Going Off the Deep End in Denver:
Democrats Walk the Abortion Plank

Steven Mosher
PRI Weekly Briefing
29 August 2008
Vol. 10 / No. 34
Reproduced with Permission

Already notorious for its unconditional embrace of abortion, the Democratic Party has now managed to adopt a position on the paramount life issue that is, if anything, even more extreme. The new platform adopted in Denver states that the Party "strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right."

Past Democratic Party platforms had managed to at least sound moderate by invoking the formulation, popularized by Bill Clinton, that the party's goal was to make abortion "safe, legal, and rare." The problem arose with the word "rare," which important elements of the party's political base seem to have found offensive. It certainly grated on the sensibilities of feminists, the more radical of whom regard abortion not as something to be avoided but as a positive act of liberation from conventional sex roles, a bloody rite of passage into their own largely barren ranks. Even pro-choice feminists of a more moderate persuasion were unhappy at the moral judgment implicit in the call to make abortion "rare." They may not have regarded abortion as an unmitigated good, but they were certainly unhappy with anyone who suggested that it was in any way unsavory.

The abortion industry, led by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, was equally unhappy with Ma and Pa Clinton's call to make abortion "rare." Their unease had to do less with ideology, however, than with that fact that it was -- to quote the whispered words of Marlin Brando in The Godfather -- "bad for business." I have no doubt that the Clintons probably reassured abortion executives that their use of the word "rare" was just empty political rhetoric, but I question whether the abortion mavens were mollified. It was bad enough that the profits of their billion-dollar business were being squeezed by falling abortion rates, thanks in large part to the successful efforts of millions of pro-lifers to defend the unborn and provide alternatives for women. But to have their own pro-choice politicians, men and women whose candidacies they had endorsed and whose campaigns they had funded, suggest that the way the industry earned its livelihood was somehow disreputable (else why make it rare?); this could not be tolerated indefinitely.

The new Democratic Party platform not only promises that abortion will remain "safe and legal," but also that it will be made more common as well. What else is one to conclude from the document's insistence that women have a right to an abortion "regardless of ability to pay?" After all, if you want more of something, you subsidize it. If the government starts providing "free" abortions (paid for by the American taxpayer, of course) to all comers, a big increase in abortions will follow as surely as night follows day. Big Abortion -- that is to say Planned Parenthood -- would reap windfall profits. The Hyde Amendment, which has hitherto barred the use of federal monies to pay for abortions, will become a dead letter.

The platform also comes out against parental consent or notification laws, waiting periods, informed consent provision, and all of the other modest measures that pro-lifers have proposed to provide women in crisis pregnancies with alternatives to abortion. This is what the phrase, "we are opposed any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right (to an abortion)," means in practice. In short, the Democrats have now formally endorsed taxpayer-funded abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy and rejected all efforts to allow women a true choice when it comes to continuing their pregnancies. If this isn't abortion absolutism, I don't know what is.

Yet in the final paragraph of this short section, the platform appears to reverse itself, declaring that the "Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs." (italics added) We are supposed to read this as an expression of pro-life sentiment. This would be a mistake. The wording makes it clear that unborn children have no rights.

But what about the list of government programs to help expectant mothers, you say. Isn't this evidence of pro-life sympathies? Well, of course the Democrats want "programs for pre- and post-natal health care" (read: national health care), "parenting skills" (read: more government-funded education"), and "income support" (Read: guaranteed minimum income). These big government programs are, after all, part and parcel of the larger Democratic agenda, and are discussed at length elsewhere in the platform. Whatever the merits of these programs may be, however, they are marshaled here merely to create the impression that the party, despite its radical commitment to abortion, is not unsympathetic to women who, as the radical feminists say, want to experience "birthing."

As far as the reference to adoption is concerned, this is hardly a new departure. Adoption was already mentioned in the 2004 platform and does not cause controversy in Party ranks. It is easy to understand why. Adoption scarcely impacts Big Abortion's profits, since almost no young women who choose to continue their pregnancies do so in order to give their babies up for adoption. Moreover, the government programs touted by the platform would, if passed, virtually ensure that even fewer young women will consider adoption in the future.

I recently spoke with a young mother in California who told me of her experience with Planned Parenthood's counselors. She had been thinking about giving up her baby when the time came. When she told the counselor she was pregnant, however, the women simply looked at her and, in a bored voice, said: "Come back on Tuesday. That's when we do abortions." So much for caring alternatives to abortion from the nation's largest abortion provider.

Finally, the platform includes the Democratic Party's standard pitch for "access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empowers people to make informed choices and live healthy lives." The document goes on to assert that such programs "help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions," but these claims are both highly dubious.

A moment's reflection should be enough to convince any sensible adult that pornographic sex-ed programs, combined with condom and birth control pill giveaways, are likely to increase, not decrease, the amount of sexual activity among teenagers. "Just do it," Planned Parenthood sex-ed instructors say to impressionable kids. "If you use a condom (or take a pill) you have nothing to fear." A few months later the girls start walking through the doors of Planned Parenthood abortion mills, where they are told that the operating table holds the solution to all their problems.

Despite efforts to spin it as some kind of olive branch to pro-lifers, the mention of reducing the "need for abortions" is anything but. As The New York Times (August 14, 2008) makes clear, "pro-choice opinion leaders like Planned Parenthood and NARAL have been talking about the importance of reducing the number of abortions in America for decades." What the Times doesn't say is that their solution -- the failed sex-ed/condom approach mentioned above -- actually raises the abortion rate.

Planned Parenthood, of course, knows this very well, which is why it is happy to pay lip service to the idea that the abortion rate should be reduced. In the meantime, what really happens is the following: First, Planned Parenthood is paid by the feds to carry out sex-ed programs in the schools. Then Planned Parenthood is paid by the feds to hand out free contraceptives to kids. Finally, the kids get pregnant, and have to pony up for their own abortions. Planned Parenthood gets paid a third time.

All this is to say that America's biggest abortion provider (and most profitable non-profit) has no problem, no problem at all, with the Democratic Party's new abortion plank. Why, it could have written it for the platform drafting committee. In fact, it probably did.