The Specter of Roe vs. Wade, Part I

What pisses me off most about the current turn the Democratic Party has taken is the adoption and deployment of Republican campaign techniques. For years I have listened as prominent Democrats (often previously Republicans–see Markos Moulitsas & Arianna Huffington) have argued that Democrats must fight like Republicans. How can we possibly win by playing fair when they won’t, they would ask. We must fight fire with fire, they would argue. I would argue back that a strategy like that would result in a house on fire, as opposed to just the roof. That moral victories take longer because they aren’t conceived through attempts at marketing duplicity, the short-term dive to the bottom line via any means necessary. Moral victories are won with an eye on those very means.

Nearly as outrageous as the Democratic Party’s embrace of Republican-style voter suppression and election rigging as a means to victory is their adoption of the Politics of Fear. Front and center in the current deployment of this technique is the Specter of Roe vs Wade. This is the cudgel they are using to cut, the stick they are currently looming over you with, of course no bigger ’round than their thumb, per the law, and they are brandishing that weapon with equal parts desperation and venom. Vote for Obama, you stupid woman, or sacrifice your uterus, they are screaming. I think we get it. This is a Very Serious Issue.

The haka over Roe v Wade has been building since the MSM called the election for Obama on June 3rd. There were whispers of it before, along with the usual threats to blame Clinton and her supporters for soldiers dying in Iraq, for the coming economic woes, or the fact that gas prices will continue to rise. It’s as if we have the power, just by voting Democrat, to stop all of that in its tracks. Would that it were only true.

In the wake of a primary season where the Democratic leadership has adopted Republican campaign techniques, I think it’s fair to ask what, exactly, the Democratic Party has done for us in recent history. I mean, if it’s going to come down to the specter of Roe v Wade, if the Democratic politics of fear is going to work on Clinton supporters, then surely there’s a record of protection with regard to abortion rights, right? Oh, if only.

Since 2000, Democrats have capitulated on nearly every abortion front. No longer defiant in their willingness to entrench the right to privacy, they have changed their rhetoric. They now say abortion is abhorrent, and that they want to focus on minimizing the amount of abortions, rather than focus on defending the hard-fought fight. They openly cater to pro-lifers like Bob Casey, Jr. Don’t get me started on Bob Casey…with his open hatred for the Clintons because they defied God and beat the crap out of his father. But I digress.

How about on legislation? Any recent history of protection there? Nope. Probably the most egregious violation of Democrats’ constant promises to protect abortion rights was the Partial Birth Abortion act of 2003, which passed the Senate with the help of 17 Democrats, and the House with the help of 63 Democrats. The law was later upheld with the help of the 22 Democratic Senators who voted for Roberts and the 4 Democratic Senators who voted for Alito, both of whom went to the SCOTUS and voted to uphold it. That’s a total of 106 Senate votes by Democrats that resulted in losing ground on Roe V Wade. In just one example.

And about those Roberts and Alito votes. Part of the Roe haka incorporates an argument about how the SCOTUS is So Very Important, for reasons that go beyond Roe v Wade. Yeah, I thought so too, and argued that at the time, but elected Democrats didn’t give a damn what voting Democrats thought about that matter. Turns out, we were right. Now the court is so fucked up between Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia, that there is no salvaging it. We have already lost. Your boogey-man is too late. But I digress again. Get used to it. I can be tangential at times.

In the 109th congress, just before gaining power in 2006, 14 Democrats voted for S. 403, also known as the Interstate Abortion Bill. 54 Democratic members in the House also voted for a similar bill. The bill made it illegal for any person, including grandparents, to transport minors across state lines for the purposes of obtaining an abortion, under threat of prison time. This law passed with the help of those 14 Senate Democrats and 54 House Democrats, despite the fact that only 13% of all counties in the U.S. provide access at all to safe, medical abortion.

In that same year, 40 Democrats in the House voted for H. R. 6099, also known as the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which sought to inform women seeking an abortion how much it would “hurt” the fetus. Compared with the 152 Democrats who voted against the bill, that’s about 20% of Democrats who supported this blatantly anti-choice bill.

In 2007, pro-life Democrat Tim Ryan of OH, and pro-choice Democrat Rosa DeLauro of CT introduced the Abortion Reduction Initiative, a $647 million effort to “reduce abortions,” by funding contraception and providing support to low-income young families. While I agree with many of the provisions in the bill, I do hope readers can put two and two together and see that the title of this bill alone capitulates on abortion rights protection. It might easily have been called the “Support Families” initiative, or by any other name than one which signifies capitulation and pandering on this Very Serious Issue.

So that is six instances (including the Roberts and Alito nominations) where Democrats have at least partially failed on abortion rights protection since 2003. This is because elected Democrats themselves are divided. They insist on trying to be all things to all people. And it’s why there is room for this budding anti-choice movement in the Democratic Party, led by nominal Democrats such as Bob Casey, Jr, and the new anti-abortion rhetoric of abortion reduction, which is paying tribute to attempts at moral confusion by the Right. Please know that this is the reality of the situation before you buy into the haka. Democrats have been paying lip service to pro-choice constituencies for years, with absolutely nothing to back it up. They don’t care, except as a club to beat you with so you will submit to them via your vote.

Part II will examine the support of Democratic Pro-Choice groups in the last several years, with a focus on how effective they’ve been, who they’ve been working with in Congress, and to what end.

Update: h/t to commenter lori at The Confluence. It has come to my attention that Barack Obama’s progressive rating on abortion is 80%, with a rank of 40/99. There’s your answer to haka. Well, that and the “present” strategy.

Links in this series: Part II, Part III, and Part IV.


12 comments on “The Specter of Roe vs. Wade, Part I

  1. Lori says:

    This is my feeling about it – I helped protect abortion rights for my generation and part of that involved voting for people who proved they were reliable pro-choice votes. Part of voting for and supporting Obama is the recognition that he doesn’t have a first rate pro-choice voting record, and that he has alienated much of the Democratic base and that compromises his ability to win in November. If having a nominee who has the ability to protect Roe V Wade is important to you, then supporting Obama is not the way to go. It is important to me, and that’s why I suppport Clinton. Since Obama seems to have the nomination, I’m going to assume protecting Roe is a secondary priority for young feminists and not sweat my refusal to vote for Obama.

  2. annabellep says:


    I couldn’t agree more. Clinton and her supporters have a clear record of defending abortion rights. As a thirty-seven year old, I have helped hold the line for almost twenty years. Anyone who calls my refusal to vote for Obama a betrayal of abortion protection has not been paying attention, and their criticism is, like their master’s, just words.

  3. cowgirlblues says:

    Thanks ladys, picked this up over at PUMA, and I am actively fighting off obama supporters who are using this issue as the focal point to try and guilt and scare women into voting for him. I have been advocating that I will support democrats to the house and senate to ensure we have the power to filibuster and/or override any nominee by McCain-by having a supermajority-after all Sandra day O’conner was a reagan appointee, granted bush appointed some ya hoos—but whos to say in the next 4 years there will be an opening? I think survival may be the most important thing on anyones mind. thanks for some good talking points—I can’t seem to quit hitting the blogs for hillary–and I love taking on the Obama supporters-I go to Huff–just to poke sticks at them-you’re not going to change minds over there-but we must stop them from scaring women over to their side

  4. annabellep says:


    I’m not down with mob-style protection rackets either, which is just what Democrats are offering this year. My thinking is, if neither party thinks women’s issues are important, then I don’t have to vote. I live in a red state, so I have that option. My lack of participation, along with so many others, will be reflected in the new gender gap numbers coming from the exit polls after the November election. My actual strategy is to vote “present” by voting down ticket only, some for Democrats, some for third parties. Having the numbers not match up for different individual races will make all the right heads spin.

    Thanks for the comment, btw. Glad you found the site. I hope you check back tomorrow, as I’ll be posting part II of the series. I left this up so long because the blog is new, and I wanted as many people to see it as possible.

  5. antiintellectualelitist says:

    Interesting, and a fairly well-reasoned reply to mine…however, I am unable to agree with you that the parties are equivalent on this issue. For starters, while the rhetoric of Abortion Reduction may grate against real choice feminism, it is a fact that this is the prevalent trend, and not necessarily a bad one–I have managed to convince evangelical Christians of the necessity for recourse to abortion while using the idea of Abortion Reduction as a viable alternative. If she doesn’t get pregnant, she doesn’t need an abortion. And an abortion is a harrowing experience. I believe that any support of sex education, contraception, and income support is beneficial to both women and children–not least by minimizing the necessity for abortions.

    Second, the issue is a 5-4 split right now, with liberals and moderates on one side, and hard, hardcore young conservatives on the other. Reactionaries. While the Democratic party has certainly been less than noble on this issue (they are still a mainstream party, after all) I cannot believe that a Democratic president will appoint someone who is actively hostile to supporting a woman’s right to choose. Is this “lesser of two evils” philosophy? Yes. Is the greater evil substantially more frightening than the lesser? IMHO, this is the obvious case. Supporting McCain (or supporting no one, and thus giving right-wingers in power a stronger vote) is a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    Are the Democrats perfect? No. Is Barack Obama all things that his supporters say? Exceedingly unlikely. But I would rather have a president and judges who would weakly support my views and rights than a crusader to deny them. And we haven’t even started talking about Gitmo.


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  7. […] at Peacocks and Lilies takes on the Roe-v-Wade! mantra: As I outlined in The Specter of Roe v Wade Parts I, II, and III, elected Democrats and the pro-choice groups supposedly designed to protect your right […]

  8. […] this time around, though it has been a successful strategy in the past. In addition to the typical abortion boogey-man popping up here and there in the press, Democrats are pushing stories about how Congress will lose […]

  9. […] but I do feel vindicated about much of what I was writing in 2008, especially with regard to abortion and the Democrats dismal record of failure in that department. Here’s a taste of what she has […]

  10. […] are up to their usual tricks, trying to scare us, which I documented in a series about the use of Roe v. Wade as a specter.  This has been SOP for months now. Republicans want to take your contraception away. They want to […]

  11. […] are up to their usual tricks, trying to scare us, which I documented in a series about the use of Roe v. Wade as a specter.  This has been SOP for months now. Republicans want to take your contraception away. They want to […]

  12. […] no questions asked. It’s another example of Democrats’ predictable employment of the Specter of Roe v Wade strategy I started blogging in order to talk about four years ago. But you don’t have to buy it, or […]

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