Amid Palin hype, a pro-life feminist's dilemma

Both the Republican and Democratic parties force me to betray my core values.

I am still not sure about Republican motives behind the choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. As I try to sort out the truth and fiction behind the barrage of attacks against Governor Palin (and my confidence in her ability to lead our country), one thing is certain: The 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling made for women during this campaign have not been made for me.

As a social worker who believes that life begins at conception, I am both pro-life and pro-woman. Both parties' platforms force me to betray my core values and choose between the two.

The White House Project, a nonprofit organization, states that support from other women is critical to increasing the number of women in politics. But, in general, feminists have led the attacks on one of their own who is close to shattering the ceiling. To them, Palin's pro-life position alone is proof that she is not fit to lead.

The sabotage of pro-life female leadership by other women is a bipartisan effort. Political action committees – Emily's List for Democrats, and WISH for Republicans – have been established on both sides to advance the careers of female political candidates. Each give money and deliver a bloc of voters to all women interested in running for public office, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion. Only one issue determines whether a woman is worthy of their resources: abortion. The candidate must be pro-choice.

Pro-life feminism is not a contradiction. Conveniently under our progressive radar is the hushed fact that the feminist movement is rooted in pro-life activism. Founders such as Victoria Woodhull, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were active crusaders both for the progress of women, and for the unborn child. Stanton was the organizer of the nation's first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. In 1873, she wrote: "When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit," (Julia Howe's Diary, Harvard University Library).

Pro-life feminists of our time include Maya Angelou, the late Benazir Bhutto, and women who have made a powerful social statement by changing their position, including Roe v. Wade's "Jane Roe," Norma McCorvey.

As noted by Democrats for Life, more and more pro-life Democrats are leaving their party and joining ranks with Republicans. The deficiency of a social justice agenda on the right means that these new recruits have no more of a chance to lead as a Republican than they did as a Democrat. This unreconciled dilemma has real consequences and even determines election outcomes.

According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in 2004, 30 percent of pro-lifers said they would vote only for a candidate who shares their views on abortion. Only 11 percent of pro-choicers said the same. That pro-life intensity helped President Bush win in 2004.

According to Gallup, national exit polling in every presidential election since 1984 has shown a net advantage to the pro-life side, based on the percentage of single-issue abortion voters in the electorate.

Single-issue voters are not simple-minded. They make the hard decision to compromise on a myriad of urgent issues in order to vote their conscience on the one most important to them.

Our parties need to redefine themselves for moderate female voters – and left-leaning pro-life men – who see abortion as a lack of alternatives, rather than a celebration of progress. These female voters lead in their families, schools, and communities but still don't know where they belong in politics.

The upcoming election makes me want to stay at the water cooler.

One party condemns abortion but fails to support the brave women who carry through with unplanned pregnancies.

The other is out of touch with the 35 percent of Democrats who identify themselves as being pro-life, and socially conscious Republicans who wish they had other options.

Despite the criticism heaped upon her, Palin's presence on the Republican ticket is my last slim hope that the GOP will make good on their convention pledge and become responsive and accountable to working-class Americans. Smart Democrats would wake up to Palin's appeal to pro-life women and back candidates that represent the views of their members.

It's probably too late for this election, but Democrats could rescue their once-great party from the exodus of single-issue voters. There are millions of women like me across this country who can't figure out which box to check on their voter registration cards. Our votes, both for party allegiance and president, are up for grabs.

Angela Kays-Burden is a licensed master social worker who holds Christian ministerial credentials through Elim Gospel Fellowship.

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