I observe several firsts in response to NARAL’s outrageous ad against John Roberts, including chastisement by pro-abort legislators and other pro-abort organizations; public display of infighting within the NARAL, as demonstrated by its communications director quitting suddenly Friday; a retraction by NARAL; and now this, an editorial against NARAL from at least one nationwide newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times. See page 2 to read editorial.
Hat tip: Reader Dan. G.
9:55a CST update: Here’s another anti-NARAL editorial, from yesterday’s Kalamazoo Gazette.
Pro-choice group’s reckless ad was disservice to public
August 15, 2005
The pro-choice umbrella organization, NARAL, gambled and lost big time. By airing a television advertisement that tied Supreme Court nominee John Roberts to crazed and violent anti-abortion activists, NARAL risked undermining its very important mission: to protect and defend every American woman’s right to choose. Under pressure from politicians such as Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, NARAL decided to yank the ad Thursday night.
“The NARAL advertisement is not helpful to the pro-choice cause, which I support,” Specter sternly wrote to NARAL’s president, Nancy Keenan. He added that the ad was “blatantly untrue and unfair.”
The commercial was broadcast on cable networks and on stations in Maine and Rhode Island. It focused on a case that Roberts argued before the Supreme Court when he was working for the first President Bush. The 1991 case, Bray vs. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, was an understandable effort by those working at abortion clinics to prevent demonstrators from blocking access to those clinics.
The clinic supporters had argued that since only women could become pregnant and seek abortions, the anti-abortion activists were effectively expressing sexual discrimination by impeding the way. Roberts wrote a brief on behalf of the government suggesting opposition to abortion does not equate to discrimination against women’s rights. Later, after there had been other explosive incidents at other clinics, Roberts clarified his argument, saying the government was not supportive of the demonstrators’ goals, just their right to peaceful protest.
Whether or not one agrees with Roberts’ brief — the government won the case — the NARAL ad was wrong, offensive and extreme in its suggestion that Roberts supported the reckless and criminal actions of abortion protesters. Even Factcheck.org, a nonpartisan group from the University of Pennsylvania, argued the ad used “the classic tactic of guilt by association.” And some NARAL supporters, such as Catholics For a Free Choice, expressed deep concern about the “intemperance” of the message.
NARAL has an important mission to preserve abortion rights. In 87 percent of the counties in the United States there is no abortion provider. Some states have rolled back women’s access to contraception and their ability to get a legal abortion. Kansas has even sought access to the medical records of women who have had late-term abortions. The 1977 Hyde Amendment prevents Medicaid from paying for abortions.
NARAL can object to Roberts’ nomination, but it needs to deliver its message in a reasoned and truthful way and offer a counterpoint to the sometimes raucous voices of those who want to make abortion illegal. It needs to take the high road and pick its battles more judiciously.