How the Democrats Are Selling Out Abortion Rights
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
"I said, 'Ed, look, we have forty-five seats in the Senate--our backs are against the wall. And if we go down to forty-two seats it's over. The very hard right will run America. We can't afford to play games anymore. This is tough stuff . . . [a]nd the day should be over when a potential candidate has to check twenty-seven boxes before we support him. Maybe if we had sixty-five seats we could afford to do that. But we don't."
Charles Schumer, Democratic senator from New York,
quoted in recent New Yorker article, "The Right to Choose."
Schumer was justifying his decision to recruit and support Robert Casey, Jr., to run for senator in Pennsylvania on the Democratic ticket against a pro-choice woman, Barbara Hafer, who was also vying for the spot. And he wasn't talking about "twenty-seven boxes" -- he was talking about one: the right of women to have abortions. Casey, you see, is hard core anti-abortion.
The article itself, which is directed toward those who traditionally vote Democratic in the belief that the Democrats will at least defend abortion rights, sets up a straw man. The reason we have gotten to the state "where the very hard right will run America," the article implies, is because Democrats have too unambiguously supported abortion rights. Hence the Democrats must now "reach out" by nominating candidates who oppose those rights. But don't worry, by electing such candidates, you'll actually - somehow -- be securing those rights.
So goes the distortion of facts and tortured logic that justifies casting aside principle. First off, the support for abortion rights in the Democratic Party is hardly firm and far from universal. No less a Democrat than Harry Reid, their leader in the Senate, is anti-choice, as are at least 30 Democrats in the House of Representatives. Bill Clinton, as president, capitulated on the moral issue when he said that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare. But why should abortion necessarily be rare? Why shouldn't it be the forcing of women to have babies that they don't want that is "rare" - or better yet, something that never happens at all? Why should women be made to feel defensive about deciding if and when they want to have a child? In the event, the real-world availability of abortions grew increasingly restricted under Clinton, as abortion doctors were killed and otherwise driven out of many areas in the U.S. during his two terms. For Clinton to hand the ideological initiative and the mantle of "morality" to these zealots, woman-haters and fascists was unconscionable.
Today Hillary Clinton goes even further in the same vein. In a recent, highly publicized speech, she said that "We can all recognize that abortion represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," and professed her "respect" for those who want to forbid ALL abortions, no matter what the circumstance. Think about that - respect for the hardest-line Christian Fascist fanatics in a movement that has stopped at nothing, even cold-blooded murder, to take away one of the most central rights of women!
But now it is claimed that even this relative and conditional support is too much. The New Yorker article all but explicitly blames the very real threat that the "very hard right" - that is, the Christian Fascists - "will run America" on the tepid Democratic support for abortion rights. In fact, this threat (and the serious gains that the fascists have made in realizing that goal) arose out of far more complex conditions than that - though the fight of women for emancipation and their changing overall role in society was and is clearly one key part of what is at issue in all this, and the effort to jam women much further down into a subordinate position, and to take away all the rights won in the '60s and '70s (including not just abortion, but birth control as well), makes up a cornerstone of this movement. 1 But this fascist ascendancy has actually been fed and fueled by the defensiveness on this issue promoted by people like the Clintons, while the mainstream movement channeled everyone into backing them and politicians like them as the main thing to do. And now this is culminating in a wholesale capitulation on this issue.
The New Yorker article ends with a number of pro-choice women convincing themselves to not just vote for, but to even give money to and work for Casey - in the name of getting rid of the even harder-line Republican, Santorum. The author quotes an activist associated with Planned Parenthood: "I'm beginning to feel comfortable. I think a lot of us are. . . [Casey] said he's not going to Washington push an anti-abortion agenda. . . Hopefully, there won't be any major vote coming up where he'll have to vote [against abortion rights]." Gee, that's a realistic basis for hope - a politician's promise, and the idea that there will be no votes pertaining to abortion rights coming up in the next six years. Right.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party carries forward its strategy of conciliation with fascism, in the name of "realism." People opposed to the war were told to give money to and work for the pro-war Kerry. . . to somehow end the war. All too many did. Now those who want to fiercely defend the rights of women to abortion are told to give money to and work for those who oppose abortion rights. . . to somehow protect abortion. This is a strategy of wishful thinking, not realism, and it is the logic of capitulation. It is a logic that must be rejected.
The remark by Schumer that began this article makes this all too clear. Look at it again. If the Democrats had 65 senators, he says, well, then they could make a show of defending principle on abortion rights. But now the going is tough, and the Democrats can't afford "to play games" - play games!
Question: how can you rely on people who equate the defense of one of the most fundamental rights of women - the defense, quite literally of women's lives - to "playing games"?
Answer: you can't. Any more than you can defeat fascism with fascism-lite.
1. The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy...And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer, by Bob Avakian (Revolutionary Worker #1255, October 17, 2004).