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ELECTION 08: Democrats could have small fight over abortion language in platform

Updated Aug. 6, 2008

PITTSBURGH (BP)–When the Democratic platform committee gathers in Pittsburgh this weekend, a small scuffle related to abortion rights in the party platform may ensue.

As detailed by Beliefnet.com editor-in-chief Steven Waldman, two competing ideas about abortion rights could clash.

On one side of the debate are Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, two evangelicals who want language placed in the Democratic Party platform calling for a reduction in abortions. Campolo sits on the platform committee.

On the other side of the debate are two staunch pro-choicers — Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Frances Kissling, a longtime-advocate of abortion rights — who oppose adding any such plank to the platform. Michelman and Kissling co-wrote a column for Salon.com criticizing the proposed plank, arguing it is no more moral to have a baby than to abort the baby.

“[T]elling women that the Democrats’ commitment to abortion rights is what should drive their vote, while simultaneously suggesting, as Wallis and his allies do, that given the choice, having a baby is a more moral choice than abortion, will be understood for what it is: condescending and sexist. It is likely to stoke, not slake, the flames of anger, since women are well aware of the moral dimensions of pregnancy,” they wrote.

Interestingly, Michelman and Kissling argued that “reducing the need for abortion is sound policy” and one that they have worked toward in their careers. The divide apparently is on the issue of morality.

Wallis told ABCNews.com, “Taking abortion seriously as a moral issue would help Democrats a great deal with a constituency that is already leaning in their direction on poverty and the environment. There are literally millions of votes at stake.”

Wallis also said, “Abortion reduction should be a central Democratic Party plank in this election. I’ll just say that flat out.”

The conflict, Waldman points out, means that two of presumptive nominee Barack Obama’s goals — attracting evangelicals and keeping the support of pro-choicers — are in direct conflict. Obama historically has sided with the pro-choice wing of the party. He is co-sponsor of a new bill, the Freedom of Choice Act, aimed at overturning the ban on partial-birth abortion and other pro-life laws nationwide. The law would make abortion a federal right and would keep abortion legal, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned someday. He said in a 2007 speech to Planned Parenthood — the nation’s largest abortion provider — that the “first thing” he’d do as president is sign the bill. He also said in a July speech that he’ll “never back down” in his support of abortion rights.

Obama’s wife, Michelle, is scheduled to speak during the week of the Democratic National Convention in late August at a gathering of Emily’s List, an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women. Sen. Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also are scheduled to appear.

MCCAIN STANDS BY GAY ADOPTION COMMENTS — Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain stood by his opposition to homosexual adoption during an interview July 27 with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. McCain previously had told The New York Times he opposed homosexual adoption, but an aid subsequently seemed to back off the statement.

Asked what his position is, McCain said, “I think that two parent families are best for America.”

After a couple of exchanges Stephanopoulos said, “So, you’re against gay adoption.”

“I am for the values and principles that two parent families represent,” McCain said. “And I also do point out that many of these decisions are made by the states, as we all know. And I will do everything I can to encourage adoption, to encourage all of the things that keep families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job creation. And I’m running for president because I want to help families in America.”

REPUBLICANS TO VOTE FOR LIBERTARIAN NOMINEE? — Republican Rep. Ron Paul is no longer a candidate for president, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have any influence on the election. Paul, who made headlines with his opposition to the war in Iraq, says he can’t support Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama. Some of Paul’s supporters — particularly ones out west — are backing Libertarian nominee Bob Barr instead of McCain, according to USA Today.

“In Nevada, there’s absolutely enough (Barr supporters) to have an effect on the election,” Chuck Muth, a conservative activist in the state, told the newspaper.

Barr may win some libertarian votes, but he isn’t likely to win much support from social conservatives. He favors overturning the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which prevents homosexuals from openly serving. Barr also backs repealing the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which gives states the options of not recognizing “gay marriages” from another state.

“At the end of the day, Republicans are going to vote for John McCain. He’s a western candidate who understands water issues, land issues. He’s a fiscal conservative,” McCain spokesman Rick Gorka told USA Today.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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