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Democratic Leadership Rethinking Abortion

Ah yes. I’m waiting for the Dems to just pull out one more card that will make the whole house of principles collapse as they fully embrace their inner Republican. Pull the first card off as you move to the right, toss gays overboard (while taking our money). Now let’s pull out another — tell women their reproductive rights are on the table, up for negotiation and those potential Red state voters. Read between the lines folks, more cards are going to attempt to be plucked off. (LA Times):

After long defining itself as an undisputed defender of abortion rights, the Democratic Party is suddenly locked in an internal struggle over whether to redefine its position to appeal to a broader array of voters.

The fight is a central theme of the contest to head the Democratic National Committee, particularly between two leading candidates: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who supports abortion rights, and former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, an abortion foe who argues that the party cannot rebound from its losses in the November election unless it shows more tolerance on one of society’s most emotional conflicts.

Roemer is running with the encouragement of the party’s two highest-ranking members of Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and incoming Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Dean, a former presidential candidate, is popular with the party’s liberal wing.

If Roemer were to succeed Terry McAuliffe as Democratic chairman in the Feb. 10 vote, the party long viewed as the guardian of abortion rights would suddenly have two antiabortion advocates at its helm. Reid, too, opposes abortion and once voted for a nonbinding resolution opposing Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

Party leaders say their support for preserving the landmark ruling will not change. But they are looking at ways to soften the hard line, such as promoting adoption and embracing parental notification requirements for minors and bans on late-term abortions. Their thinking reflects a sense among strategists that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and the party’s congressional candidates lost votes because the GOP conveyed a more compelling message on social issues.

But in opening a discussion about new appeals to abortion opponents, party leaders are moving into uncertain terrain. Abortion rights activists are critical pillars of the Democratic Party, providing money and grass-roots energy. Some of them say they are concerned that Democratic leaders are entertaining any changes to the party’s approach to abortion.

A senior official of one of the nation’s largest abortion rights groups said she would be concerned if the party were to choose Roemer to head the Democratic National Committee.

“We want people who are pro-choice. Of course I would be disappointed,” said the official, who asked that her name be withheld because of her close alliance with party officials.

Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Democratic strategists who were pushing for the abortion discussion had misconstrued the results of the November election by overstating the strength of “values” voters.

Feldt said she had spoken to Kerry and Roemer on Wednesday, and that both had sought to allay her concerns. Both assured her that the party was not changing its stance on abortion, but merely wanted to be more “inclusive.”

The debate among Democrats comes at a time when abortion rights supporters are feeling particularly vulnerable. Congress passed a ban on what critics call “partial-birth” abortion last year that Bush signed into law. Last month, abortion opponents were emboldened when four conservative Republicans were elected to the Senate. Also, anticipated retirements from the Supreme Court could give Bush the chance to nominate justices that would tilt the court against Roe vs. Wade.

No one thinks that abortion is the best option; the problem is that the GOP has no interest in dealing with the subject of contraception in any kind of intelligent way, and once a baby is born, the party has no interest in making sure that the mother and unexpected child succeed. It’s a slippery slope folks, and if you’ve got both parties retreating on both rights and responsibilities, we’re in a sorry and frightening state in politics.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding