another riposte to Moore

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Wed Aug 2 09:28:32 PDT 2000

[via Katha Pollitt, forwarded with author's permission]

Date: Tue, 01 Aug 2000 18:17:31 -0400 From: Polly Rothstein <wcla at>

I disagree with Moore's diatribe. He's wrong on his facts, which puts everything he says with authority in question.

. Roe v. Wade is still on the books (mainly because of the consistent and unwavering support from the Reagan-appointed Justice O'Connor. O'Connor thought up the vague "undue burden" standard under which Roe now barely survives. She has voted for the restrictions except for partial birth." She is not reliable at all.

>I think the first time I remember hearing this political urban myth
>was in the 1976 presidential election. Somebody told me the reason I
>had to vote for Jimmy Carter was because if Gerald Ford was elected,
>women would lose their right to chose to have an abortion. Abortion
>had been legal for only three years at that point. It was considered
>a great victory, one we all wanted to support. So, I voted for
>Jimmy Carter -- and guess what? One of the things he did was to stop
>all abortions provided for women or wives in the armed services! He
>also stopped any further funding to birth control groups overseas that
>offered abortion as an alternative. And he ended all Medicaid payments
>for poor women in need of an abortion.

In 1976, all this post-Roe anti-abortion business was new unexpected stuff. No one had quizzed candidate Carter on these issues. The movements on both sides of the issue were undeveloped, and the Medicaid cutoff was first passed in 1976. Dole hadn't yet pandered to the RTL, making abortion an election issue. Dick Clark hadn't yet been defeated on the issue. So Carter is an improper example.

>I felt a bit abused. I mean, Gerry Ford had been pro-choice. His wife
>was an ardent supporter of women's rights. And it was a Nixon
>appointee to the Supreme Court -- Justice Blackmun -- that wrote the
>majority opinion making abortion legal. What was I thinking? (Other
>than that the Nixon Nightmare years had to come to an end! That, I
>correctly rationalized, was worth the vote for Carter.)

I went to the archives and found that Gerald Ford did not have a good record on abortion when in Congress. He voted to ban research on live fetuses. He was on a list of lawmakers who did co-sponsor a family planning bill in 1973. He voted in 1973 to deny poor women due process by prohibiting legal services attorneys from representing women seeking abortions. He was listed by the Alan Guttmacher Institute in January 1974 as having sponsored anti-abortion amendments to legislation. On page 53 of Tanya Melich's "The Republican War Against Women," (Bantam, 1976) she says that Ford had generally not been a back of abortion, and had sponsored a "local option" amendment. Melich recounts Ford's move from "subtle" moves against abortion to outspoken position when he sought election as president in 1976, making abortion a national issue. She says, "We [pro-choice Republicans] were angered by Ford's attempt to label hils position 'moderate'; at best it was only slightly less belligerent than that of Reagan, who had endorsed a constitutional amendment." She said, "For our standard-bearer, we had Gerald Ford, who was compromising on our goals in order to save his candidacy."

>Four years later, Democrats and liberals were going nuts over the
>possibility that Ronald Reagan might unseat Carter. Dire warnings were
>issued to all: If Reagan gets in, abortion will be illegal, period.

Reagan didn't achieve it, but he did a lot to take away abortion, and certainly help rev up the Christian right and the rest of the antis. He set the stage for much of what we face now.

Polly Rothstein

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