Last night, I caught the tail end of Digby’s episode on Virtually Speaking. Now, I like Digby. I can be critical, and I will be in a moment, but I have to say that there are very few writers on the left that write with the clarity and precision of Digby. Most of the time, she is spot on when it comes to analyzing issues. During the last four years, I have dumped a lot of blogs from my reading list for their shameless selling out to the Obama dudes. Taylor Marsh, DailyKos and TalkLeft come immediately to mind. But I’ve always read Digby because she’s just that good.
But I think she’s wrong about Hillary’s “Safe, legal and rare” approach to abortion. I am firmly convinced, after watching and reading Hillary Clinton’s opinions and speeches over the last 20 years, that she focuses almost all of her efforts on prevention so that abortions are unnecessary. And why should she care to make them unnecessary? It’s because they are inconvenient, difficult to obtain, sometimes dangerous and expensive in many parts of the world, including this country. I don’t think that is a comment on how icky abortion is. It’s more a comment on reality. We technically have abortion on demand in this country but compared to even the most progressive nations in the world, and I do not count the US among those nations, abortion on demand throughout all nine months is unheard of. That’s because women in the most progressive nations have access to good contraception, education about family planning and sexuality and social support systems for women who decide to carry their pregnancies to term. If you put your emphasis on prevention up front, you have less to worry about afterwards and this leads to *more* power for women, not less.
I don’t know why this concept is so difficult to understand. The prevention first position represents a significant amount of thought on the issue of reproductive rights from an empowerment and a societal point of view. The abortion on demand, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead position represents, in my mind at least, a lack of planning, foresight and attention to detail. It turns women into beggars because if societal sentiment ever changes through the efforts of a very vocal minority, there is no multiple backup system firmly embedded in the rest of society to pick up the slack. Finally, “safe, legal and rare” is proactive about sexuality while “abortion on demand at any time” is reactive. The latter is what you get when everyone accepts the purity ring mentality.
But here’s the reason why I think the left missed a crucial opportunity for women when they took a pass on Hillary. Watch her comments from the Women in the World event from a few days ago again:
There are two points she makes that illustrate that she gets it and has a mastery of this issue that Obama can’t touch.
The first is Choice. The one thing that fundamentalists do not like for themselves or others is choice. They see the world in binary. You are either good or bad, a slut or a mother, saved or damned. There is no room in their world for choice. Choice makes them uncomfortable. Nauseous even. They want a world where their choices are made for them. They want to be able to consult a book and have the answers written out. If you’re a man, you conduct your life one way, if you’re a woman, you conduct your life another. There are no choices. Stick to the rules and no one gets hurt. Your personal opinions, talents and goals are not important. It’s a very Taliban mentality. But that’s the way they want our country to operate. To restrict choices to those strictly defined for each gender as written in the bible relieves their anxiety. Whether this anxiety is natural or induced doesn’t matter. Choice is to be avoided at all cost.
The second is Extremism. She is saying that Extremists have it in for women. She is not singling out any religion in particular and in fact, she says she values the right of each woman to make a choice about how she wants to worship. But Hillary is saying that Extremists use religion to advance their goals. Extremists are enemies of democracy. She also says that the measure of a democracy is determined by how we treat women. The logical conclusion is that you can’t have a democracy if you allow extremists to restrict the choices of a sizeable segment of your population. We have seen that this is true in many countries around the world and are witnessing it in Israel and here in the US right now.
These are the points that Obama fails to acknowledge when it comes to addressing the contraception issue. He fails to associate the word “choice” with freedom and “extremism” with an assault on democracy.
You Democratic party loyalists can talk amongst yourselves about why Obama fails to do this. To me, his rationale is not important. All that is important is that he fails to do it. But it is this precision of thought and analysis, which Digby herself should admire, that has always defined Hillary’s approach from Obama’s to me and why we “Hillary Holdouts” miss her voice on the domestic stage so sorely. It makes all of the difference.