The draft of the Democratic Party platform, principally written by Obama's Senate policy director, the estimable Karen Kornbluh, is a remarkably feminist document, one befitting of a political party that, this year, came exceedingly close to nominating a woman. In the summer of 2006, I heard Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York speak on the Hill, lamenting that the lily livered John Kerry team had, for the first time in decades, removed support for the Equal Rights Amendment from the party platform. Well, this year the ERA is back, alongside a truly unequivocal statement of support for reproductive rights, an unprecedented statement in opposition to sexism, and new sections on equal pay, women's economic struggles, work-family balance, and violence against women. Read the whole platform here.
It's clear that care was taken to involve members of Hillary Clinton's circle in the document's drafting (perhaps Dana Singiser), or to at least take their concerns to heart. Clinton's run is presented in the document as a feminist historical feat, and in the foreign policy section, the draft borrows the language of Clinton's celebrated 1995 speech to the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing: "Our policies will recognize that human rights are women’s rights and that women’s rights are human rights." Reflecting Obama's own long-standing interest in international development, the documented continues, "Women make up the majority of the poor in the world. So we will expand access to women’s’ economic development opportunities and seek to expand microcredit."
Lastly, it's worth saying a bit more about the abortion language in the platform draft. Some conservatives are interpreting the platform's mention of adoption and a woman's right to choose motherhood as a new attempt to reach out to mixed and anti-choice Evangelical and Catholic voters. But I also think the platform is a significant victory for reproductive rights advocates. The Clintonian formula of "safe, legal, and rare" has been scrubbed. The adoption stuff is hardly new. And both the 2004 and 2008 platforms, with their "regardless of her ability to pay" language, oppose the Hyde Amendment, which currently prevents Medicare and Medicaid from paying for abortions. Anyhow, you be the judge. Here's the old, 2004 choice platform:
We will defend the dignity of all Americans against those who would undermine it. Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.
And here's 2008:
The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.
The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empowers people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.
The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.
I simply don't see this as a modification of the party's pro-choice stance. Rather, it's a strengthening of that position and a re-articulation of the commitment to helping low-income expectant mothers.