It's Palin's Party, Not McCain's

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, left, smiles after introducing his Vice Presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in Dayton, Ohio., Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia) AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

This column was written by Andy Kroll.
Sarah Palin says she is "proud" that her 17-year-old daughter, who is five months pregnant, has made a "decision to have her baby."

Foes of abortion rights are celebrating the decision.

Richard Land, the president of the Southern Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention, says,
"The Palin family, in making this choice to affirm life and affirm the baby, is giving a pro-life stance."

Referring to Palin's daughter, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, said, "Fortunately, Bristol is following her mother and father's example of choosing life in the midst of a difficult situation."

Interesting words those: "decision," "choice," "choosing."

Palin and her family are being celebrated for making wise and responsible decisions and choices.

Yet, Palin and her party would deny Americans the right to wise and responsible decisions and choices.

The extreme social conservative and religious right activists who have so enthusiastically embraced Palin's candidacy do not like the idea in allowing women - or men, for that matter - to have too much say with regard to how they live their lives. This is made exceptionally clear by the Republican platform that was endorsed by the convention Monday, a document that steers far to the right even of the conservative positions taken by Arizona Senator John McCain.

It is now quite clear that the presumptive presidential nominee rejected his own vice-presidential preferences in order to satisfy the right with the Palin pick.

But it goes deeper than that.

There is simply no question that the GOP that meets in St. Paul to grudgingly nominate John McCain for president is Palin's party.

It is the governor of Alaska who speaks the anti-choice language of the current Republican Party, not just on reproductive rights but on a host of other issues.

The presumptive Republican nominee for vice president is, arguably, the most militant foe of free choice ever to be proposed as a member of a major party ticket.

Palin is not merely opposed to abortion rights.

She said when she entered statewide politics in Alaska that she was as "pro-life as any candidate can be." She takes the militant position of opposing allowing women to choose to terminate pregnancies even in cases where they have been raped. She also opposes allowing abortions in cases of incest.

"I am pro-life," Palin wrote in response to a 2006 questionnaire from the conservative Eagle Forum. "With the exception of a doctor's determination that the mother's life would end if the pregnancy continued. I believe that no matter what mistakes we make as a society, we cannot condone ending an ending an innocent's life."

Palin's anti-choice orthodoxy, like that expressed in the 2008 Republican platform, runs across the issue spectrum.

She opposes embryonic stem-cell research and other scientific initiatives that might give sick people the option of choosing treatments that could cure them or at least allow them to treat their ailments.

She opposes physician-assisted suicide and other procedures that might allow terminally-ill people to make choices about whether to end their suffering.

She opposes same-sex marriage and other protections for loving couples that choose to secure their relationships and legally protect their families. And she has supported efforts to put in place constitutional amendments that narrow the definition of marriage and ban benefits for the same-sex partners of public employees.

She opposes decriminalization of marijuana - although she admits to some toking in her younger years -- and other drug-law reforms that would allow Americans to choose whether to consume recreational drugs.

Palin is a good deal less flexible on the issues than McCain. The Republican presidential candidate has been a steady foe of abortion rights throughout his career, but he favors exceptions allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest or where a mother's life would be in danger. Palin opposes most exceptions. And she is far more likely to take cues from the National Right to Life Committee, while McCain split with the committee and its allies to support campaign-finance reforms that they have militantly opposed. (Anti-choice groups oppose transparency in campaign finance laws because they traditionally have collected large sums of money from back-channel sources to run stealth campaigns on behalf of their favored candidates.)

In 2006, McCain broke with the Bush administration and the Republican right to oppose a constitutional amendment written to ban same-sex marriage. "The constitutional amendment we're debating today strikes me as antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans," McCain told the Senate. "It usurps from the states a fundamental authority they have always possessed and imposes a federal remedy for a problem that most states do not believe confronts them."

In contrast to Palin, McCain supports science and has said he would reverse the Bush administration's ban on federal funding to develop medical treatments using embryonic stem cells.

At every turn, Palin takes rigidly anti-choice positions that are more in synch with the Republican platform than those of McCain.

The platform, which makes only one passing reference in the preface to McCain (as opposed to dozens of references to President Bush in the 2004 party manifesto), rejects the presumptive presidential nominee's stances on same-sex marriage amendments and stem-cell research, as well as his relative moderation on immigration issues. And, when it comes to abortion rights, the platform echoes Palin's militantly anti-choice orthodoxy.

In an Orwellian twist, the document declares that, "Every effort should be made to work with women considering abortion to enable and empower them to choose life."

That line comes a few sentences after an endorsement of a sweeping constitutional amendment -- with no exceptions for rape, incest or threats to the life of the mother -- that would take choice out of the equation by ending the right of women to make decisions about their own lives and their own bodies.

Decision. Choice. Choices.

Sarah Palin and her family embrace them when it comes to their own circumstances.

But she and her party would take them away from other Americans.

By Andy Kroll
Reprinted with permission from The Nation

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