Watch CBSN Live

Pro-choice Advocate Calls Abortion A Key Election Issue

This story was written by Ben Penn, The Diamondback

Hot-button issues such as the economy and the war in Iraq are forcing abortion to take a backseat in the race for the White House this fall, but for one night, the University of Maryland College Democrats pushed the issue into the spotlight.

A representative from the political advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland spoke to a group of nearly 40 College Democrats members at the Stamp Student Union last night, asking students to keep women's reproductive rights on the forefront of their minds as they rally behind presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

"Young people are already really energized about Obama, and it's important that we sustain interest and infuse knowledge about how important [abortion] is in this election," said Erin Schurmann, a development and political associate at NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, in an interview after she addressed the College Democrats at its weekly meeting.

Schurmann emphasized the difference between presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Obama's abortion stances in her talk, saying McCain has vowed to overturn the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalizes abortions, while Obama is committed to defending a woman's right to choose.

Schurmann, who graduated from this university in 2007 and founded Terps for Choice, pointed out that the next president will likely appoint two new Supreme Court justices, whose political stances would weigh heavily in the court's decision to consider repealing Roe v. Wade.

But Republican Women at Maryland president Alicia Walker, a junior civil engineering major who is pro-life and supports McCain, is not convinced a McCain presidency would lead to abortions becoming illegal.

"I think a lot of people realize the president isn't going to come in and change the constitution and change all these laws that we have. The president cannot do that," Walker said. "He can propose something to Congress, and since we have a Democratic Congress, that probably wouldn't [be upheld]."

While moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage played a prominent role in the 2004 election, the 2008 presidential election has shifted focus to the economy and foreign policy, leaving little room for McCain and Obama to discuss abortion at great length.

Schurmann understands the candidates' decision to avoid the issue, but still thinks voters need to hear more about abortion on the campaign trail.

"I can certainly see concerns about touching on the abortion issue, but I think it's important that candidates make their opinions on reproductive rights known," Schurmann said.

College Democrat Alexandra Ross, who attended the meeting last night, said she wanted to hear more about the candidates' views on abortion.

"I think [the topic of abortion] should get more play. I think it's important for all women to have access to health care," said Ross, a sophomore food science major. "It should be looked at as a medical issue, not a moral issue."

View CBS News In