Friday, August 31, 2007

In an August 17, 2007 column appearing on MSNBC.com, Eleanor Clift of Newsweek noted that Nancy Keenan, president of NARAl Pro-Choice America, has argued that asking Presidential candidates their views of abortion or Roe v. Wade is less useful than asking a series of questions about family planning. Clift notes that not only are all the Republican candidates rhetorically "pro-life," but, more ominously, "the culture war goes on with some large corporations, such as Wal-Mart and Kroger, slow to stock the morning-after pill, and numerous reports of pharmacists refusing to offer it, especially in hard-to-access rural areas."

Keenan suggests more revealing questions: 1)Do you think it's acceptable for a pharmacy to refuse to fill a woman's prescription for birth control pills based on the personal views of the pharmacist? 2)Should hospital emergency rooms be allowed to withhold information from a rape victim about the morning-after pill, which can prevent a preganancy if it's taken soon enough after the assault? 3)Do you support age-appropriate sex education?

Even if these appropriate questions are not asked, Democrats should be careful about handling this last issue. When in July, Barack Obama stated "But it's the right thing to do, to provide age-appropriate, science-based, sex education in the schools," Mitt Romney accused the Illinois Senator of advocating teaching sex education to kindergarten students. (As ABC News reported here, Obama supported a failed measure in the Illinois state Senate in which kindergarten students would have been given rudimentary sex education, with an opt-out provision.) No matter that Governor Romney had not questioned Massachusetts' age-appropriate sex education curriculum, which included kindergarten students. (No word yet on whether Romney has changed his position on his date of birth, mother's maiden name, or the number of months in a year.) This is the kind of emotion-laden, volatile issue the GOP likes to trot out at election time and with the Repubs loathe to question civil partnerships (and Democrats on record as opposing gay marriage), sex education is among many which could become the GOP's wedge issue of the season.

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Overwrought Reaction

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