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Abortion access

Comparison of the Democratic Party's
platform on abortion topics 2004 and 2008

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Democratic Party platform in 2004:

"Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay."

"We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right."

"At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare."

Democratic Party platform in 2008:

Their slogan for 2008 is "Renewing America's Promise."

The following wording was proposed at the convention:


"The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right."
"The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions."
"The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs."

The text was approved with one modification; the word "comprehensive" was relocated. The sentence:
"... strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education..."
was replaced by:
"... strongly supports access to comprehensive affordable family planning services and age-appropriate sex education..."
(Emphasis ours)

This wording change introduces a degree of ambiguity into the statement. This is not a unique situation for party platforms. The 2008 Republican Party platform is even more ambiguous.

It is unclear whether the sex education that is being promoted is:
  • Comprehensive in nature: it recommends abstinence but also discusses birth control and disease prevention, or
  • Abstinence-only sex education: birth control and disease prevention information are withheld from the students.
Abstinence-only sex education has been promoted by Republican administration. Under the presidency of George W Bush, the federal government has invested tens of millions of dollars in an effort to limit sexually active teens' access to information that they need in order to prevent pregnancy and STD infection.

Interpretation of the platform:

The first paragraph strongly affirms that a decision to have or to not have an abortion should lie with the woman, and not with her partner, the state government, or the federal government. It appears to imply that pregnant teens who have not reached their 18th birthday should have access to abortion, without giving notification to, or requiring permission from, their parents. It also implies that women should be able to access government funds to obtain an abortion if she cannot afford one. State funding is available in most states only if the abortion is needed to save the woman's life.

While religious and social conservatives have preferred to reduce the number of abortions by making them more difficult to obtain, the Democratic Party is proposing to eliminate many abortions by reducing the number of unwanted conceptions. They may be proposing comprehensive sex education in schools. They do propose and low cost comprehensive family planning services. This would emulate programs in Canada and in Europe whose countries that have a much lower abortion rate than the U.S. does.

The party is also attempting to influence more pregnant women to continue their pregnancies by removing financial and other roadblocks that are currently making that choice difficult or impossible.

Many poor pregnant women's first contact with a physician during her pregnancy is at the time of labor. If these women were to have access to pre-natal care, the maternal death rate in the U.S. should drop to approach that of other industrialized countries.

Reactions to the proposed platform by two of its creators:

According to David Brody, of CBN's Brody File:

"... people like Pastor Joel Hunter, (registered Republican) Jim Wallis, (President of Sojourners) Pastor Tony Campolo and conservative Catholic legal scholar Doug Kmiec all helped in the drafting of this new language.
Brodie quotes part of an article by Douglas Kmiec, professor of law at Pepperdine University:

"Yes, there is the reaffirmation of Roe, but it is now matched with a full-throated call for efforts to address the irresponsibility of kids having kids, through appropriate educational efforts emphasizing the maturity and responsibility that must accompany sexual intimacy."
"The most important Obama-inspired addition to the platform is the explicit call for greater respect for prenatal assistance, paid maternity leave, and if a woman is unable to raise her child, a sensitively structured and caring adoption system. To have the Democrats in the "strongly support" column for these measures in favor of life should not go unnoticed."
"That still leaves the Democratic Party Platform well short of where honoring all life needs to be from a Catholic perspective, but it moves the ball considerably toward the side that favors life from the moment of conception."
"Party platform language is seldom inspiring; indeed, the language proposed for the Democratic platform lacks the rhetorical depth of Senator Obama's own statements discouraging abortion and recognizing its moral dilemmas, and it certainly lacks the Senator's law teacher's grasp of how the mental health exception has left the law unthinkingly with abortion on demand."
"But the purpose of party platforms are to cobble together lists of tangible steps to launch campaign rhetoric toward legislative achievement. In this, the Democratic platform language on abortion takes several notable steps toward specific, constructive ways to honor human life. Catholics will be the first to say -- more is needed. It is. But Catholics ought also be the first to observe that insofar as Obama leaves the present law giving the potential mother the ultimate choice, he has successfully persuaded his party to commit to conditions that will make it more, not less, likely that the choice will be in favor of life." 2
The Rev. Tony Campolo wrote:
"Studies indicate that up to 70 percent of abortions are economically driven. Without proper hospital care, without raising the minimum wage, without proper day care, prenatal and postnatal care, without maternity leave, women who are poor feel driven to have abortions. We can reduce abortions dramatically, maybe between 50 to 70 percent if we address these concerns. And what we are really doing, all of us on this call, are calling upon the Republican brothers and sisters to join us and to participate in reducing abortions in America. We have done part of the job. They have to, in fact, say, “We want the same kind of concerns addressed. We want the economic factors addressed.” They have been reluctant to do that in the past. I am hopeful and prayerful that they will do this in the future. So as a member of the platform committee, I feel the committee worked hard to give language that gave evangelicals and Roman Catholics the sense that they could participate in the Democratic Party without a compromise of their convictions." 3

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Renewing America's Promise," Democratic Party, 2008, at: http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/
  2. David Brody, "Dem Party platforn's new abortion language," CMB News, 2008-AUG-11, at: http://www.cbn.com/
  3. "Democratic Party abortion platform discussion excerpts," National Catholic Reporter, 2008-AUG-13, at: http://ncronline3.org/

Site navigation:

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Home > Abortion > Reducing the rate > Pro-life voting > here

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Home Religious information > Basic info > 2008 elections > Pro-life voting > here

Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-AUG-15
Latest update: 2008-OCT-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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