Hostage to Abortion Politics

What's amazing about Senator John McCain's choice of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate on the Republican ticket has nothing to do with her family, with her possible membership in the Alaska Independence Party (a goal of which was to move the state toward secession from the U.S.), her level of experience with the domestic economy and foreign policy, or even the number of years she has served as a state and local leader. And it's certainly not about her being a woman. What's amazing about the Palin choice is that a portion of the electorate has allowed the single issue of abortion to exert tremendous control over our nation's future.

It's clear from news reports that Senator McCain would have preferred either Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut or former homeland security chief Tom Ridge as his running mate (both of whom are pro-choice); the selection of Governor Palin was tactical, largely based on her anti-choice stance and solidifying the traditional Republican base. The votes Governor Palin would bring to the ticket, given her bona fide conservative credentials, would be votes that Senator McCain was not sure he'd hold--those of the nation's powerful, and highly organized, Christian right.

Knowing this, it is easy to see how broken our political system truly is. It reveals a deep distrust in women to make their own decisions about their bodies, and selecting this particular woman largely based on her stance on one issue is the latest insult not just to Governor Palin, but to women as a whole--and to our democracy.

The crusade against choice pivots around the deep societal fear of women's power to act as the authors of their own lives, the keepers of their own bodies. As Kristin Luker wrote in "Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood," the real issue at stake is the fear that women will abandon their traditional role and decide not be mothers, if given the choice. So who better to squelch that fear than a woman who is staunchly anti-choice -- even in cases of rape or incest.

Like Gov. Palin, I have five children, one of whom has special needs. I know what it takes to parent, and I deeply understand the work/family tradeoffs in the current American workplace. But unlike the governor, I want my children and grandchildren to inherit a world where those in power cannot make choices over female bodies. I want them to concentrate instead on the larger body politic and what best serves every woman, man and child in this country -- decisions on home loss and job loss and health care loss, national security, rising food prices, our standing in the world, climate control.

That's the way our country should "choose life" -- by choosing policies that don't condone torture or chain immigrant women to their beds while their children are taken away (it happened in Tennessee recently; look it up). I want leaders who think before they bomb, who won't send our sons and daughters to die in a senseless war. I don't want any American to have to choose food over medication, or work over education.

So yes, I "choose life," and I will choose only politicians who do the same. It has very little to do with abortion and everything to do with the lives that follow in the wake of birth.