Who Likes The “A” Word? Very Few People, Actually

Posted: Apr 22, 2007 4:25 PM
Who Likes The “A” Word?  Very Few People, Actually

Okay - - raise your hand if you'd like to see the abortion issue disappear from the national debate.

There's nothing wrong with engaging in a little wishful thinking now and then. And if that is honestly how you think of the issue - - you wish it would go away - - well, it would appear that you're not alone.

After the Supreme Court's ground breaking decision on April 18th to uphold a federal ban on partial-birth abortions, one might think that certain political figures, like, maybe those who want to be our next President, would have a lot to say about it. With such a polarizing issue, a decision like this should have provided plenty of fodder for cheers and complaints alike.

But a quick glance at six of the top candidates - - Giuliani, McCain and Romney on the right, and Clinton, Obama and Edwards on the left - - indicates otherwise.

To be sure, all six of them issued official "statements" regarding the court ruling, and had them posted on their respective websites.

But while Clinton abhorred the ruling and Giuliani loved it, they were the only two out of the six to actually use the word "abortion" (as in "partial birth abortion") in their statements. The rest of the candidates dodged the "a" word altogether, while offering commentary on the ruling itself.

McCain, for example, claimed that the decision was a "victory for those who cherish the sanctity of life and integrity of the judiciary." Romney, on the other hand, referenced the ban on a "practice that offends basic human decency," and spoke of "protecting the weakest and most innocent among us."

In opposing the decision, Obama expressed his concern for "the health of pregnant women," "decisions between a doctor and patient," and "a woman's right to choose." Edwards, no more happier about the ruling, dove directly in to the politics of it and alleged that there has been a "hard right turn" in the Supreme Court, while reminding his audience why Democrats cannot afford to lose the White House in 2008.

So, as crucial as this event was for the broader abortion debate- - the U.S. Supreme Court affirming a ban on the partial birth procedure - - four out of the six top presidential candidates chose to avoid saying the very word "abortion," preferring instead to speak of ancillary issues that are associated with it.

What does this mean? The avoidance of the "a" word by the presidential wannabes is not an accident, and a sure sign that abortion talk, whether pro or con, is for the most part a political loser.

On the right side of the aisle, the equation seems easy enough to understand. When Republicans - - especially white, male Republicans - - say the word "abortion," it reminds some voters of old stereotypes about men who are stuck in antiquated patriarchal patterns, and who want to dictate what women can and cannot do. In this regard, it's much safer to speak of cherishing "the sanctity of life," and to stand up for "human decency."

But why wouldn't Obama or Edwards be bold and forthright while they're courting the "base" of their party? Instead of fussing over doctor-patient issues and "hard right turns," why not just come out and fight for "abortion rights?" The hesitancy of the left to use the "a" word is telling, and signifies a shift in American culture.

Historically, abortion advocates have tried to deny or downplay the existence of a life other than that of the mother. Casting the argument in terms of a woman's authority over "her own body," impersonal words like "tissue" and "fetus" have been used to describe the entity that is removed from the womb.

Despite the fact that avoiding words like "baby" and "child" defies a basic, intuitive understanding of pregnancy, this rhetorical gamesmanship has over the years been compelling for some. But that's beginning to change. And that's a problem for the social and political left.

Consider the enormous advancements in the past decade with ultrasound technology. The vivid sonogram images of children in the womb that are today commonplace during prenatal care, have made it increasingly difficult to deny the existence of the child. These kinds of images have, over time, impacted people's perceptions about pregnancy. And, like it or not, they have made Americans more uncomfortable with abortion.

Ironically, the "life" debate is moving away from the prenatal department and towards the convalescent care and hospice facility. Future deliberations will not be so much about "a woman's right to choose," but rather, an individual's right to "pull the plug" on somebody else.

Stay tuned for more uncomfortable political wrangling as we confront the "e" word - - euthanasia.