Sunday, January 08, 2006

What about "choice" does the right not understand?

On NBC's "Meet the Press" this morning, Tim Russert held a discussion with Kate O'Beirne from The National Review and Kate Michelman, former President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, about feminism and how it relates, in many cases, to the Roe v. Wade decision.

What I found from the discussion was that the right, in this case represented by O'Beirne, continues to project ignorance about what the word "choice" really means. And while I realize that Republicans continue to use the abortion issue in a "wedge" fashion in order to rally the troops to their side, it continues to irritate me to no end that they refuse to acknowledge that "choice" doesn't preclude people from being against abortion. It simply means what it says, namely that individuals have the opportunity to choose for themselves what is right for them personally without others dictating what they should or should not do.

Some say that Republicans really don't want to overturn Roe v. Wade because it then would cease to be a reason - and with many people perhaps the only reason - to vote Republican. While it remains "in play", the abortion issue gives Republicans one of their few, ready-made talking points with which to galvanize their supporters and to demonize their opponents.

I thought the following was a particularly interesting exchange, which highlighted that the core tenet of "pro-choice" doesn't necessarily mean "pro-abortion":

MS. O’BEIRNE: I don’t believe that men and women are interchangeable. I don’t believe marriage is a patriarchal plot. And along with an awful lot of other women, I don’t believe that women’s equality rests on an unrestricted right to an abortion. And that position on the part of feminists has cost them the allegiance of millions of other women who also don’t believe that Roe v. Wade, the most radical abortion policy in the Western industrialized world, is so key to women’s equality.

MR. RUSSERT: Can you be a pro-life, pro-anti-abortion rights feminist?

MS. MICHELMAN: You can be a feminist and oppose the act of abortion on moral and ethical, religious, on personal grounds; absolutely can be. And, in fact, many people who are pro-choice in terms of their beliefs that the policies of this nation should respect the diversity of views on these issues related to pregnancy and childbearing, abortion, and reproductive matters, that there is a diversity of views and they are informed by one’s values, as they are mine. My personal values informed my decision about abortion.

But you can be absolutely anti-abortion, if you will, and pro-choice; believing that women ultimately, not the government, not Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, but women themselves must determine the course of their lives, and central to that determining the course of their lives is determining when and under what circumstances they will become mothers.

But as we've seen, while the right may talk a good game about getting government out of people's lives, the hypocrisy is that they really want nothing of the sort. From a policy perspective, the current brand of "conservatives" want to dictate how others conduct their lives. That much is clear.

One of these days, people will come to understand what "choice" really means, that it's up to individuals to decide what's right for themselves, rather than for others to tell them what to do. At the moment, the right just can't seem to get it right.


At 8:47 PM, Blogger Blueberry said...

I think it's really tragic that abortion has turned into a partisan issue. My in-laws are mostly all Republicans. Quite a few of them are pro-choice, but that doesn't mean they'll be voting Democratic any time soon. It's not their particular hot issue and they will vote Republican regardless of the party platform on that, but the party-at-large seems to think (or at least claims) the whole group is united behind that platform plank everytime their party wins.

At 12:22 AM, Blogger DrewL said...

I think that goes both ways as, no doubt, there are Democrats who are "Pro-Life". And being "Pro-Life" is fine as long as it goes hand-in-hand with "choice". And what the political debate comes down to really isn't one of "Pro-Life" vs. "Pro-Abortion"; that's how it is framed from a political standpoint, but it's really one of "choice" vs. "no choice".

Ideally, I'd like to see the Dems frame it that way and provoke the right to defend its "Anti-Choice" viewpoint. Because conservatives who argue against personal choice and personal privacy really aren't conservatives in the traditional sense.


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