How Far from the Truth?

A New York Times article on how some Democrats are suggesting that the party de-emphasize abortion in its political message contains this quote:

And Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said Republicans had “been successful at painting the view of the pro-choice movement as abortion on demand — and nothing can be farther from the truth.”

Really? To the best of my knowledge, the leading players in the pro-choice movement do indeed favor abortion on demand, or something very close to it. According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, “abortion-on-demand” means “the right of a woman to have an abortion during the first six months of a pregnancy.” As best I can tell, the views of leading pro-choice organizations, such as NARAL Pro-Choice America, are quite close to that.

The groups may say “before viability” rather than “during the first six months,” and I suppose this might, depending on the state of a particular fetus and the progress of medical technology, be something of a difference — but not a very great one, given how close viability and six months tend to be (plus I take it the “six months” dividing line was chosen partly because it tracked viability during the time when the definition was being developed, so it was at least intended to reflect the viable/nonviable distinction). I suspect, incidentally, that most pro-choice advocates would insist that even post-viability abortions be legal when needed to protect the woman’s life, physical health, or psychological health, with the latter category seeming like a pretty broad escape hatch. Also, while I’m not positive whether most leading pro-choice groups would allow any restrictions at all on minors’ access to abortion, I’m pretty sure they oppose parental consent or even parental notificaiton requirements. So their position seems to be either abortion-on-demand or very close to it.

Now one may well argue that abortion on demand, or abortion on demand with these two narrow exceptions, is the morally, constitutionally, or pragmatically correct position. But it seems to me a mistake to deny that the pro-choice movement’s view, or at least the view of many leading groups in the movement, is pretty close to that position — and even more of a mistake to fault people for being supposedly untruthful when they characterize the pro-choice movement’s position that way.

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