CHARLOTTE — Never have I heard as much talk about abortion as at this convention, where speech after speech highlights how wrong I’ve been to wince every time Barack Obama is referred to as “the abortion president.”
With America so divided on this issue and most people somewhere in the middle, MSNBC’s First Read observed on Wednesday that “perhaps the most surprising part of last night was that it had more talk about abortion rights than in any Democratic convention since 1992, the first of many self-described “Year of the Woman” campaign years....Four years ago, it seemed the Democratic Party was going out of its way to feature pro-life officeholders, like Tim Kaine or Bob Casey Jr., as a way to set a different tone on culture. Fast forward four years later and it’s clear Democrats and the Obama campaign were sending the not-so-subtle message that they believe the secret formula [is] capitalizing on the gender gap: talk about women’s rights and women’s choices.’’
Naturally, conservatives are loving the clarity of the party’s “hammer, meet nail” approach: RedState.com’s Erick Erickson tweeted that the first night of the DNC was indistinguishable from “the Vagina Monologues,’’ and the Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis dubbed the result “Abortion-palozza.’’
Republicans pitched to women at their recent convention in Tampa, too, of course — “I love you women!’’ shouted a giddy Ann Romney from the stage — though they didn’t have much to say about what they’d actually do for us, and were all but mum on social issues.
Democrats, on the other hand, seem to think that in repetition on reproduction, there is poetry. And it isn’t only abortion-rights lobbyists like Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, who’ve preached on it from the podium; Julian Castro,
For those still not sure where the party stands, a young mom named Libby Bruce told delegates how Planned Parenthood treated her endometriosis 12 years ago. One-time Republican Maria Ciano assured them that if voters give the president a second term, “our right to make our own most personal decisions will be safe for another generation.” Sandra Fluke claimed that if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are elected instead, we’ll wake up in “an America in which you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms.”
After hours, delegates could attend their choice of parties hosted by pro-choice groups. And in the street in front of the convention center, women in pink Planned Parenthood t-shirts argued with protesters holding fetal photos I could have lived a long, happy life without ever glimpsing. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear this was the issue dividing the parties.
Which is doubly rich — “Now that is choice,’’ my Aunt Ginny used to say — because the Republican Party is pushing policies that would surely increase the number of abortions. At a panel for the outnumbered but undaunted “Democrats for Life” I moderated here, several people noted that “RomneyCare,” which unlike “ObamaCare” does pay for abortions, has brought the abortion rate down in Massachusetts, and the Affordable Care Act can
do the same for the country as a whole.
Catholic University’s Steve Schneck argued that the number of abortions would skyrocket if Romney is elected and Medicaid funding slashed, because a majority of women who have abortions cite financial considerations as a factor and the cuts in aid to those already struggling would only worsen those challenges.
But that’s not a message mentioned from the podium.
Will Democrats pay a price for pitching to the base at the expense of moderates? Probably not, because undecided voters are unlikely to have tuned in for speech after speech outside of prime time. Bill Clinton was the pitch man for that voter. He did a genius job at breaking down the economic argument for Obama, too, and thankfully did not present himself as a friend of womankind.
Even the tribute to Teddy Kennedy, who for many years considered himself pro-life, was used to drive home the ubiquitous abortion rights theme, via footage of the ’94 senatorial debate in which Kennedy called Romney “multiple choice” on the issue. A tireless advocate for the dispossessed, Kennedy was so much more than that — and his party used to be, too.
Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors the paper’s ‘She the People’ blog. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.