Revolution #146, October 26, 2008
Obama’s “Common Ground”….
And Capitulation on Abortion
In the final presidential debate, the moderator posed: “Sen. McCain. Sen. McCain, you believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Sen. Obama, you believe it shouldn’t.” On the surface these seem like completely opposed positions. But the reality is that Obama’s position on abortion cedes critical moral and legal ground to those who would ban all abortion (and birth control).
In the debate, Obama called for finding “common ground” between “both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion.” But what “common ground” can there be between relentless, powerful, highly connected forces in society who want to ban all abortion (and birth control) on the one hand, and those who understand that defending reproductive freedom is critical to the liberation of women on the other? The “common ground” Obama is calling for can only mean, as we have written previously, “the capitulation of those who want to uphold and fight for the right to abortion and for birth control to those who are determined to abolish them, and criminalize them.”
Obama insisted that both sides must agree that “sexuality is sacred” and that adoption and keeping a baby should be officially promoted policies. These positions accommodate and pave the way for legitimizing essential elements of the dark-ages woman-enslaving morality of the anti-abortion movement—that sex is only moral for the purpose of women having babies, and that “life begins at conception.” And Obama made clear that he, like McCain, is for banning late term abortions (he used the anti-abortion terminology of “partial-birth abortions”), as long as there are provisions for the life and health of the woman. This is a position that has long been used by the anti-abortionists as an entryway to banning all abortion.
For those who might not find such “common ground” and conciliation acceptable, Obama played the “lesser-of-two-evils” card: “It is very likely that one of us will be making at least one and probably more than one appointments and Roe versus Wade probably hangs in the balance.”
But little as this is understood, elections and Supreme Court appointments do not determine how big questions like the right to abortion get settled. Roe v. Wade was not the result of an election, or the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice. In fact the Justice (Blackmun) who wrote the majority opinion upholding the right to abortion was a life-long conservative Republican, and a Nixon appointee. The Roe v. Wade decision, in 1973—like civil rights rulings and legislation that preceded it—was a concession wrung from the ruling class. In the face of a movement for women’s liberation and great political and social upheaval; in the face of a worldwide revolutionary movement in which the liberation of women was an important element; and facing big changes in U.S. society that peaked in the late 1960s and early 1970s; the U.S. ruling class made a decision to legalize abortion, which until that time had been conducted in “back alleys” with horrific results for women.
Since that time, the legal and ideological assault on abortion rights has reemerged with a vengeance. Abortion is constantly portrayed as “killing a life,”—which it is not, human life begins when a baby is born—as opposed to a way for women to choose whether or not to have a child. And this moral, cultural, and legal assault on abortion has not been met with anything close to the necessary resistance, with many in the organized pro-choice movement buying into the logic of relying on the Democrats—a “logic” that has led us to the current dangerous situation. Access to abortion has been drastically restricted, the right to abortion itself is under siege, and dangerous ground has been lost in the battle for public opinion.
To the extent that people buy into the Obama package, even further political and moral ground will be lost, creating a worse situation to defend and expand abortion rights, and to stop the Supreme Court from overturning Roe v. Wade. Instead, what is urgently needed is a defiant movement upholding a woman’s right to abortion on demand, without the approval of any patriarch or the “guidance of her religious advisor,” and without apology.
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