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Monday, December 20, 2004

Can pro-life politicians reverse the gender gap?

We noted in trend-spotting that Democratic strategists are looking for a way to change its message on abortion to broaden the party's electoral appeal.

The Boston Globe picked up on this trend over the weekend with Democrats eye softer image on abortion.

My favorite paragraph from the article:

Kristin Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, said that during this year's campaign, she was frustrated by her inability to persuade the DNC to list the Internet link for her group on the DNC's website. But now, staffers for potential DNC candidates have been calling her to discuss including antiabortion Democrats in the party mix, she said."We're very encouraged. I think people are starting to wake up and say we can't alienate this whole wing of our party," she said. The group points to a Zogby poll indicating 43 percent of Democrats surveyed said they think abortion is manslaughter, a finding Day said shows the Democratic party leadership is out of synch with its members.

The blogger at Absit Invidia comments here.

John Kerry told an Emily's List crowd that Democrats had to let people know that "we don't like abortion". Can they persuade voters to believe this without alienating the I'm Not Sorry constituency which sees abortions as positive, empowering and good? Can the new voices urging a "we don't like abortion" message explain what's not to like about abortion without giving reasons that will persuade some of their voters to become consistently prolife?

We'll see, but it seems likely that the GOP is going to have to get smarter on abortion politics. I agree with the recommendation of David Reardon of The Elliot Institute, who suggests that prolife politicians adopt a pro-woman/pro-life stance. His two primary recommendations are to focus on ways to protect women from unwanted abortions and to protect women from the negative emotional and physical consequences of abortion through much better screening at abortion clinics.

Reardon also says, in Making Abortion Rare, that the gender gap isn't about choice. It's about shame. What he means is that prolife politicians need to talk about abortion in a way that doesn't implicitly or explicitly shame women who once (or more than once) made this tragic mistake. 43% of American women have had one or more abortions by the time they end their childbearing years. As Reardon says:

Most post-abortive women see themselves as "pro-choice" by default, not by ideology. They see abortion as an "evil necessity" which came into their lives at a time when they felt they had few, if any, other options. They don't want to be judged, so neither do they want to judge other women. This is one of the key reasons why they feel more comfortable with the rhetoric of "choice."...They are also inclined to believe that those who are against abortion will also be against them, ready to accuse them of evil and to remind them of the most private and painful experiences of their lives. The last thing post-abortive women need is a president, senator, or representative who will aggravate their feelings of guilt and shame by condemning abortion in a way that implies condemnation of post-abortive women.
To soften its message on abortion, Democrats have to indicate that abortions are less-than-desirable. Can they do that without saying that very small, developing babies have a moral claim on us? If they have a moral claim at all, why don't they have a moral claim to nearly complete protection?

To soften their image on abortion, Republicans have to condemn abortion without condemning women who make this tragic mistake.

With these choices, I'd so much rather be a prolife GOP politician.

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