July 19, 2004
Bush Attacks Kerry on Abortion
No sooner did I make my previous post than the Bush campaign launched TV and radio ads attacking John Kerry's record on teen access to birth control and abortion. The new ads state that "Kerry voted against parental notification for teenage abortions" and "voted to allow schools to hand out the 'morning after pill' without parents' knowledge." The ads continue: "He voted to take control away from parents by taking away their right to know. John Kerry has his priorities. The question is, are they yours?"
This is the second Bush ad on abortion. The first was an ad criticizing Kerry for voting against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, called Laci and Conner's Law, which made an injury to a fetus a separate Federal crime.
As predicted, the Bush campaign is going to talk about teens and Laci's law, and about values. Kerry has been talking values too. But he is going to lose the values debate unless he reframes it.
The Kerry response to the newest Bush ad was to say that the parental notification law would put some teens at risk for abuse. We've been saying that for decades; it's true; and it doesn't work. Three-quarters of the American public favor parental notification laws before their teen daughter can have an abortion. Taking this tried and true route is a fast road to political disaster for Kerry--- parents don't want to be assumed to be child abusers.
Bush is trying to portray himself on the side of parents. The ads talk about protecting parental rights and their right to know, just as the Laci ad talked about protecting women from abuse. Kerry has got to get on the side of parents. The political math is simple: parents vote; teens don't.
Parents and their teenage daughters (and sons) sometimes have different views as to the desirability of a pregnancy. The key point to remember is that the parent's teenage daughter is the parent's vehicle for having grandchildren, which is something that virtually every parent wants. The conflict between parent and teen daughter is then mostly one of timing. Some parents, and I have seen it first hand, want their teen daughter to give birth as soon as spossible. Other parents want the teen to grow up, mature, finish her education, get married, get settled, get a job and then have children (or at least attain as many of these as possible before having children).
Teens are not passive bystanders to their parents' wishes. Some teens want, or think they want, to give birth early and others want to do so later. When the wishes of the teen and parents are in sync and they are communicating, then there is no issue---the teen can have the child or have an abortion with her parents by her side. The conflict arises when the teen and the parents have different expectations and plans. Either the parents want a child later and the teen wants one now, or vice versa. Whose wishes should control in these situations?
If, as the Bush campaign says, it is the parents who should control, then the parents can force a teen to give birth or have an abortion
, no matter what the teen's wishes. And if the teen controls, then the teen can give birth or have an abortion, no matter what the parents' wishes. In this latter case, the parents are losing a grandchild if the teen has an abortion, or they are, in many if not most cases, taking on raising a grandchild if the teen gives birth, no matter what their personal or financial situation.
Can the teen's wishes control here? Does the teen have the requisite mental and emotional capability and maturity to make a decision of this magnitude?
Notice that the Bush campaign and the "pro-life" campaign for parental notification and consent laws apply only to the abortion decision. They carefully sidestep the issue of childbirth. This is the Kerry opportunity.
1. Make an equivalence between the decision to give birth and have an abortion. There is no difference between the maturity and mental and emotional capability to do either. In fact, I could argue, it takes greater maturity to make the decision to have a child and certainly to be a parent. Stop the Bush campaign in its tracks and force them to admit that they would favor giving parents the right to force a teen to have an abortion, as well as to have a child.
2. And be on the side of parents. The teenage daughter here is the parent--- she is the one giving birth, or not. Her parents are the putative grandparents. Recognize the conflict. Say that there should be one standard, not a double standard. Say that the decision to have a baby or an abortion is difficult and that some teens have the maturity to do both and some do not, just as some legal adults may or may not. Support a means to test for this maturity and if the teen flunks, then bring in the judicial system.
In states like New York where there is no mandated parental involvement, this is what the system looks like: a social worker, nurse or physician determines if the teen has the maturity to make the abortion decision. If she does not and if she will not bring in her parents, then we call in Family Court. Kerry should develop a proposal that would respect the parents' feelings and rights, as well as those of the putative teen mother.
3. The value to be emphacized is successful reproduction--having healthy and wanted children and grandchildren. This can put the values debate on a new playing field, one that Kerry can win.
July 15, 2004
Will Abortion Make a Difference in the 2004 Election?
John Kerry announced recently that "life begins at conception." So?
What was Kerry up to?
Before Kerry opened his mouth, pollsters and pundits had been trying to pin the abortion jellyfish to the wall. It is indeed slippery.
Andrew Greeley in the June 18 Los Angeles Times stated his belief that the effect of the candidate's abortion views has a miniscule effect on the average Catholic voter. According to the National Opinion Research Center, only 4% of American Catholics consider themselves "pro-life" on all seven NORC questions. The availability of abortion after rape was one of them.
Thus, 24% of Catholics (and 20% of Protestants) said in the NORC poll that abortion should NOT be legal after rape. This group of Catholics was 10% less likely to vote for Al Gore than other Catholics. 10% of 24% is 2.4%. Catholics being one-quarter of the population, this means 0.6% was the loss to Gore in the popular vote --- not an insignificant amount in New Mexico and Florida. Except that we can't be sure if the abortion/rape issue was the reason this portion of Catholics were opposed to Gore. In other words making the rape exception (or lack thereof) an issue may cost John Kerry up to 0.6% of the vote, but maybe less. But might it increase his vote among other populations?
We have heard alot of talk from the candidates on values. Americans want a President who reflects their values, or at least values they respect. A recent Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans (exactly 50%) believe abortion immoral.
The immorality ranking was:
91% against extramarital affairs.
88% against cloning human beings.
79% against suicide (except if a doctor assists, then only 41% oppose.
54% against homosexual activity.
50% against abortion.
37% against stem cell research oncells from aborted babies.
36% against premarital sex.
26% against divorce.
Compare this list with the issues that Americans consider either extremely or very important in the upcoming election:
Education-----------------86% consider extremely/very important
Situation in Iraq---------80%
Federal budget deficit----72%
Imagine corporate corruption ranking higher than abortion!
But what do we hear about in the past few weeks? Not much on Kenny Lay. Rather, John Kerry on when life begins and George Bush on the defense of traditional marriage. And note that Bush went out of his way to say that he was not going to attack homosexual activity in the privacy of one's home (not that he could anyway until the Supreme Court changes) but he could have attacked the court's ruling in Lawrence v. Texas
overturning the Texas sodomy law. And Kerry quickly defended Roe v. Wade
, which a majority of Americans say they support (though I defy a majority to say accurately what it says). Both candidates are cutting the apple pretty finely. Both issues are a minefield. The challenge for both candidates, as Gallup has said, is to present their views in a way that will attract the most supporters and offend the least number.
In 2000 exit polling said that only 14% of voters said abortion was an important issue, and more of these favored Bush than Gore.
Polling answers on abortion depend on what question is asked.
While Gallup (I tend to use Gallup since they have been asking the same questions the longest) shows that American are about equally divided on calling themselves pro-choice or pro-life, there is some significant difference if Americans are asked if they want abortion laws more or less strict. Now the answer may depend on where a person lives since states have different laws on abortion access, and it may depend if the respondent interprets the question nationally or locally. That said, about twice as many Americans want abortion laws more strict than they are now. The figures are:
40% keep laws the same
37% make laws more strict
20% make laws less strict.
In the 16 battleground states, the net "more strict" figure is 14% points. So John Kerry sees the danger of being "totally" pro-choice---he gets the 60% of the electorate --- perhaps (the "as is" group and the "less strict" group) ---, but he runs the risk of losing independents and undecideds who may favor a "more strict" approach. Bush runs the risk --- by advocating abortion restrictions and the overturn of Roe
--- of losing the 60% majority for "as is" and "less strict".
We in the pro-choice movement have tried to carry the abortion water for John Kerry and have pointed out that Bush wants to overturn Roe
. The problem is that half the American people don't believe us. 50% do, according to Gallup, but 37% do not and 13% have no opinion. The perception of Bush wanting to ban all abortions actually hurts Bush: 17% said it would make it more likely they would vote for him and 23% said it would make it less likely, while 58% said it would not affect their vote.
The gender gap is growing on the abortion issue. In the May 2004 Gallup poll, 24% said abortion should be legal under any circumstances. This figure has remained remakably consistent for over 25 years. But in 1997 for instance men and women held this opinion equally. Now women are much more likely to hold this opinion: 28% of women held this opinion while only 19% of men did, a 9% difference. A National Annenberg Election Survey released July 2 found a smaller but distict gender gap, as well as a marriage gap with marrieds being more likely to favor banning all abortions than singles.
So the single woman voter is the key here. We know that and pro-choicve organizations are registering as many as we can to vote. I ask every waitress if she is registered to vote.
But it is equally important to take the fight to Bush. Make Bush take a stand on Roe
. Make him say he wants it overturned. Make him say he wants abortion criminalized. Don't let him weasle by talking about unelected judges or "partial birth" abortion or taking teens across state lines or Lacy's Law. Kerry is playing it too safe. It is time he got bold. He will win if he does.
July 01, 2004
The anti-choice folks have come up with an amazing new strategy to win over the Democratic party. Having failed to change national polling numbers over the past quarter century on the abortion issue by their religious/moral arguments, they are now appealing to the self interest of the Democratic party: in short, their argument is that the Democrats are aborting themselves out of existence.
The prime mover behind this new ananity is Larry L. Eastland, the managing director of LEA Management Group LLC, a self described public policy research organization. The article appears at: http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110005277
Eastland argues that since Democrats are more likely to have abortions than Republicans, these unborn children who aren't alive to vote would have voted like their Democratic parents, thus hurting the Democrats at the polls, especially in close elections like 2000.
"As liberals and Democrats fervently seek new voters and supporters through events, fund-raisers, direct mail and every other form of communication available, they achieve results minuscule in comparison to the loss of voters they suffer from their own abortion policies. It is a grim irony lost on them, for which they will pay dearly in elections to come."
A critical examination of Eastland's piece can be found at: http://www.churchofcriticalthinking.com/index.shtml
Basically, Eastland's "methodology" (if one can call it that) and analysis don't hold water for a variety of reasons, including that his abortion research is flawed as to who exactly in a political sense are having abortions and whether children do vote like their parents. There is no credible research on either topic.
Eastland also fails to take note of the fact that the criminalization of abortion will have a modest effect on the number of abortions performed in the country--perhaps the abortion rate would be reduced by up to a third. I have not seen any analysis as to which women, politically speaking, would be deterred by the criminalization of abortion. I only know that poorer women would be the most adversely affected by having to resort to back alleys as in the old days.
But more disturbing than all this that Eastland is jumping into the same trough as those "researchers" who sought to prove that legalizing abortion reduced the nation's crime rate 18 or 21 years later. There was a flurry of research a few years ago purporting to establish that since poorer (i.e. black) women had more abortions after Roe, that those unborn future criminals were not alive to commit crimes 18 or so years later. As with Eastland, the methodology was suspect, to say the least.
But more importantly, making abortion policy a means to a social or political end is a dangerous game. In effect, abortion becomes a code word for the number of births in a society, and abortion policy becomes a hidden means towards encouraging one group to have more births than other groups. "Cradle competition" was what the critics of the eugenics movement called it. My grandmother objected to cradle competition, as do I. Parents should have the children they want to meet their reproductive needs, not those of society. When societies, or groups within society, try to out breed other groups so that they can get political control, it can only lead to civil war, genocide or other disaster.
If Eastland is joking, he isn't funny. If he is serious, I hope everyone ignores him.