Anti-abortion, pro-Obama

Casey, Roemer seek "new consensus," "common ground"

By Lynn Harris

Published April 16, 2008 7:23PM (EDT)

You know what always puts a smile on my face? Reading that -- as the Washington Post reported on Monday -- "antiabortion leaders" are "alarmed." What seems to be the trouble this time? Well, these "leaders" -- in this case, those in Indiana and Pennsylvania -- are not delighted that "strong and consistent abortion foes" Sen. Robert P. Casey (Pa.) and former congressman Timothy J. Roemer (Ind.) have endorsed Pro-Life Sen. Barack Obama.

"As firmly as Casey and Roemer have adhered to their opposition, Obama has never supported a single measure that would curtail access to abortion -- even under controversial circumstances," notes the Post. So what gives? "Casey and Roemer have chosen to ignore Obama's legislative record, and are promoting the Democratic presidential candidate to their anti-abortion allies as someone who could achieve a new consensus on the issue. 'He has the unique skills to try to lower the temperature and foster a sense of common ground, and try to figure out ways that people can agree,' Casey said, although the freshman senator added, 'On this issue, it's particularly hard.'"

The other thing that puts a smile on my face: when it's the anti-abortion side (as opposed to, you know, us) who are pointing their pennyloafers toward this thing we've come to call the "middle" or "common" ground. Which, really, should just be called "COMMON FUCKING SENSE," but for expediency's sake, I'll take it. I mean, we've set the bar pretty low if we get all goopy and "I love you, man" over anyone who gets that reducing the causes of abortion are in everyone's best interest. (I also resent the built-in implication that the repro-rights crew, heretofore busy trying to increase the number of abortions, just figured this "prevention" stuff out yesterday.)

Call it posturing, call it what you like. But I'd like to be heartened by the possibility that Casey and Roemer are maybe not such mavericks, by the implication in their endorsements that there are voters out there -- such as Pro Life for Obama, or, er, Anne Rice for Clinton -- who may be privately opposed to abortion but who may also feel alienated by the hard lines and frankly untenable positions (no birth control?) of many anti-abortion advocates. (Pro-Life for Obama's description: "A group for those who oppose abortion, but feel that Obama's proposed policies will do a better job of preventing abortion than another four years of Republicans taking half-hearted pro-life positions while making it harder for women to choose life.")

As the Post notes, "The endorsements send a powerful signal in two critical battlegrounds: Pennsylvania, which will hold its primary on April 22, and Indiana, which will vote on May 6. Both states have sizable segments of socially conservative Democrats who reject the party's orthodoxy on an issue they have long viewed as troubling and complex. Casey's endorsement is particularly important because Obama's ability to reach these voters is even more in question in light of the controversy provoked by his description of small-town Pennsylvania voters as driven by bitterness over their economic situation and looking for ways 'to explain their frustrations.'" And maybe, just maybe, this time -- as long as they understand that McCain's "pro-life" positions are anything but "half-hearted" -- voters will eventually choose a "middle ground" that includes the full complement of reproductive rights.

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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