A few days ago I stumbled upon a tiny item in Time‘s European edition saying that Vampire Chronicles author Anne Rice — who became (for lack of a better term) a born-again Catholic in 1998 — is supporting Hillary Clinton for president, in part because Rice believes Democrats are more likely to end abortion than Republicans. No further info. As a former Rice fan-girl, I investigated upon my arrival back home and found a small blogospheric kerfuffle over Rice’s statement, posted on her personal site:
To summarize, I believe in voting, I believe in voting for one of the two major parties, and I believe my vote must reflect my Christian beliefs.
Bearing all this in mind, I want to say quietly that as of this date, I am a Democrat, and that I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. …
I want to add here that I am Pro-Life. I believe in the sanctity of the life of the unborn. Deeply respecting those who disagree with me, I feel that if we are to find a solution to the horror of abortion, it will be through the Democratic Party. …
And much as I am horrified by abortion, I am not sure – as a student of history – that Americans should give up the right to abortion.
I am also not convinced that all of those advocating anti-abortion positions in the public sphere are necessarily practical or sincere. I have not heard convincing arguments put forth by anti-abortion politicians as to how Americans could be forced to give birth to children that Americans do not want to bear. And more to the point, I have not heard convincing arguments from these anti-abortion politicians as to how we can prevent the horror of abortion right now, given the social situations we have.
Rice professes not to have any "solution" for the problem of abortion in mind, but it seems to me she’s gesturing toward a public policy of increased access to contraceptives and comprehensive sexuality education. In other words, she prefers a policy of prevention, the keystone of the Clintons’ "safe, legal, and rare" formulation. I also wouldn’t be surprised if part of Rice’s support is based on Hillary’s 2005 statement that abortion is often a "tragedy." Pro-choicers have been wary of this language. But maybe it’s time to reconsider.
While it’s true that poll after poll shows Americans want abortion to remain legal, this support is somewhat "soft." Americans consistently express moral ambivalence about the procedure, and say abortion should be less common. So should pro-choicers be shifting the 2008 debate away from federal abortion funding and rural abortion access, and toward access to contraceptives? The danger, after all, is that by not talking about the very real barriers that remain to abortion access, we’ll do nothing to compel the next president to alleviate them.
But as Ann Friedman writes, Republican candidates have consistently signaled to the conservative base that they find oral contraceptives as abhorrent as surgical abortion: "While the nation may be divided on how we feel about abortion rights, there is widespread and unequivocal support for contraception access. Moderate Republican voters should know that Mitt Romney wants to take away their birth control pills."
The Anne Rice position on abortion and birth control is smack in the middle of the mainstream. So instead of running scared from discussions of reproductive health, could contraception become a wedge issue for Democrats? And how could we make it so without compromising on abortion?