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Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:10 PM

"Rare" was a political line designed to appeal to choice-conflicted voters...

Last edited Sun Nov 10, 2013, 02:02 PM - Edit history (2)

Bill Clinton's famous, "abortion should be safe, legal and rare," was formulated to appeal to mildly anti-choice voters—people who are not entirely comfortable with choice but afraid that prohibition would be unfair or unjust in some cases. The reason it was effective in appealing to those mildly anti-choice voters is that it is mildly anti-choice.

You can substitute "grudgingly pro-choice" if you prefer... or even, "willing to be choice agnostic." As a very pro-choice person, I view choice agnosticism as effectively mildly anti-choice, but if one wants to posit a theoretical neutral stance so be it.

When Obama said that he is pro-choice because he "trusts" women to take the decision seriously it was also an appeal to mildly anti-choice voters. Again, it was a mildly anti-choice sentiment.

These things are intentionally mildly anti-choice lines, so it makes no sense to try to unpack them as something other than what they were designed to be.


Both presume that when a woman exercises her option to terminate a pregnancy there is potentially something morally objectionable going on, but it can sometimes be excused by circumstance and, being borderline, is best left up to the woman.

Essentially that abortion is like war... a bad thing that is sometimes necessary and thus justifiable.

I disagree with that stance, but those lines were not crafted to appeal to me.

The stance views regulation of abortion a borderline issue and thus abets or encourages "sensible" regulation. It is, however, not literally anti-choice up front. It is also not at all "pro life," in what that term means politically... it is not really a coherent political view either way.

The most effective appeals to American "middle" voters are often internally conflicted in some way because the voters themselves are internally conflicted in some way and/or want to have both sides of what they find to be a difficult issue.

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Arrow 29 replies Author Time Post
Reply "Rare" was a political line designed to appeal to choice-conflicted voters... (Original post)
cthulu2016 Nov 2013 OP
Nye Bevan Nov 2013 #1
cthulu2016 Nov 2013 #2
leftstreet Nov 2013 #5
CTyankee Nov 2013 #3
Nye Bevan Nov 2013 #6
CTyankee Nov 2013 #19
Myrina Nov 2013 #4
cleanhippie Nov 2013 #7
cthulu2016 Nov 2013 #10
cleanhippie Nov 2013 #29
dragonlady Nov 2013 #16
KittyWampus Nov 2013 #8
cthulu2016 Nov 2013 #9
Savannahmann Nov 2013 #11
Douglas Carpenter Nov 2013 #12
lumberjack_jeff Nov 2013 #13
CTyankee Nov 2013 #20
CTyankee Nov 2013 #26
LittleBlue Nov 2013 #14
PeaceNikki Nov 2013 #15
Seeking Serenity Nov 2013 #17
PeaceNikki Nov 2013 #18
Kurska Nov 2013 #22
PeaceNikki Nov 2013 #23
Kurska Nov 2013 #24
PeaceNikki Nov 2013 #25
Kurska Nov 2013 #27
PeaceNikki Nov 2013 #28
Kurska Nov 2013 #21

Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:21 PM

1. And to win elections, you need the votes of the "mildly anti-choice" voters.

There are millions upon millions of Americans who support the right to abortion but feel some level of discomfort about it. The phrase "safe, legal and rare" is tailor-made for these folks. A Democratic candidate will never get the hard-core pro-life voters, but if they can get the fully pro-choice and the "pro-choice but uncomfortable" voters, he or she has an excellent chance of winning.

In short, "safe, legal and rare" wins elections, while running around shouting "fuck rare" at every opportunity does not. Exhibit A, of course, is that master politician Bill Clinton. And the overwhelmingly likelihood is that we will all be pulling levers in November 2016 for a candidate whose stance on abortion can be summed up by "safe, legal and rare".

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Response to Nye Bevan (Reply #1)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:25 PM

2. I think it was politically astute

But being politically astute isn't everything, particularly if one is not a politician.

It is odd to me that folks in an internet forum would crave such consistency that they would want to clamber onto a bandwagon that wasn't built for them.

It's a good political line. It is slightly less than pro-choice in its tone.

The two are far from mutually exclusive.

It is what it is.

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Response to Nye Bevan (Reply #1)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:29 PM

5. It's lazy and opportunistic. Half the eligible voters don't vote

Gee, I wonder why

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Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:25 PM

3. Yes, I agree that "rare" was added to assure anti-choicers that we pro-choicers aren't

in favor of "abortion on demand." That was around 20 years ago.

I think it is time to leave off the "rare." It works for me to say simply "safe and legal" if we must say anything at all. Ideally, it shouldn't be a subject for discussion but since laws regulating abortion are already in the public policy arena we must say something.

Personally, I like what Wendy Davis said about being pro-life. She turned the tables on the anti-choicers quite adroitly, taking their own words and telling her interpretation of "pro-life." Let them squirm when they have that hung around their necks...

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Response to CTyankee (Reply #3)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:30 PM

6. But Democratic candidates already have the pro-choice vote.

They know the pro-choicers are not going to vote Republican. So Democratic candidates don't need to do anything to appeal more to pro-choicers. They are much more interested in peeling the votes of centrists away from the Republican, which phrases like "safe, legal and rare" can accomplish.

The only way to get what you want would be to do what the Tea Party does and threaten primary challenges to Democrats who you see as insufficiently pro-choice. Because otherwise the incentive just isn't there.

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Response to Nye Bevan (Reply #6)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 02:39 PM

19. See, I think the "rare" thing is out of date. The centrists are more pro-choice nowadays.

When asked in polls if Roe should be overturned, a majority of voters say "no." When asked if they are "pro-life" a majority say "yes." So I think Wendy Davis was saying what centrists really feel about abortion and what it means to be "pro-life." I think the Todd Akins' of the republican party and his ilk are what is pissing off moderate women who are more liberal minded than women were 20 years ago when the "rare" stuff got started. They've seen where the anti-choice rhetoric has led and they don't like it. They've seen the anti-choice spokesmen with their vaginal probe legislation, closing Planned Parenthood clinics (where lots of moderate women receive their health care!) and they don't like it.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:28 PM

4. Disagree.

Its meant as a "last resort" ... and in order to have it become 'rare' we would need widely available contraception and sex ed.

I don't think it was aimed at "grudgingly anti-abortion" folks so much as it was a declaration -and argument - that in order to make abortion "go away" we have to offer women more options up front.

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Response to Myrina (Reply #4)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:31 PM

7. Exactly. "Rare" in this context means that education and contraception are widespread and working.

If we are doing that part right, abortions would be "rare."

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Response to Myrina (Reply #4)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:44 PM

10. What it *meant* was "vote for me"

It was *designed* to be something that would be heard differently by different people, so how you hear it does not answer the question of what it mans.

It is designed to mean different things to different people.

And it's target audience was mildly anti-choice people... pro-choice people don't need a tricky formulation because they are already pro-choice.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Reply #10)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 07:14 PM

29. Perhaps, but "rare" in this context means education and contraception are widespread and working

"Rare" in this context means that education and contraception are widespread and working. If we are doing that part right, abortions would be "rare."

Did the term "rare" have a different meaning to begin with? Perhaps, but it's use TODAY does not mean that.

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Response to Myrina (Reply #4)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 02:23 PM

16. Excellent explanation

Rare signifies an aspiration that many abortions will never have to be chosen because an unwanted pregnancy never happened in the first place.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:33 PM

8. Ideologues with a bone. Tip off- using the word "mildly" as a pejorative.

 

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Response to KittyWampus (Reply #8)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:39 PM

9. You might want to re-think 'pejorative'

Do you really think "mildly anti-choice" is worse than, "anti-choice"?

I don't.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:46 PM

11. You forgot, that the term rare was applied after the numbers were released

 

They started tracking the numbers, and the term rare was added after the numbers were publicized by the anti-abortion groups.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_the_United_States#Statistics

Even today there are anti-abortion sites that use the numbers to show it is far too prevalent, which is why our party has never really dropped the rare.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:51 PM

12. It is a phrase that recognizes that the vast majority of women as well as men at least have

moral reservations about abortion - But the vast majority of women as well as well as men are not prepared not prepared to impose whatever moral reservations they may have on anyone else.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:52 PM

13. Many people feel ambivalent about abortion AND support choice.

 

I want it to be rare because I consider it morally ambiguous... but would want the right to make that moral choice for myself.

I think it's naive to think that many women faced with the choice will say; "I want an abortion, then pizza after."

I mean how can you have it both ways? If it's a difficult choice, why? Most people would say that it's a difficult choice (at least in part) because it poses a moral dilemma. Why is there any debate that minimizing the number of people who face that dilemma is a good thing?

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #13)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 02:50 PM

20. There are some women who do not feel it is a difficult choice for themselves.

And most of the research I have seen on this question say women report feeling "relieved" after an abortion, more than any other single emotion.

I do know one woman who told me she deeply regretted her abortion. When I asked her about that she revealed that she had not wanted the abortion but was pressured into it by her husband and they already had one child together. He said that it was unacceptable to him for her to have the baby. that was 30 years ago. I often wonder if she is still married to him. He effectively prevented her from having her own moral choice in the matter and that was very sad.

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #13)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 03:05 PM

26. I think there is another aspect to this that we should think about.

First trimester abortions are safer than pregnancy and childbirth for women. It is a fact. Under the best of circumstances, pregnancy and birth interrupt a woman's life trajectory if it is accidental. It is not nothing. It adds physical, mental, emotional, educational/career obstacles in her life. First trimester abortions by comparison are relatively easy (even with restrictions) to obtain, tho expensive, and once they are over the woman goes back to having her life as before. Maybe some people don't want to think about it that way because they still feel the woman should somehow "suffer." Or at least feel remorse and regret and a bit or a lot of grief and sadness. But most women report feeling relieved after an abortion. And that is OK with me.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 01:58 PM

14. "Rare" was a term used to humanize the pro-choice movement

 

The right portrayed us as loving abortion, like we want abortion drive-thrus. They portrayed women as having abortions for sport, and abortion doctors as Josef Mengele.

We needed "rare" to counter the accusation that we love abortion. That we find it as distasteful as most independent, low-info voters do. It was just an answer to the vilification of the pro-choice movement. Like you say, to appeal to voters who are somewhere between pro-choice and anti-choice.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 02:16 PM

15. The phrase and soft support have harmed the matter of abortion rights. The national party removed it

and it's time the rest of the Democrats follow.

The right has moved so far right that they are actively taking away our rights. Prior to 1989, laws interfering with a woman’s right to abortion were ruled unconstitutional. The shift in the composition of the Court under the Reagan and Bush I administrations led to the 1989 and 1992 Webster and Casey Supreme Court decisions establishing a threshold of “undue burden” for the constitutionality of state-based restrictions.

Under this new legal regime, states can demonstrate a preference against abortion through the implementation of waiting periods, parental involvement, mandatory information, and scripted provider speech requirements; since 1994, almost every state has done so. These laws vary in their construction and studying the effects of these laws is difficult but suggests that additional barriers to abortion disproportionately affect traditionally vulnerable populations.

For example, the most severe waiting periods require two in-person visits to the clinic with a prescribed time between visits. In a world where many women lack paid sick leave and childcare, access to a provider in their community, and affordable transportation/lodging, a two-visit requirement may be insurmountable to some women.

Using this phrase is a linguistic trick of affirming the right to abortion while simultaneously devaluing it is both harmful and ineffective as a strategy to securing rights. The desire to help an individual woman achieve her reproductive desires by avoiding an abortion is a laudable goal, not because it reduces the need for abortion, but because it is what that woman wants for her life.

We need to retire the antiquated and harmful phrase. For good.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 02:30 PM

17. Because "safe, legal and abundant"

likely wouldn't have been a winning slogan.

Just my thought.

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Response to Seeking Serenity (Reply #17)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 02:32 PM

18. Or... safe and legal. How about we leave the frequency a medical issue, not a political one?

Since, well... it is.

The Democratic Party platform was changed to reflect this in 2008 yet some Democrats insist on using harmful antiquated language.

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Response to PeaceNikki (Reply #18)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 02:56 PM

22. Frequency is a sociocultural issues tied into political efforts like sex education.

If we don't educate our young people about sex and condoms, then more of them are going to need to get abortions.

I have really no idea how people are seriously arguing that we shouldn't try to reduce the frequency of a medical procedure when there are far cheaper and less emotionally stressful preventive strategies.

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Response to Kurska (Reply #22)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 02:57 PM

23. Then literally state that unplanned/unwanted pregnancies should be rare.

Again, it's harmful to state that abortions should be rare. Not helpful - the opposite. It causes harm.

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Response to PeaceNikki (Reply #23)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 02:59 PM

24. I said that verbatim down thread.

Abortions should be rare because unwanted pregnancies should be rare. Our young people deserve a system that educates them about their own bodies. Of course there will always probably be a need for abortions, but that need can fluctuate greatly depending on how we reach out to our young people.

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Response to Kurska (Reply #24)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 03:00 PM

25. I mean the collective 'you'. The Democratic Party dropped the harmful "rare" portion years ago.

But many Democrats are slow to follow.

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Response to PeaceNikki (Reply #25)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 03:08 PM

27. I completely support abortion rights, but you know what abortion makes me uncomfortable.

I have zero doubt in my mind that women should be able to get abortions if they need one. I think if we as a society are creating a social dynamic where a large number of young people have to get an abortion, because no one ever told them how to have sex without causing a pregnancy, then we have failed our young people.

I have all the sympathy in the world for a woman who decides she needs an abortion and ultimately I would respect her decision. I just think a lot of the time a little education can keep it from getting there in the first place.

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Response to Kurska (Reply #27)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 03:13 PM

28. I wish you could separate your concerns from being ABOUT abortion.

The concerns are about sex education and access to contraception. They are not and should not be confused with "abortion".

I share your concerns but when we mix it with the language that abortions should be rare, it places the procedure as a very different type of health care. One in which the goal is reduced use rather than expanded access and enhanced quality. And this has contributed to the significant decline in the number of locations where abortions are performed in the United States. The result is also fewer physicians - good physicians - who are even taught abortion care. Less than half of all OB/GYN's residency programs offer training in abortion care.

Saying it should be rare legitimizes efforts to restrict access to abortion.

Prior to 1989, laws interfering with a woman’s right to abortion were ruled unconstitutional. The shift in the composition of the Court under the Reagan and Bush I administrations led to the 1989 and 1992 Webster and Casey Supreme Court decisions establishing a threshold of “undue burden” for the constitutionality of state-based restrictions. Under this new legal regime, states can demonstrate a preference against abortion through the implementation of waiting periods, parental
involvement, mandatory information, and scripted provider speech requirements; since 1994, almost every state has done so. These laws vary in their construction and studying the effects of these laws is difficult but suggests that additional barriers to abortion disproportionately affect traditionally vulnerable populations.24 For example, the most severe waiting periods require two in-person visits to the clinic with a prescribed time between visits. In a world where many women lack paid sick leave and childcare, access to a provider in their community, and affordable transportation/lodging, a two-visit requirement may be insurmountable to some women.

Using this phrase is a linguistic trick of affirming the right to abortion while simultaneously devaluing it is both harmful and ineffective as a strategy to securing rights. The desire to help an individual woman achieve her reproductive desires by avoiding an abortion is a laudable goal, not because it reduces the need for abortion, but because it is what that woman wants for her life.

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Response to cthulu2016 (Original post)

Sun Nov 10, 2013, 02:54 PM

21. Abortion should be rare, because unwanted pregnancies should be rare.

We need to empower the people of our nation with the tools and the education so that they can make informed decisions about sex. Abortion is a medical procedure, it isn't the most dangerous one per say, but any doctor can tell you that medical procedure should be the option of last resort.

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