I'm in DC today, ostensibly live-blogging the Planned Parenthood Action Fund's roundtable, where Elizabeth Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton are speaking. Edwards and Obama were on this morning, and I was poised and ready to do the "on the scene" coverage that gives me that crazy rush, but get this: NO WIRELESS in the Ritz Carlton downtown. No internet at all, as a matter of fact. If you're going to invite bloggers to the table - which in fact wasn't a table at all, but a row of chairs in the back of the ballroom - you need to have the wireless, friends...the connectivity, if you will. Typing in Word felt weird. It felt like I was writing a term paper instead of really processing what was going on and putting it into some kind of wordy form on the page as I went, but that's what I got. And that is why I am not struggling to find a place in the downtown Borders that has an electrical outlet and a place to sit. The twain aren't meeting, so I'll go with whatever power I have left to talk about this morning.
Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood and daughter of the late great Governor Ann Richards, opened the day. She said they're aiming for one million new members this year to join the fight for reproductive rights in the political realm. "I have a dream – that George Bush is the last anti-choice President in the United States of America. The American people are on our side. They support Planned Parenthood and the values we represent."
Planned Parenthood volunteers - teens and young adults - are introducing the candidates. The first was a girl who started the student chapter at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Having recently driven through North Carolina twice, a state I love but where I'm not sure I could ever live because it is so conservative, I can say that there are many, many pockets where Edwards' poverty fight needs waging - hard. And where the girls there could go for birth control, I have no idea. The student said, that for "young people it’s impossible to find someone who speaks truthfully and from the heart on issues we care about," and she puts Mrs. Edwards in that category.
And I have to say - I really get a good feeling from her. I have nothing whatsoever to base it on, but she seems to have this strength about her that's admirable and it doesn't strike a false note, which is uncommon. She'll be at the Blogher conference too, so today was a nice chance to see her before all that madness starts. John Edwards wasn't able to attend because he's on his poverty march or train - I'm not sure how he's traveling, but anyway, he's on the road. His wife delivered her remarks on his behalf, and I'd say if a person is going to go into politics, they're well served by an articulate, thoughtful person like her. Wow.
I mean, really, that is love, on some level - to support what is undoubtedly by now a mutual ambition, but is still ultimately his race, and to do it through illness and parenting and all the other demands that life brings day to day is true commitment. I got to thinking about that while she was talking and how partnership is still really fascinating to me on that level where it seems to work. In Lady Bird Johnson's obit on NPR the other day, they quoted her as saying that "In our case, we were better together than we were apart. And I knew that, and I loved my share of life with him." Of course the article goes on to say disappointingly that "throughout her marriage, she remained fiercely devoted to her husband, despite his extra-marital affairs," which led me to wonder if ANY man in office can keep his hands to himself, but that's another matter.
Edwards is on message with the poverty platform, definitely, and it's true that it does present those who are in it with limited options. I mean, I have friends who DON'T live in poverty who are under- or uninsured, but most of those people would still have someone to bail them out if things got really bad. And in most cases we're all armed with enough information to avoid undue trauma, but not all of it. Dip down about twenty thousand dollars or more, and it's a different story entirely. Here are a few of her quotes:
"John is pro-choice. Always has been. It is not a political calculation. John Edwards would never equivocate on his belief in a woman’s right to choose. This right is too precious for that. As a lawyer, a senator, a candidate for vice president and now president, he has stood his ground. I promise you he will support it today, tomorrow, the day after that, and every day after that."
"This is a fight for women’s equality and for dignity. We’ve been on a very long and difficult journey for dignity and equality. Women’s rights to control reproductive rights are central to this."
"Even a debate about whether a woman can be trusted with a choice about her body is demeaning, By continually suggesting that women make this choice lightly and for frivolous reasons...(says that we are) selfish children who need guidance from some legislature so we don’t behave too recklessly.”
"Extremists do not get a monopoly on defining values...We are all people of values and...some of us of faith."
"We as women must value women enough to trust their judgment about their bodies. Who should not be involved? The government. If I wanted Rick Santorum’s opinon on what I should do, I would call him up.
If the government wants to be involved, it can work with organizations such as Planned Parenthood to support prevention...comprehensive sex education, not just abstinence only...access to family planning services - that would be a nice change, birth control and emergency contraceptives...medically accurate prenatal care...replacing it’s decision making and categorical judgments with the medical and personal judgment of women and their doctors."
"With respect to the Supreme Court’s decision on the Federal ban on abortion, we are one justice away from overturning Roe vs. Wade...the recent 5/4 decision is evidence of that threat...(We have) retreated and taken the most radical step in a generation against reproductive health and rights...We need a pro-choice candidate, elected on a pro-choice platform. John is such a candidate and will be such a president."
"John has a true universal healthcare plan, not a promise that we’re going to have a healthcare plan in the future. This is a real plan that covers every man, woman and child in America. Since woman are disproportionately under the uninsured, only a truly universal healthcare plan guarantess that every woman will have her healthcare needs met. All reproductive healthcare, including pregnancy termination will be available components of his plan."
"John understands something that all of us know, that reproductive health is primary healthcare for women, that it needs to be comprehensive, provide a range of services...make and act on legitimately informed decisions in safety and dignity."
"Choice is about more than abortion. In order for a woman to make a real choice, she needs acces to sex education, affordable child care, a living wage, a life free of violence and coercion..."
"The news revealed the fallacy of the opposition's arguments again...(they have) long suggested that any information other than abstinece (was negative)...(that the) use of condoms would result in more underage sex activity and births. (These are) not a permission slip for teenage sex. It heightens awareness, results in more deliberation in sex activity."
"Good science and medicine includes birth control and sex education. John wil follow this. Whoever thought anyone would have to say this in a campaign? John will appoint a surgeon general committed to medicine... driven by science and not ideology...He will release to taxpayers all reports, if taxpayers pay for it, they oughta be able to see it, and without any editing by political operatives."
"People who oppose the right of women to terminate a pregnancy also oppose access to the tools that prevent that pregnancy."
"...(He) supports abstinence as part of a medically accurate program - children’s lives are too precious to provide them with inaccurate information. There is no time too early to give your children information to protect them from these diseases. (Edwards will support) comprehensive stream of sex education programs throughout the country."
"In the US – nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended, fifty percent end in abortion... A million and a half of unplanned pregnancies could have been prevented, if women has info about and timely access to emergency contraception."
"These issues are so important and values so central that to position ourselves out of them is to lay down the mantle of leadership. John will face political opposition when he believes he is right. Women’s lives are at stake and our lives are not fodder for compromise. There is a time when compromise means capitulation."
"You can’t be a little bit pregnant, and you can’t be a little bit deprived of the right to control your own body."
"Hiding behind the curtain in the theatre of politics is not just distasteful, it’s unecessary."
J will be a strong and committed leader protiecting choice and health issues for women, as gwb has been endangering them
He will not delay or defer, shy away or compromise, he will not equivocate.
This is not just a campaign promise. It is consistent with a philosophy that underlies all issues, that fuel him, animate him...the commitment to ending poverty, providing universal healthcare, bettering the lives of individuals, and the equality and rights of women."
"We are a voice for a lot of people who are not in this room, meeting with John today, who are counting on you...that promise to those women is as sacred to John as it is to you, and that promise will be kept."
That's as much as I have the battery power for, but I thought she hit on all the points and it's clear where the priorities are for the reproductive rights community. I'll follow up with Obama and Clinton later.