St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

NARAL’s misstatements seem rooted in abandonment of principles

The November fundraising letter for NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri (NARAL) got off on the wrong foot for factual purists like the Oracle. It starts off lamenting how “Missouri has elected its first anti-choice governor since 1992, when Mel Carnahan defeated anti-choice John Ashcroft.” The basic point is accurate, but the details are not. It was 2000 when Carnahan’s corpse defeated Ashcroft, and that contest was for U.S. Senator, not governor. In 1992, Governor John Ashcroft was term-limited. The anti-choice Republican that Carnahan defeated that year was future convict William Webster.

Truth took a bigger hit later in the letter. Executive Director Carolyn Sullivan went on to claim, “For the first time since 1920, the Governor’s office and both legislative chambers are controlled by anti-choice leaders.” Actually, the Governor’s office and both legislative chambers have been controlled by anti-choice leaders for the majority of the period since 1920. While a full unanimous triumvirate of anti-choice leaders is hard to find in recent years, one still only has to go as far back as 1976, when the governor was Republican Kit Bond, the president pro-tem of the Senate was Democrat William Cason, and the Speaker of the House was Democrat (and future convict) Richard Rabbitt. Ironically, Bond would be unseated that year by anti-choice Democrat Joe Teasdale, who drew pro-life votes with an extreme stand that contrasted with Bond’s tolerance for exceptions for rape and incest.

In more recent times, Gov. Bob Holden had to deal not only with Republican senate president Peter Kinder and Republican house speaker Catherine Hanaway, but also with Hanaway’s predecessor, Democrat Jim Kreider, all of whom are anti-choice. Carnahan had to deal with anti-choice senate presidents like John Scott and James Mathewson, both fellow Democrats.

In the years before Roe v. Wade in 1973, the illegality of abortion was a given, and only the most radical and courageous politicians publicly advocated its legalization. Ironically, this small cadre included Republicans like one-term Florissant Senator Robert Prange and Columbia State Representatives George Parker and Harold Reisch. Governors and legislative leaders weren’t really on record with their positions on abortion prior to then, so it’s hard to fathom how Ms. Sullivan ascertained the alleged choice leanings of leaders during the first 53 years after 1920.

Of course, we all know what Ms. Sullivan meant, and that’s the problem. What Missouri’s Governor’s office and both legislative chambers haven’t been controlled by since 1920 is Republicans. Ms. Sullivan incorrectly equates Democrat with pro-choice and Republican with anti-choice. Her misstatement is rooted in NARAL’s recent unpublicized mission change. They now regrettably act as a front for the Democratic Party instead of supporting pro-choice advocates regardless of party. Both State Senator Harry Kennedy and State Rep. Mike Daus are anti-choice Democrats who faced pro-choice opponents in November, but NARAL wouldn’t lift a finger (except maybe the middle one) for either pro-choice candidate. Admittedly those pro-choice opponents were third-party candidates (David Sladky of the Green Party and Libertarian Leonora Kham), but NARAL backed pro-choice third-party challengers to anti-choice Democrats as recently as 2000, when its founding principles mattered more.

The Oracle misses the more principled organization.


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