Abortion: The elephant on the campaign trail

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September 2, 2008

2:09 AM

Many of us are single-issue voters. We want gay marriage, lower taxes, lower gas prices or guns. Abortion is one of those big issues that consumes some voters. Is anything going to change with this coming presidential election?

Most of us will be voting in a presidential election for the first or second time this November, and if abortion is the only issue we’re concerned about, we need to rethink our ballots.
Despite the bleak chances of the laws of abortion changing over the next four years, this is an issue that will not die, as Republicans and Democrats have realized.

The Gallup Poll and polls released by The Washington Post and CNN show that very few people support abortion in all cases, and more young people are pro-life than their elders, making young pro-life voters an unexpected poll boost for John McCain.

This phenomenon among young voters and women is known as the “Juno” effect. It is said to occur if a woman chooses to carry her pregnancy to term when told that her fetus has brain activity, a beating heart or fingernails. Supporting this effect, ABC News released a report saying that 2005 had the lowest number of abortions since 1974.

I strongly believe that as soon as there is brain activity or a heartbeat there is also life — making me pro-life and subject to the “Juno” effect.

McCain is pro-life. He has voted for legislation that would restrict abortion, making partial-birth abortions illegal and restricting the trimesters in which a woman could have an abortion. Most of these legislative efforts failed.

McCain has also picked a female running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, with hopes that her family values and youth will bolster his campaign.The Associated Press released an article stating that Palin was a “self-styled hockey mom and a political reformer” — and, of course, pro-life.

Even if McCain wins the election and makes efforts to enact pro-life legislation, he won’t succeed. In the last Senate and House elections, Democrats gained the congressional majority. If you look at the rate of incumbent turnover — 15 percent in the House and 8 percent in the Senate — you’ll notice that the Democratic senators and represenatives aren’t going to lose too many seats in this election. Most of these representatives are pro-choice, and will prevent any presidential initiatives to restrict or abolish abortion.
Barack Obama is a more interesting candidate. While he has avoided shouting his pro-choice beliefs at the top of his lungs, Obama has supported extreme abortion measures such as partial birth abortion by voting against the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act and against a similar bill in the Illinois Senate. Michael Gerson of The Washington Post writes that this type of abortion process has been deemed by fellow Democrats as “too close to infanticide.”
Obama has sought to quell the pro-life voters’ concerns by supporting the 95-10 policy, which means he will reduce the number of abortions by 95 percent in 10 years through abstinence education, promotion of birth control and more medical support for pregnant women.

Not only does this political promise put Obama on the moderate level, it also creates a conundrum for pro-life Democrats. Yes, he has supported abortion, even to extremes, but he plans to reduce the number of abortions through education.

In a forum with evangelical Christians, Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church asked Obama and McCain about their stances on abortion. McCain said that he “will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies.” McCain also said that life begins at the moment of conception.

On the other hand, Obama said that he would support restrictive measures on partial birth abortion as long as there were exceptions for the health and safety of the mother. This is quite a turnaround from his voting record in the Illinois and U.S. Senates.
Think about when you believe life begins and whether your beliefs coincide with those of either McCain or Obama. If you agree with McCain, keep in mind that McCain’s plans to change abortion rights have a strong potential to be quashed in Congress. If your beliefs are closer to Obama’s, keep in mind that fewer Democrats support extreme measures of abortion, and partial-birth abortion is not likely to receive positive reviews with voters or Congress members in the future.

If this is your one issue, you’re in for a very bland outcome in this year’s election.

Brittany Hamilton is a junior at the College.

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