As a poster to my blog commented sarcastically about Obama apologists: "Please vote for Obama. True, he sucks, but…"
Which summarizes the feelings of many Democratic voters.
Others, whether smarter or more long-winded, try to justify their cognitive dissonance with one simple plea: If Obama loses, abortion will be banned.
You've heard their argument:
"It's all about the Supreme Court."
"It's all about Roe v. Wade."
Indeed, because four members of the Supreme Court are in their 70s, a Romney victory could lead to the end of federally-guaranteed abortion rights.
Obama played on women's fears in a recent interview with Rolling Stone:
"I don't think there's any doubt [that Roe v. Wade could be overturned]," Obama said. "Typically, a president is going to have one or two Supreme Court nominees during the course of his presidency, and we know that the current Supreme Court has at least four members who would overturn Roe v. Wade. All it takes is one more for that to happen."
A woman's right to control her body is important.
It's also popular. 77% of Americans think abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances.
But single-issue voting is morally problematic. How does one weigh abortion rights for American women against the right of Pakistani (and Yemeni, and Afghan, and Somali) women (and men, and children) to not get blown up by one of Obama's disgusting Predator drones, which have 2% accuracy? Should a feminist close her eyes to the Obama Administration's actions in U.S.-occupied Haiti, where it pressured the post-invasion Haitian puppet regime to slash the minimum wage for (mostly female) workers in U.S.-owned sweatshops by half, to 31 cents an hour? Shall we turn a blind eye to the people of Honduras, suffering through the aftermath of an old-fashioned military coup against a democratically-elected president, an outrage backed by Obama?
Let's talk about abortion.
If you can overlook Gitmo and the bankster bailouts and the lack of investigations of Wall Street and Bush-era torturers, even if you're cool with the healthcare sellout and the assassinations and the wars and a president who golfs while the unemployed (including many women) lose their homes—if abortion is all you care about—there still isn't much reason to vote for Obama.
Romney is barely pro-life.
And Obama is barely pro-choice.
First, let's be clear about what's at stake. Abortion rights are not at stake.
Abortion rights in states with conservative legislatures are at stake.
A City University of New York study guesstimates that 31 "red" states, mostly in the South and Midwest, would ban abortion if Roe v. Wade went away. The effect would be significant. An average woman would see the distance to the nearest abortion clinic increase to 157 miles.
If you live in northeast Kansas, it's more like 600 miles. But northeast Kansas is sparsely populated. The state ban effect would be mitigated by the fact that the biggest states—California, Florida, New York, etc.—are liberal and pro-choice. "Under this scenario, abortion rates would fall by 14.9 percent nationally, resulting in at most, 178,800 additional births or 4.2 percent of the U.S. total in 2008."
What we're really talking about is whether abortion will be 85% safe and legal (post-Romney) or 100% (post-Obama's 200th round of golf).
Like the independence of Taiwan, the status of abortion in America lives in an absurd legal netherworld, ad hoc, awkward and makeshift, neither legal nor illegal.
Abortion should be a settled issue. Roe v. Wade, only as good as the current composition of the Supreme Court, can and should be supplanted by a federal law passed by Congress and signed by the president.
Would Romney sign a federal ban? Probably not.
An Obama campaign ad includes a 2007 debate quote by Romney in which he said he'd be "delighted" to sign such a bill were it to cross his desk. But it leaves out what he said next, that a ban is "not where America is today." Anything is possible, but not too many politicians—certainly not one as craven and wishy-washy flexible as Romney—are willing to piss off 77% of the electorate.
Of course, Romney is an unknown quantity. We don't know what he'd do.
On the other hand, we do know what Obama did. And what he didn't do.
Would Obama sign a federal legalization? Definitely not.
In 2007 he told Planned Parenthood that he would. However, after he became president—with a supermajority in Congress, natch—he walked that back. "Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not highest [sic] legislative priority," he said in April 2009. "I believe that women should have the right to choose. But I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on. And that's—that's where I'm going to focus."
The White House ordered Democratic leaders in Congress to kill the Freedom of Choice Act. FOCA has never been introduced under Obama.
Romney and Obama are continuing their parties' cynical posturing on abortion. Knowing that abortion is popular, Republicans rile up their right-wing misogynist base with loud rhetoric and minor legislative initiatives that fall way short of a federal ban.
Democrats, who exploit the fear that a right-wing Supreme Court would overthrow Roe v. Wade, would lose their leverage over pro-choicers if they legalized abortion.
So, if you're a pro-choice voter, if abortion rights is the main reason you're voting for Obama, remember two facts:
First, only 15% of abortion rights is at risk.
Second, when Obama had the political capital and the Congressional backing to legalize abortion once and for all, he sold you out.
For Obama, women are "not highest legislative priority."
(Ted Rall's latest book is "The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt." His website is tedrall.com
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