Newsweek (USA), August 5, 2004
All Quiet on the Abortion Front?
The president of Planned Parenthood
discusses her take on the Democratic National
Convention and what the Kerry campaign could
be doing better
Aug. 5 - Convention-watchers may have wondered
if they were watching the same Democratic Party.
In 1992, the Democrats nominated Bill Clinton
on a platform that emphasized a woman's right
to choose. John Kerry made no mention of abortion
at all in his acceptance speech; daughter Alexandra
alluded only to the right to "control"
Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood,
did address the Fleet Center about what she
called the Republican administration's "war
on women's choice," but her five-minute
address on Monday evening wasn't covered by
any of the major networks or cable-news channels.
And none of the big-name speakers spent any
time on the issue that has been so closely
identified with the party. In an election that
could have an impact on the makeup of the Supreme
Court for the next generation, it is remarkable
how little attention the issue is getting.
Is Kerry-whose voting record is solidly pro-choice
but said last month he believes life begins
at conception-trying to avoid wading into controversial
waters? Does he assume everyone already knows
where he stands on abortion? Feldt recently
spoke with NEWSWEEK's Brian Braiker about her
take on Boston, what she would like to see
from the Kerry campaign and what Planned Parenthood
has on tap for the Republican National Convention
later this month.
NEWSWEEK: The Democrats were largely
silent on the topic of abortion in Boston.
Do they assume that the base knows where they
stand, or is the issue losing urgency with
Gloria Feldt: I'm sure part of the logic is exactly
as you just said: they assume we know where
he stands. I want to broaden this issue a bit,
however. It's not just about abortion rights.
If there's any one important message that I've
been giving to the Kerry campaign and to John
Kerry himself it is: this is much bigger than
abortion rights. The Bush administration is
after family planning. They are after birth
control. They are after insurance coverage
of birth control. They are after medically
accurate sex education. They are after telling
people how condoms can help prevent the spread
of sexually transmitted infections.
You wouldn't know it listening to the Kerry
It is very important for the campaign to begin
to articulate more of an agenda. I know they
have; they just haven't talked about it in
a big public venue like that. I think they're
doing themselves a disservice, particularly
with the women voters whom they need to bring
out if they don't talk more about their agenda
for women's reproductive health and rights
in the broader view.
Kerry did say last month that he believes
life begins at conception. Is that problematic
Not really. Pro-choice means pro-choice. We respect
people's different points of view. He also
explained that he understood the difference
between life and personhood, which is a very
fundamental difference. The sperm is alive
and the egg is alive-nobody argues that point.
The real issue is when does the developing
fetus get more status in the law and get more
moral status than a living, breathing, alive
Is he strong in your eyes on these issues?
Or does his not addressing them suggest to
you that he is not as vehemently pro-choice
as you would like him to be?
I think that past performance is the best predictor
of future behavior and his voting record is
100 percent pro-choice. John Edwards's voting
record is 100 percent pro-choice. John Edwards
was brilliant in the Senate Judiciary Committee,
skewering Bush's most radical anti-civil-rights,
anti-choice judicial nominees.
Is that the big issue for you in this election,
the appointment of judges?
It's not the only issue. It's one of the most
important issues, certainly. But for Planned
Parenthood, the other important issues are
assuring access to family planning. Bush has
now defunded the United Nations Population
Fund three years in a row, resulting in millions
of unintended pregnancies, millions of abortions
and thousands of maternal and child deaths
worldwide. We need an administration who will
turn that around. Similarly with domestic family-planning
programs, the way to prevent abortion-which
is most of Planned Parenthood's work-is to
make sure people have access to family-planning
services and good information.
Is it the role of government to be active
in family planning?
The role of government is to make sure that citizens,
obviously, are safe and, secondly, that citizens
have the ability to make their own choices
and better themselves in life. It's long been
proven that every dollar spent on family planning
saves at least three dollars in other government
programs. So there's no cost to this; this
is all about the Bush administrations ideology.
What most concerns you about the Bush administration?
What would concern you about Kerry?
What most concerns me about the Bush administration
is not any one thing. It's that they have created
a web of anti-choice attacks and they have
done it under the radar screen. At the moment
I don't have anything particularly that troubles
me about a Kerry administration. He has said
the first thing he would do is rescind the
"global gag rule," which has served
to reduce funding to many international family-planning
programs and therefore increase unintended
pregnancy and abortion globally. We interviewed
all the presidential candidates during the
primary. We invited George Bush to be interviewed;
he did not accept. In interviewing Kerry, sitting
across the table one-on-one, on camera in a
video he knew would be sent to all of our affiliates
across the country, what I heard was in his
gut an understanding how access to reproductive
health-care services is part of women's global
human rights. I think he's got it in his heart
and in his gut. Getting him to specific policy
initiatives will be the challenge.
You were at the convention.
I wasn't on the floor every minute ... nor did
I get to watch all of the convention, but my
observation was without fail any time anybody,
myself included, mentioned a women's right
to choose or reproductive health, that was
met with loud cheers and approval from the
What are your plans for the Republican National
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is nonpartisan
and we have tried very hard the last few conventions
to get some change in the Republican platform
and have not been successful. Nevertheless,
we will have a reception for pro-choice Republicans
who are there. We will also have an entertainment
event. Planned Parenthood of New York City
is sponsoring a march for women's lives. It's
on Saturday before the convention actually
starts. It's a march across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Our presence will be there. We're not as interested
in attacking George Bush as in appealing to
broad public opinion at this point. He's not
going to change his mind. There are some groups
that want to attack and we don't see any benefit
in that. We know and the American people know
where George Bush stands.
<< Newsweek -- 8/5/04 >>
FAIR USE NOTICE
site contains copyrighted material the
use of which has not always been specifically
authorized by the copyright owner. We
are making such material available in
our efforts to advance understanding of
environmental, political, human rights,
economic, democracy, scientific, and social
justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes
a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material
as provided for in section 107 of the
US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title
17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on
this site is distributed without profit
to those who have expressed a prior interest
in receiving the included information
for research and educational purposes.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.
If you wish to use copyrighted material
from this site for purposes of your own
that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain
permission from the copyright owner.