ELIZABETH EDWARDS AT PLANNED PARENTHOOD. Today I'll be watching the three major Democratic presidential campaigns plead their case to Planned Parenthood. It's a significant event because this primary has, thus far, been almost completely lacking in discussion of sexual health. The major exception was the Democratic outcry after the Supreme Court upheld the Bush administration's ban on dilation and extraction abortion in April.

Representing her husband, Elizabeth Edwards was charming, glowing, funny, and very warmly-received. "If I wanted Rick Santorum's opinion" on my reproductive health choices, "I would call him up," she quipped. In what sounded like a dig at Hillary Clinton and her perceived radical left agenda, Elizabeth argued, "We need a pro-choice candidate who can be elected on a pro-choice platform.”

Elizabeth tied John's women's health platform into his support for universal health care and the alleviation of poverty, assuring Planned Parenthood that it would be recognized as a service provider under her husband's plan, that all prescription drug coverage would include regular and emergency contraception, that pharmacists would not be allowed to refuse such drugs to women or girls, and even that abortion would be eligible for federal funding under an Edwards administration. This would mean a Congressional-backed repeal of the Hyde Amendment.

Elizabeth also supported full funding of Title X and the Real Sex Ed Act, which would create a federal funding stream for reproductive health services, comprehensive sexuality education, and prenatal and postnatal care for women on Medicaid.

My only complaint is that Elizabeth seemed to add a caveat onto John's support for abortion rights. "John opposes any ban that does not include an adequate protection for a woman’s health," she said. But what about bans that protect women's health, or claim to? Is it okay to erect barriers to abortion in cases when a woman's health may not be clearly at risk, but abortion remains her choice? How about late in a pregnancy?

Unfortunately, I couldn't ask, because the three questioners appeared to have been cherry-picked in advance by Planned Parenthood. Still, one can't complain too much about a passionate speech that included the promise, "I know the art and theater of politics. There are times when you have to position yourself just to be heard. But there are also issues that are so important... that to try and position yourself out of it is to lay down the mantle of leadership. Women’s lives are at stake, and our lives are not fodder for compromise.”

--Dana Goldstein

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