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What It Means To Be Truly Liberal On Abortion

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What It Means To Be Truly Liberal On Abortion


Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Donald Trump has mastered the authoritarian act, and that’s how he attracted his brigade of humble followers. Some on the left seem to envy this ability to force obedience through threats and attacks. But that approach doesn’t work on issue-oriented voters, doubly so on matters requiring nuance. Abortion is one such issue.

Thus, one cannot fathom the ongoing crusade by abortion rights activists to crush Heath Mello, a moderate Democrat running for mayor of Omaha. NARAL Pro-Choice America, it seems, would rather punish a Democrat straying from its dictates than defeat a more resolutely anti-choice Republican.

Democrats have this self-defeating habit of sabotaging otherwise progressive candidates who dissent from some base group’s orthodoxy. Bernie Sanders and friends relentlessly beat up Hillary Clinton over minor differences in economic policy. It may be ironic that Sanders is now supporting Mello despite the Nebraskan’s mixed feelings on abortion, but he is right this time.

What makes NARAL’s assault on Mello truly bizarre is that it is beyond unfair. Mello is not anti-choice. (Lazy headline writers, take note.)

Mello says he doesn’t approve of abortion on religious grounds but as mayor “would never do anything to restrict access to reproductive health care.” This position is identical to that of the late New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, an exemplary progressive who never curbed abortion rights while in office.

Here’s another reality check: In Germany, Belgium, Denmark and France, abortion without restrictions is limited to the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy. In Sweden, it’s 18 weeks. No one accuses these countries of being anti-choice. Their governments also pay for abortions, something ours should do, as well.

Of more concern, Mello backed a bill requiring that women be told that they could see a fetal ultrasound before having an abortion. That would seem a government intrusion on a private decision, but there’s no forcing any woman to look at anything.

The liberal website Daily Kos meekly withdrew its endorsement of Mello over the ultrasound issue. So exactly whom are its writers endorsing? Put another way, do they see a difference between Mello and his far more anti-choice opponent?

National polls show widespread support for a basic right to abortion but also interest in adding restrictions. The prominent Nebraska Democrat Jane Kleeb, a strong Mello supporter, tries to explain that many Democrats she knows are troubled by abortion. In this part of the country, you elect either a Democrat like Mello or a Republican.

Let me make my view clear: Access to an early abortion should be part of a well-developed set of reproductive health services. And any restrictions must make room for those rare situations when something goes dreadfully wrong later in a pregnancy.

Clinton was careful never to frame abortion as a casual thing. NARAL itself took the word “abortion” out of its official name, preferring the emphasis to be on choice.

It’s therefore curious to see Democrats tormenting good candidates over small deviations in doctrine. On the complex issue of abortion, real liberals give wide latitude to other opinions. The ultimate question for single-minded activists is, Do you want to run the country or just the Democratic Party?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers. Media Matters ranks her column 20th nationally in total readership and 14th in large newspaper concentration. Harrop has been a guest on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a frequent voice on NPR and talk radio stations in every time zone as well.

A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary in 2004 and again in 2011, Harrop was also a Scripps Howard Award finalist for commentary in 2010. She has been honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has given her five awards.

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  1. Sand_Cat April 24, 2017

    I believe it was Will Rogers who said something to the effect that he didn’t belong to an organized party because he was a Democrat.
    Somehow, the Democrats don’t get it in all kinds of ways, like trying to negotiate with “moderate” Republicans. News flash: all moderate members of the GOP were driven out decades ago. Or going slowly because they don’t have a “mandate”: for any GOP official who won by a single vote out of millions victory is a mandate to go full speed ahead.

    1. Independent1 April 24, 2017

      I think this article is miss titled. The title of this artiicle should be: “What does it mean to be an Extreme Progressive.”

      From my observation of “true liberals”, true liberals would not have a problem with Heath Mello. I’m an independent who would like to see abortions reduced and I don’t have a problem with Heath Mello; and I have proof that they way to work at reducing abortions is to support Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose: the what the GOP is doing it is flying in the face of reality and will create more abortions.

      And so apparently, NARAL Pro-Choice America is being run by extreme progressives; progressives such as those who supported Bernie Sanders even to the point of being partly responsible for why Donald Trump is now president. Progressives who think it’s more important to nitpick and fight over deviations in ideology rather than recognizing who the political enemy really is and overlook the minor differences in ideology which can be hammered out when the real enemy has been defeated.

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  2. PrecipitousDrop April 25, 2017

    NARAL needs to get a grip and remember the second half of Pro-Choice. There is plenty of room in the Democratic party for good, civic-minded men and women who are ambivalent about abortion, war, the national debt, immigration, and a host of other issues. Ambivalence is the platform for debate and compromise.
    Purity tests and lockstep obedience only encourage extremists. The TeaParty tried it. Remember I-am-not-a-witch Christine O’Donnell? Deadbeat dad Joe Walsh? 80-House-Democrats-are-communists Allen West?
    We must do better.

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