I am strongly pro-choice. On this conviction, I differ from the candidate whom I am supporting for president in 2012, and whom I am suggesting liberals everywhere support.
Many of those liberals who most strongly disagree with the Blue Republicans -- former Obama supporters, Democrats and Independents, who support Ron Paul for president in 2012, revert to a single argument against him: that he is pro-life and this will have terrible consequences for the reproductive rights of women in the USA.
I've really not wanted to engage this as, on the one hand, it seems to be such an extraordinary (sometimes I think deliberate) misunderstanding of Paul's politics as to be not serious, and, on the other, abortion is such an emotive subject, I can't imagine any writer gaining more readers than he loses by writing about it.
But since this matters so much -- as this misunderstanding is now standing in the way of remaking our country -- I'm going to engage it this once, and damn the torpedoes.
On the abortion issue, Ron Paul is pro-life. He believes human life begins at conception. But his entire political, indeed philosophical, worldview, is pro-choice. He believes that he does not get to impose his views using the force of federal law on a nation that might disagree with him -- especially in areas in which the Constitution does not give him that authority.
In other words, were someone of Ron Paul's views to win the presidency, there would be no federal action to prevent you from having a safe abortion. He is on the record. For most pro-choicers, that should put the issue to rest -- but it doesn't, because as other progressives rightly point out, under a Paul presidency, some states could make abortions illegal.
That is indeed the "worst case." But any liberal should be able to see that this worst case, taken in its entirety is better than the present situation, for multiple reasons.
1) If you allow this issue to be legislated at the national level, then a Republican majority or president with a large neocon or religious-right base will be able to reverse that legislation to ban abortion nationwide. The only way to guarantee that safe abortions will always be available in the USA for more than one Congress or presidency is to push this issue to the states in the spirit of the Constitution. Then, even the possibility of a nationwide ban on abortion disappears.
2) It is easier to reverse bad policy at the state level than the federal level through public pressure.
3) There is nothing liberal or humane about requiring those who sincerely disagree with us on abortion to subsidize our practices -- just as there is nothing liberal or humane about those who like unnecessary wars to force us to pay for them. In particular, if we are concerned about the rights of women, we shouldn't be asking women who disagree with us to subsidize our views.
4) The very worst (and frankly, extremely unlikely) case under a Paul presidency is that a poor woman would have to cross a state line to get an abortion. However, this worst-case scenario comes with the benefit of the reinstitution of the Bill of Rights, the end of killing innocent people in foreign countries, the end of indefinite incarceration without trial of Americans, the end of bank bailouts, the end of spending money abroad that should be spent at home, the end of government agents listening into your private conversations, the end of government by corporate lobbyists, and so on and so on.
In other words, if you don't vote for Ron Paul because of the abortion issue, then you cannot claim to be a progressive or liberal in any sense. You are a single-issue voter, which means, I am afraid, that you don't care about everything else that is going on in your country that is destroying the lives of the very same women whose right to an abortion you wish to protect. That does not make you a progressive; it does not make you a feminist and it certainly does not make you a liberal.
But since I agree with you that America should be a country in which all women have access to safe abortions, I would also pledge to support a charity that would pay for poor women in Mississippi -- to use an example that was suggested to me in a radio interview -- to travel across state lines to get the safe abortion they require.
The point of course, is there is no charity that could stop the government from killing people in undeclared wars, or bailing out crony corporatists, or making laws that favors well-funded lobbies or, cause federal agencies to follow again the Bill of Rights.
Vote Obama in 2012 and you'll get your federally mandated right to an abortion -- and you'll lose (or more accurately, fail to get back) every other Constitutional right you are supposed to have.
If I have to spell it out, under a Paul presidency, no woman would have to forego an abortion. Under the presidency of any other candidate, every woman has to forego the right to privacy, to due process before detention, to not participate financially in the killing of innocent people abroad, to not have her wealth transferred to rich guys who run banks and know other rich guys, to not have her conversations listened to by government authorities, and so on.
Do you see the asymmetry? Do you see how this is a matter of priorities?
I would like the USA to be the live-and-let-live country it was supposed to be.
Let us as liberals be true and consistent in our principles. The only way in which our pro-choice views directly impinge on others is by forcibly taking money from them to pay for things we want. We should no more need to use the monopoly of force of government in that way than should any religionist use it to prevent a gay couple from making a life-long commitment and calling it whatever they want, including "marriage." And if the religionists don't believe it's "a real marriage," let them call it whatever they want, too. And we can ignore them. And so on.
Paul's pro-life views are personal. The country needs to understand that a leader can hold a view fervently without having to impose it on the country as national policy.
Indeed, that is precisely what the Constitution requires him -- or her -- to do.