The Parties' Changing Stances on Abortion

I'm far more worried about the recently adopted abortion platforms than Bristol's pregnancy.

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With all the brouhaha over Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her pregnant teenage daughter Bristol, I think I have to agree with Lindsay Lohan. Yesterday, the actress wrote in her MySpace blog, that "we are taking the focus off of getting to know Sarah Palin and her political views" to instead discuss issues related to teen pregnancy. And, yes, there has been a slew of such stories, from this AP report on McCain's opposition to funding for teen pregnancy programs to this blogger from Reality Check who practically blames Bristol's pregnancy on abstinence-only education programs in schools.

If we're going to talk about reproductive health issues on the campaign trail, however, I'd rather see more discussion of how the candidates plan to implement their views on abortion—an issue largely being ignored by Barack Obama and John McCain, as my colleague Justin Ewers points out. Yet, Democratic and Republican party leaders haven't forgotten it—and both sides are guilty, in my opinion, of moving away from mainstream public opinion.

The Democrats last week adopted a new platform that, while reaffirming their support of abortion rights and opposing any efforts to undermine those rights, also eliminates the phrase that abortions should be "safe, legal, and rare," according to the National Partnership for Women & Families. The Republicans, on the other hand, presented a platform Monday that affirms that the "unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed." This implies that exceptions shouldn't be made for rape, incest, or even to save the life of a pregnant woman, going far beyond what their candidate, John McCain, believes. He said in a recent interview that he supports these exceptions and wanted them included in the party platform.

To me, it seems that both political parties are ignoring what women want. Most of us, according to the polls, seem to prefer a happy medium—access to abortion but with the hope that it will be seen as the option of last resort. In other words, we'd like it to be legal but rare.

Here are some findings from recent Gallup polls:

• Half of Americans—women and men don't differ significantly—consider themselves "pro-choice," while about 44 percent consider themselves "pro-life." (Perhaps the other 6 percent are undecided or don't have an opinion.) Pro-life Americans, though, are somewhat more likely to vote for a candidate who holds their views on abortion.

• About 60 percent of Americans would like abortion laws to remain as they are or become less strict, while 40 percent would like them to become stricter.

• In terms of whether abortion should be legal in any circumstance, about 30 percent of Americans support that. (I'm guessing many oppose abortions without parental consent.) About 55 percent think abortion should be legal but only in certain circumstances, while just 18 percent of folks would like an all-out ban on abortion.

Clearly, both of the new platforms are off base. Now, where's all the outrage about that?