of the pregnant woman." Pryor
supported legislation in Alabama which would have
required Alabama to appoint "a lawyer representing the
state whenever a female under age 18 sought to have an
abortion without her parents' consent." Pryor argued
that the government attorney "should be involved to
protect the state's interest in preserving life." The
AP reported that Pryor "envisioned attorneys with
networks like the Alabama Lawyers for Life, of which
he used to be a member, agreeing to represent the
state for free and 'potentially' taking an adversarial
stand against abortions." Learn more about William
Pryor.

OWEN'S "UNCONSCIONABLE" JUDICIAL ACTIVISM: During
their time together on the Texas Supreme Court,
Attorney General-nominee Alberto Gonzalez repeatedly
criticized Pricilla Owen – another judge that Bush
re-nominated – for ignoring the law. In one case,
relating to requirements for minors to "judicially
bypass" parental consent requirements for abortion,
Gonzalez characterized Owen's narrow view of the
statute as "directly contradicted" by the legislative
history and "an unconscionable act of judicial
activism." In another case, where Owen would have
effectively rewritten the law to protect manufactures
of products that cause injury, Gonzales called Owen's
opinion an attempt to "judicially amend the statute."
Gonzales also joined an opinion that described an
Owen's dissent, which would have allowed certain
private land owners to exempt themselves from
environmental regulations, as "nothing more than
inflammatory rhetoric."

You can read about "the Constituion in Exile" here:

http://www.acsblog.org/judicial-nominations-700-the-return-of-constitution-in-exile.html

So this is what the wingnuts are up to and why Fritzy and company would love to frame this as being about abortion rights... but it isn't, its about everything that you have known as society since you grew up.

These are people who think that Steinbecks' the "Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice or Men" were comedies. They want this to be the century of unchained "robber baron capitalism", power to the military industrial complex and the war profiteers.

Problem is, abortion and choice aren't core principles of the Democratic Party. Rather, things like a Right to Privacy are. And from a Right to Privacy certain things flow -- abortion rights, access to contraceptives, opposition to the Patriot Act, and freedom to worship the gods of our own choosing, or none at all.

If that's a core Democratic Party principle, then why did the Senate Democrats vote 50-1 for the Patriot Act, 43-8 for the Homeland Security Bill, and 51-0 to condemn the court decision declaring "under god" unconstitutional?

If that's a core Democratic Party principle, then why did the Senate Democrats vote 50-1 for the Patriot Act, 43-8 for the Homeland Security Bill, and 51-0 to condemn the court decision declaring "under god" unconstitutional?

This is just further evidence why abortion and other issues need to be visibly connected to the underlying principle of privacy!

'Cause obviously, it's not just the public at large who need to be reminded.

Kos has a point. You don't have to support abortion rights to be Democratic. You can easily be advocating the rights of an unborn child. To be pro-choice under any circumstances, you have to dismiss any possibility that a fetus has rights; not all Democrats are willing to do that.

I go Democratic most of the time, but I still think abortion to be an ethically dubious procedure if the woman's health is not at significant risk. Very early abortions I see little problem with, but late-term abortions are perilous. Where the procedure is legal and ethically acceptable, privacy rights come into play, but determining whether the procedure is ethical is a more difficult question, and Democrats do not have a universal opinion on the matter.

Compromise on choice???? I suppose it would be Ok to compromise just a little bit on a womans right to choose... just as soon as a woman can be just a little bit pregnant!
The Right has spent a great deal of energy redefining what choice means... It's not time to accept their terms, it's time to put the issue back in its proper context. We are talking about personal liberty and whether or not the government should have the power to interfer with that liberty... AND OBVIOUSLY the government has no right to intrude.
Perhaps those Religious zealots have never considered that if a persons rights are subject to the whims of the government in the way they would like them to be, that the government could outlaw abortion OR just as easily order manditory abortions.

Look at the road we're on if we start compromising. The Dems compromised to Labor's detriment for decades and Labor in America is essentially dead. The same future is ahead for choice if we buy into the compromise scenario.

Note: The only way I'm for any compromise is if we concede on points we already believe, i.e. abortion should be rare - so give us real sex-ed and birth control. I can't stand Clinton, but that phrase "safe, legal and rare" was genius.

Labor failed labor. I missed any compromise, or sanity, in Big Labor's positions, as I missed it actually representing workers, rather than vested interests. Now, watch as the UAW helps GM go on under.

The same spirit is at work in this abortion issue. There are tens of millions of decent people who oppose abortion. Yet, the party line demands words that alienate these people. Safe legal and rare could be the catechism, but it is not because some insist abortion is no big deal, it being a woman's body and all. Fine, live with the consequences.

"If that's a core Democratic Party principle, then why did the Senate Democrats vote 50-1 for the Patriot Act, 43-8 for the Homeland Security Bill, and 51-0 to condemn the court decision declaring "under god" unconstitutional?"

1. The Patriot act was an emergency provision passed in the wake of 9/11. It was seen as an emergency provision and was "sunseted." It wasn't seen as being permanent but responding to a crisis, therfore no permanent harm would be done in voting for it and trusting the intelligence briefings given by the White House (later shown to be incorrect).

2. Don't know the context for the "under God vote." but separtation of church and state is fundamental. so if you mix religion and law inevitably you will come to whose religion?

In the issue of creationism, as an example, should you favor Christian tradition and not teach the Hindu Vedas and creation stories, of that of the Hopi Indians and so on...

Flint:
Read the vote counts for crying-out-loud. Kos is tediously wrong on this issue. He is doing the ReThugs job for them. I wish he would just shut up about it. It's divisive & he knows it.

"We are talking about personal liberty and whether or not the government should have the power to interfer with that liberty... AND OBVIOUSLY the government has no right to intrude."
It's obvious only if it's obvious that the fetus has no significant moral status. But that's what the debate is about, so to say it's obvious is to beg the question. Since half the population, or more, doesn't think it's obvious at all, talking about personal liberty isn't going to get you anywhere politically.
Back to square one.

There can be no compromise on choice. The Democratic Party seems not to realize that they are already much, much too far to the right already--Brian Leiter judges that they are perhaps to the right of the Nixon administration--and for many progressives, any compromise on choice will be the last straw.

Democrats can be anti-choice--but Democratic candidates cannot. I would never support an anti-choice Democrat for any office above city councilman.

Kos's whining is pathetic, frankly, and it exposes him as the party hack that he is. Note that he's not just complaining about NARAL's endorsement of Chafee--he's complaining that NARAL didn't support the anti-choice Langevin (sp?) in the primaries!

Look, NARAL is not necessarily a Democratic group. If everything else stayed the same, but the GOP became the pro-choice party, and the Dems became anti-choice, NARAL would immediately start supporting mostly Republicans. They do not exist to help further the interests of the Democratic party; they exist to protect reproductive rights from assholes like Langevin.

"It was seen as an emergency provision and was "sunseted."

Actually, only a few components of a mega-bill was sunseted. And, the likihood they actually wood be (even if the Senate didn't change hands) was (to the realistic) somewhat unlikely.

Kos' point is not that much of a platitude, since apparently major advocacy groups aren't quite aware of it. Nor is he necessarily wrong. In fact, his overall point is that in the long run, a support of Chafee might very well be counterproductive to those who promote choice.

The choice is not "Chafee or the right to choose," is it? It is Chafee or a pro-life Dem. who would help tilt the Senate away from conservative Republicans and be willing to support privacy measures that they might oppose in small part because abortion is included. Thus, Reid (pro-life) supports filibusters of pro-life nominees etc.

And, again, support of broad principles will help regain power, and/or better protect aspects of it. So, one more, it is not like he is asking people to sacrifice the right to choose. He is saying a call for purity might very well be counterproductive.

It's obvious only if it's obvious that the fetus has no significant moral status.

I don't know of any consistent moral philosophy that gives fetuses rights significant enough to make abortion immoral.

You've really missed the point, and it's not a small one, but rather one with large strategic consequences.

Abortion rights are a single instantiation of the idea of "individual liberty", as in the right to pursue one's one bliss, to take care of ourselves and those we love in the best way we know how. Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness... overarching "values" that the left should be be foremost in promoting (after our own beliefs, determined, as always, through argument and political process).

When we allow single issues to obscure this overarching civic values, which are emphatically not "platitudes", we become vulnerable (as we have) to demonization and fragmentation. In short, we get our asses kicked.

And whatever I might say in this regard about "abortion rights" goes, too, for "gay marriage", "health care", "hate crimes", "environmental protection" or any of a number of other traditionally liberal issues.

I would go as far as to say that none of these issues have value in and of themselves, but only insofar as they create a civic and cultural environment that promotes liberty and well-being for the people of our country. When we lose sight of that, we err greatly.

dadahead, you are simultaneously correct and making Kos's point: NARAL is not a Democratic group. That is his point -- and perhaps NARAL cannot possibly see it as being in its interest to refuse to endorse a self-proclaimed pro-choice politician such as Chafee versus someone like Langevin (who, I admit, I don't know a whole lot about). But for many of those who consider themselves to be pro-choice, including me, overlooking the tactical consequences of having a minority versus majority party that is overall strongly pro-choice cannot be viewed as being in my self-interest or the long-term goal of keeping abortion legal. Even the type of judges that are sent up for confirmation would change if the balance of power in the Senate changed. Most of these "pro-life" judges are so out to lunch on so many other issues that I doubt even pro-life Democrats could stomach their approval. If that makes me a mutt, ideologically speaking, I guess I'll bear with it as best I can.

Procreative liberty may not presently be a core Democratic value, but it certainly should be. So should a lot of things the Democrats have stopped caring about . . .

"I don't know of any consistent moral philosophy that gives fetuses rights significant enough to make abortion immoral."

Alon, I didn't say "significant rights"; I said "significant moral status". (Successful or not, Don Marquis's argument against abortion, based not on rights but on the wrongness of depriving someone of a future of value, is a respectable philosophical position that appeals to consistency to make its case.) But most people are not moral philosophers. My point was that all those who do believe, rightly or wrongly, that fetuses are morally important, are not going to be convinced simply by appeals to individual liberty as a justification for allowing abortion.

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