My last post expressed my excitement at the prospect of a "pal'n around with domestic terrorists" showdown at the debate tonight. While the topic came up, Obama didn't take the opportunity to lay the smack down in my preferred fashion. I suspect the hardcore McCainiacs were similarly unimpressed with McCain's lack of fervor.
But one of my favorite parts of the debate was the discussion of abortion. (Not the first bit, mind you, the stuff about the courts. I have complex feelings on this that were most reflected by Senator McCain's comments--though, likely not his actions if he were to become President.)
First off, my feelings on abortion*. I am, like most people in this country, opposed to abortion on principle but (some for libertarian, some for, some may say ironically, pro-life reasons) not supportive of overturning Roe. I was glad that Obama corrected McCain's "pro-abortion" line. No one is pro-abortion. I was so happy to hear Obama say that he felt abortion was a profoundly moral issue that we should take seriously, not use as an ideological talking point. I was glad to hear him acknowledge that good, well-meaning folks can be on all sides of this issue--that people can agree that abortion is a tragedy and that there are concrete steps we can take to prevent it from occurring.
If many of the anti-legal-abortion folks were truly interested in preventing abortions, they would support fetal health care programs, anti-poverty programs, adoption programs, sex education programs. But efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies and to help women and families to care for children are often met with disapproval. Ironically, such things are most forcefully opposed by those who would argue that they are the true pro-lifers.
I had been worried a few weeks ago when I got an email saying that Obama had voted against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act and that he had voted no against banning late term abortions. I am glad that Senator McCain brought these up tonight, giving me a chance to hear Obama's explanation and a reminder to look up what actually happened. Turns out, the there was already an Illinois law requiring doctors to treat born alive infants, and that Obama voted present** on the late term abortion bill because, while he supported the ban, he did not want to vote for it until it included protections for the health of mothers.
I think if all sides can agree on the fierce urgency of preventing abortions, of preventing unintended pregnancies, and, when they do occur, helping women to feel like carrying the child is something they are able to do, we can make a big dent in the number of abortions performed. Overturning Roe will do little to make such a dent, and will actually hurt more women and children, who will then turn to homemade and back-alley abortions. (Well, if they're rich, they will probably still get a safe, hospital abortion. But poor women will not.)
If folks on both sides are serious about this as an issue of life (rather than an ideological issue, or an issue of gender--i.e., women who are loose deserve to be "punished" by being forced to have the child--that kind of rhetoric that exposes how some*** anti-legal-abortion folks really think about this issue), real progress can be made. I think that Obama's talk on this issue was really helpful in setting a positive tone for such discussions. As a new aunt, this issue (as well as so many others that will affect our future, such as war, the economy, education) has a new urgency to it.
*I was going to go into a long treatise on beliefs about abortion. But I had a feeling I've been here before, so I searched through my blog, and here are other posts where I more fully explain my position on this issue (in a random order): Pro-life feminism?, Pro-life?, How we can be pretty sure it's not about "life", Scary & Illegal, Thank you Missouri, And O'Connor is Gone.
**On a side note, you hear a lot about how many times Obama voted "present" in the Illinois legislature. I think that a "present" vote is lovely. I think our U.S. congress should have it. Often, I imagine, it is the case that an individual supports a bill in principle, but something about the bill (funding, add-ons, etc.) makes it something that one cannot support in its current state. Think of how many times during this election season we hear things like "McCain/Obama voted against funding the troops!" followed by responses like, "I voted against that bill because it included X" or "did not include X." A "present" vote is effectively a "no," but it is a "no" that signals that one might in fact like the bill, but not something in it.
***I emphatically add, not all.