by Todd Beeton, Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 03:29:49 PM EST
With the election of Barack Obama as President, we truly do have a new day for abortion rights in this country. On Wednesday, President Obama reiterated his support of Roe V. Wade and today the new President fulfilled an expectation of abortion rights advocates by reversing the so-called "Mexico City policy."
President Barack Obama on Friday quietly ended the Bush administration's ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide information on the option. Liberal groups welcomed the decision, while abortion rights foes criticized the president.
Known as the "Mexico City policy," the ban has been reinstated and then reversed by Republican and Democratic presidents since Ronald Reagan established it in 1984. Democrat Bill Clinton ended the ban in 1993, but Republican George W. Bush re-instituted it in 2001 as one of his first acts in office.
At the Planned Parenthood brunch I attended on Monday in Washington, DC, the mood was nothing short of elation as the reality of once again having an ally in the White House set in.
The aspect of the event that perhaps impressed me the most was the clear shift in rhetoric both at the brunch and at a blogger sit down with Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood. Gone was the "safe legal and rare" mantra of Clinton and in its place came the new refrain:
It's not enough to be safe and legal but we must expand access to our services.
In the place of the centrist "rare" clarion call is the idea of expanded access. Gone is the defensive posture and in its place is the new language of an emboldened movement, boasting, rightly, that Planned Parenthood is a part of the "health care safety net," providing health care services to 1 in 4 women nationally. Even Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius praised Planned Parenthood for providing the services that they do. "They really do make a difference" she stated, without the slightest hint of red state defensiveness.
How sweet it was to hear such unabashed support from red state governors such as Sebelius and Brian Schweitzer of Montana (the fact that these two were the invited governors was, of course, no accident.) Schweitzer's language was slightly different on abortion at the brunch reflecting his own ascendant neo-libertarianism:
For eight years we've had a government that thinks it knows better, that it thinks it knows how individual healthcare decisions should be made. No longer will they be making our private healthcare decisions for us.
This rhetoric matches Obama's framing of Roe V. Wade, which, he said yesterday:
"stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters."
This reflects Obama's habit of appealing to conservatives using conservative frames (i.e. unobtrusive government) but is a welcome change from the defensive stance we're used to seeing Democrats taking when trying to speak about abortion to wide audiences.
The rhetoric on display on Monday clearly represents two different perspectives on how Democrats will win the abortion debate but in both instances there was a renewed confidence in the language of abortion that comes with having allies in the White House and in both houses of congress.