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Frances Kissling Sells Out the Pro-Choice Movement

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By Karyn Strickler


"The "pro-choice' brand has eroded considerably," according to Frances Kissling's front-page op-ed in the Washington Post's Outlook section last weekend.  Ironically, Kissling, who is the former director of Catholics for Choice, asserts that, "old strategies don't work."    But her apparent misunderstanding of the political history of the abortion issue leave her proposed solutions in the stale box of proposals that have failed for decades.  If you don't grasp the history, it's tough to see the future with clarity. 


Kissling correctly asserts that pro-choice leaders "have barely changed our approach." She suggests that pro-choice forces are losing the debate because, "The fetus is more visible than ever before, and the abortion-rights movement needs to accept its existence and its value." She implies somehow that women have not always been acutely aware of that reality and factored it into their reproductive decisions. 


In her moral face-slap to women, Kissling completely misses the biggest strategic shift by abortion opponents and the singular largest reason for the change in public opinion -- so-called, "partial-birth" abortion bans -- pushed by abortion opponents through the new millennium.


Anti-abortion zealots wanted to sneak an abortion ban into law and if that didn't work, at least they could create a seismic shift in the climate of opinion on the issue, by focusing the nearly decade-long debate on rare, but graphic late-term abortions.


Pro-choice leaders played right into the hands of their own doom, debating the issue on the fraudulent terms offered by their opponents. This strategic blunder condemned prospects of protecting what had been overwhelming public support for right to choose safe and legal abortion. It is the primary way that the fetus took center-stage in the public debate, an idea that still seems to have totally escaped Kissling.


At the beginning of the partial-birth abortion debate in 1995, 56 percent of respondents to the Gallup Poll identified as pro-choice, compared to only 48 percent three years later. The pro-choice response has not again climbed above 50 percent and now stands at 45 percent.  


"We must end the fiction that an abortion at 26 weeks is no different from one at six weeks" We know more than we knew in 1973, and our position should reflect that."  Kissling said.  Never mind the fact that in 1973, the very basis of modern legalized abortion in America, Roe v. Wade itself allows, "For the stage subsequent to viability the State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother."( Source )

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Karyn Strickler is a political scientist, grassroots organizer and writer. She is founder and president of Vote Climate U.S. PAC, working to elect candidates to get off fossil fuels and put a price on carbon. Karyn is the former host and (more...)

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