Roundup: Abortion Rises Again as Election Issue

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Roundup: Abortion Rises Again as Election Issue

Brady Swenson

Obama seeks middle ground on abortion; McCain slammed for 'sarcastic air quotes'; Abortion restrictions on the ballot in Colorado, South Dakota and California; Broad support for reproductive health bill in Phillipines; UN says more focus on women needed in fight against HIV; 'HIV positive' Muppet educates kids on the disease in South Africa.

Abortion Rises Again as Election Issue

With grave economic concerns driving the conversation on the campaign trail these past weeks the candidates themselves had been relatively quiet on the issue of abortion.  Governor Sarah Palin kicked off the rise of abortion as an election issue this year last Friday at a rally when she called Senator Barack Obama "radical" on abortion.  Then Bob Schieffer asked the candidates about their views on Roe vs. Wade during
Wednesday’s presidential debate.  The question naturally led to a
conversation about the candidate’s stances on abortion.  Obama said America should find a way to work together on the "very difficult issue" and offered a way to reduce the "tragic situation" of abortion while maintaining a woman’s right to choose:

we should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing
appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is
sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and
providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want
to choose to keep the baby.

Obama’s answer was well very received by CNN’s dialtest group of undecided Ohio voters and has been well recieved in OpEd’s by leaders who were formerly in the "overturn Roe" camp, including Jim Wallis and Doug Kmiec.  The LA Times editorial board appreciates Obama’s goal to reduce abortion through better sex education, affordable health care for women and other "culture of life" policies:

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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If the goal is to create a culture in which abortion is a last resort
— because even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the procedure will
certainly be legal in some states — then Obama offers the better
vision to safeguard the health of women and children. He places
reproductive health on a continuum of care from gynecological
screenings to high-quality day care. This too is a culture of life.

Senator John McCain gave what has become the traditional GOP answer, that he would like to see Roe overturned and the issue returned to the states, and that we "have to change the culture of America."  McCain rebutted Obama’s observation that he would support restrictions on late-term abortions provided there is an exception for the health of the mother by claiming that the health exception is "the extreme ‘pro-abortion’ position, quote ‘health,’" and making air quotes around the word health.  Women have reacted negatively to McCain’s perceived mocking of the health of women.  Last night Rachel Maddow of MSNBC asked in disbelief on her show if "McCain really made sarcastic air quotes around the word ‘health.’"

The McCain campaign has also decided to press a long-debunked attack on Obama’s record on ‘Born Alive’ legislation he voted against in Illinois.  McCain repeated the false attack in the debate and his campaign is running robocalls in swing states that are spreading the debunked claim:

I’m calling on behalf of John McCain and the RNC because you need to
know that Barack Obama and his Democrat allies in the Illinois Senate
opposed a bill requiring doctors to care for babies born alive after
surviving attempted abortions — a position at odds even with John
Kerry and Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama and his liberal Democrats are
too extreme for America. Please vote — vote for the candidates who
share our values. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the
Republican National Committee at 202 863 8500.

Today CNN’s fact checking team called the claim "misleading."  Emily’s post, linked above and here, sets the record straight.

Abortion is also an unavoidable voting issue for voters in Colorado, South Dakota and California where various bans and restrictions on abortion are on the ballot.  Today the Christian Science Monitor takes a brief look at those ballot initiatives.

Perhaps discussion of finding a middle ground on the abortion issue centered on an agreement to maintain a woman’s right to choose and use enlightened policy to reduce the economic and social reasons women choose abortion is happening not a moment too late because as Ellen Goodman observes abortion is becoming increasingly stigmatized in no small part by bitter partisanship.  


7 of 10 Philippine Families Support Proposed Reproductive Health Legislation

Legislation being considered in the Philippines would provide more comprehensive sex education for students and legalize and subsidize contraception across the country. A recent survey shows 70% of Philippine families support the legislation.  Despite a strong opposition campaign being waged by the Catholic Church in the Philippines the poll shows that support does not vary by religion as 71% of Catholics support the bill compared with 68% of non-Catholics.  


UN Says Women Need Empowerment in Fight Against AIDS

Nafis Sadik, U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Asia-Pacific
region, told a poverty alleviation conference in Beijing that lack of
respect for women was helping drive the spread of the virus

"Gender-based violence and discrimination on grounds of gender drive
the HIV and AIDS epidemic among women. Empowerment of women —
equipping them with self-esteem, the knowledge, the ability to protect
themselves — will be of critical importance in winning the battle,"
Sadik said.

"Women suffer doubly. First, from HIV and AIDS itself, and secondly
from the stigma associated with the disease. Women are routinely blamed
for infecting their husbands, though it is almost always the men who
infect their wives," she said.

In Asia, at least 75 million men regularly buy sex from about 10 million female sex workers, she said.

"The results of male behavior can be seen in changing patterns of
infection. Today, about one-third of all people living with HIV in
China are women, compared with one in 10 in 1995," Sadik said.

The human immunodeficiency virus infects 33 million people globally, half of them women, and kills 2 million annually.


HIV-Positive Muppet Steals the Show in Johannesburg

Friday’s are good days to smile a little bit and this story will do the trick.  Kami, the "HIV positive" Muppet star of Takalani Sesame, the South African spin-off of the American children’s television program Sesame Street, has become an even bigger star touring the country talking to children about HIV/AIDS. 
Kami made her debut on South African television and radio in 2002, the
result of a cooperative effort between the South African Broadcasting
Corporation (SABC) and Sesame Street and the Muppets in the United
States. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) played a
key role in coordinating the linkage:

"Kami is making a huge difference in the lives of millions of children
here," said the SABC’s Jeffrey Molawa. "She herself lives with HIV. She
is a 5-year-old orphan who has been adopted by other characters on
Takalani Sesame. She is intelligent, bright, loveable and humble. The
children who watch and listen to her learn that it is not a shame to
have HIV/AIDS."