Friday, June 03, 2005

Pro-Choice Groups Single-Issue To A Fault

Many have called Social Security the third-rail of American politics. For Democrats, I sometimes think the same hands-off status can be assigned to saying anything against a pro-choice group, lest one appear unsupportive of one of the central tenets of being liberal.

But, as NARAL Pro-Choice America recently made a well-publicized
endorsement of Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee – consistent with a frequent tact of abortion rights groups to endorse all pro-choice incumbents, regardless of party affiliation – it's time to start questioning the wisdom behind their myopic logic.

By what insane rationale do pro-choice organizations like NARAL – and, in my own backyard, the Westchester Coalition for Legal Abortion (WCLA) -- believe that promoting a Republican majority in the United States Senate is good for the choice movement in the long term?

In endorsing even a moderate Republican like Chafee, NARAL is making a decision to also promote the broader Bush agenda and to galvanize the growing influence of the Religious Right on our national dialog. With the showdown over Republican efforts to neuter Democratic influence by ending the Senate filibuster and a Supreme Court battle looming, it is difficult to remember when the danger of this kind of support has been brought into such specific relief.

In addition to Republicans holding control over the executive and legislative branches of government, they are now attempting to engineer a takeover of the judicial branch – the single biggest threat to Roe Vs. Wade and, presumably, everything organizations like NARAL are fighting for.

So, what in the world can NARAL be thinking? As my blogging colleague David Sirota recently pointed out, NARAL is not intended to be an appendage of the Democratic party. Rather, it is a single-issue group, whose charter compels it to accomplish its pro-choice mission by all means necessary. This includes endorsing whomever can have the most sway on behalf of their cause.

Assuming Republican incumbents are pro-choice, NARAL and the WCLA reason that they can get more bang for their buck by supporting those who have already established a power base.

Talk about focusing on the battle while not caring about the war.

No matter what non-partisan position abortion rights groups stake out, the reality is that almost all of their contributor base consists of liberals and, like it or not, they exist primarily in a Democratic social and political universe.

In other words, we are their people, not Republicans.

As our country becomes further polarized and as election-year battles rage on in 2006 and 2008, NARAL will be held responsible for supporting Republicans by many of us who have been contributors. It's an ugly feeling for us liberals to know that money we donate to NARAL may directly or indirectly find its way into conservative pockets.

Of course, NARAL has the right to support whomever they choose. But that doesn't mean we Democrats have to respect them for it. Perhaps NARAL's officers can feel good knowing that they are preserving their daughters' domain over their own bodies, while ignoring that every time they endorse a Republican they are contributing to higher deficits, an unjust war, an abused environment and everything else the Bush administration stands for.

While it is true that they have every right to serve their constituents in the most politically expedient way possible, the rest of us don't have to respect their choice to support Republicans.

NARAL may also want to take a look at what has already begun happening to the WCLA in Westchester County (NY). The WCLA supported Republican Nick Spano in his narrow, 18-vote victory over Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins, much to the chagrin of many Westchester Democrats. The WCLA will almost certainly support Spano again and, if Stewart-Cousins defeats him in 2006, you will be able to fit the already-diminished political influence of the WCLA in a thimble.

So while we may be able to remain causal fiends with our pro-choice brothers and sisters who sometimes support Republicans, they shouldn't count on being invited to the same parties where they formerly were welcome.

So I say to NARAL, the WCLA and other pro-choice groups: We Democrats will always hang with you on the choice issue. It would be nice if you would support some of the other things we care about as well.