I think the first time I remember hearing this political urban myth was in the 1976 presidential election. Somebody told me the reason I had to vote for Jimmy Carter was because if Gerald Ford was elected, women would lose their right to choose to have an abortion. Abortion had been legal for only three years at that point. It was considered a great victory, one we all wanted to support.
So, I voted for Jimmy Carter -- and guess what? One of the things he did was to stop all abortions provided for women or wives in the armed services! He also stopped any further funding to birth control groups overseas that offered abortion as an alternative. And he ended all Medicaid payments for poor women in need of an abortion.
I felt a bit abused. I mean, Gerry Ford had been pro-choice. His wife was an ardent supporter of women's rights. And it was a Nixon appointee to the Supreme Court -- Justice Blackmun -- that wrote the majority opinion making abortion legal. What was I thinking? (Other than that the Nixon Nightmare years had to come to an end! That, I correctly rationalized, was worth the vote for Carter.)
Four years later, Democrats and liberals were going nuts over the possibility that Ronald Reagan might unseat Carter. Dire warnings were issued to all: If Reagan gets in, abortion will be illegal, period.
Well, I didn't vote for Reagan OR Carter, Reagan got in, and then something strange happened: Abortion remained legal! Sure, Reagan built on Carter's abortion restrictions, but Roe v. Wade was still the law of the land when the Gipper rode off into the sunset eight years later.
Yet Reagan had appointed plenty of wingnuts to the Supreme Court, so when the doomsayers in 1988 warned that George Bush would CERTAINLY send women back to the alleys to have illegal abortions, another bizarre thing happened -- Bush got elected, and ... four years later ... ABORTION WAS STILL LEGAL!
But Bush did leave us with Clarence Thomas, so when the Democrats came to scare the bejeepers out of me with what Bush would do to a woman's right to choose if he got a second term, I decided to vote for Bill Clinton.
So what's happened under our first feminist-man president?
Perhaps Clinton misunderstood his mission: he was supposed to support a woman's right to choose, not his right to choose women. Roe v. Wade is still on the books (mainly because of the consistent and unwavering support from the Reagan-appointed Justice O'Connor, the Ford-appointed Justice Stevens, and the Bush-appointed Justice Souter! They have voted to uphold abortion rights every single time). But it is now twice as hard for a woman in America to obtain an abortion as it was when Clinton took office. The anti-abortion terrorists have been so successful in their campaign of violence against abortion clinics and doctors and hospitals who perform abortions that a woman can now get an abortion in only 14% of the counties in the United States. That's right. Terrorism has scored its first victory on U.S. soil by assassinating enough doctors and firebombing enough clinics so that no one wants to perform an abortion. So if you live in one of the 86% of counties where not a single doctor will do an abortion, let me ask you this: what good is a "right" to an abortion if you can't get one?
The stunning thing about this virtual elimination of abortion in America is that it has occurred at a time when nearly 70% of the country supports some form of legal abortion. The terrorists have literally gotten away with murder -- with a pro-choice attorney general sitting in Washington, D.C., doing damn little about it. About the only reason I voted for these clowns was because of this issue -- and where the hell have they been?
Which brings us to Ralph Nader. Vice President Al Gore, on Meet the Press this week, told Tim Russert WHAT WOULD HAPPEN if George W. were elected president. Women would lose their right to have an abortion, Gore bellowed, with no equivocation and no hint of shame for what has happened on the Clinton/Gore watch.
All the pundits -- and the Democrats -- tell us that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush because all Ralph will end up doing is siphoning off votes that would have gone to Gore. This is their mantra:
"IF BUSH IS ELECTED, HE WILL APPOINT JUSTICES TO THE SUPREME COURT AND THEY WILL DECLARE ABORTION ILLEGAL!"
Well, I've fallen for this before and I ain't fallin' for it again. In fact, I will go so far as to say that George W. Bush, if for some reason he is magically elected, will NEVER do ANYTHING to make abortion illegal.
Here's my proof:
1. To recap what I have already stated: Roe v. Wade was written by a Republican, and upheld for 27 years by Republicans. No Republican president has made abortion illegal, and none will this time around.
2. George W. is, first and only, a politician. For crying out loud, if 70% of the country favors legal abortion, trust me, that party boy is NEVER going to cook his goose on this issue. He is already moving to the center on abortion and has been doing so since the primaries. He wants to win. He already has the majority of women supporting him in the polls, in part because a lot of women are confident he will not upset this apple cart.
3. The New York Times two weeks ago did a study of Bush's court appointees in Texas and found that he did NOT appoint right-wing crazies, but rather moderates or moderate conservatives who have upheld legal abortion in Texas and struck down some cases that tried to put restrictions on a woman's right to choose.
4. Sometimes even conservatives end up accepting that the tide has turned against them. The most stunning example of this came last month when ultra-conservative Chief Justice William Rehnquist insisted on writing the MAJORITY opinion for the court upholding the Miranda ruling that requires the police to inform an arrestee of his or her constitutional rights. Now, you know a guy like Rehnquist personally just hates forcing the police to read someone their rights. But in his decision keeping Miranda the law of the land, Rehnquist wrote that the Miranda rights are now "part of the American culture" and therefore should not be done away with. Even pro-Miranda liberals had never heard that line used by the Supreme Court in backing a decision, but it was, in essence, the truth. Reading someone their rights is now like apple pie -- and so is a woman's right to choose what to do if she should become pregnant. The overwhelming majority of Americans believe it a decision best left with a woman, her doctor, her God -- and it's nobody else's dang business. That, too, is part of the American culture. It's called privacy, and it's been around for over 200 years. Nobody, regardless of their political stripe, wants the politicians or the justices in their bedroom.
So, this year, I'm not going to let the fearmongers scare me into voting against my conscience. And I'm not going to let the Democratic candidate for president cynically use this issue when he himself has served in D.C. for 8 years allowing the right to get an abortion to be whittled away to near nothing.
Plus, I believe the true Nader constituency out there is among the 100 million nonvoters who have given up, thinking they no longer have a say in what really goes on in Washington. Gore shouldn't worry about Ralph taking votes from him. Rather he should think about what his administration with Bill Clinton has taken away from the women of this nation.
Come November 7, I plan to enter the voting booth and vote not from fear, but from a desire to see this country returned to the people.
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