Politics & Policy

Speaker’s Worst Nightmare

Move over, Nancy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi currently ranks second in the line of presidential succession, following Vice President Dick Cheney. This makes Pelosi the highest-ranking woman in American history.

Well, it is quite possible that the time is drawing near for Ms. Pelosi to relinquish that crown to another woman who would outrank her — John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate and current governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

Imagine a President John McCain delivering his first State of the Union address, flanked from behind by Nancy Pelosi to his left where the Speaker sits, and Sarah Palin to his right where the vice president sits. One would think that the National Organization for Women would be thrilled. They’re not.

As the chair of NOW’s political action committee has explained, “I am frequently asked whether NOW supports women candidates just because they are women. This gives me an opportunity to once again answer that question with an emphatic ‘No.’ We recognize the importance of having women’s rights supporters at every level but, like Sarah Palin, not every woman supports women’s rights.”

I’m just guessing, but it would probably be fair to speculate that when NOW says that Sarah Palin does not support “women’s rights,” they must be referring solely to unfettered abortion rights. After all, no one seems to be challenging Palin’s commitment to women’s rights to fair treatment in the workplace (even in the highest levels of government as well as in the media where she served as a sportscaster). No one seems to challenge Palin’s support of women’s right to vote, women’s rights to resources for their special needs children, or even women’s rights to join traditionally male establishments like worker’s unions and hunting lodges (not to mention the White House).

Nope, it must be her respect for the unique and unrepeatable dignity of every human life that has NOW working so hard against the election of this talented woman who does her best to balance family and career like millions of other women across our nation.

By contrast, NOW showed support for Speaker Nancy Pelosi by creating a hand-made eight-foot tall “giant congratulations card.” You can even see a picture of NOW’s craft project here. While Pelosi is an accomplished woman and mother of five, NOW chooses to cheer for Nancy Pelosi because she is an ardent supporter of abortion on demand — even having voted against common-sense abortion regulations such as the partial-birth-abortion ban, and the ban on transporting minor girls across state lines for secret abortions without their parents’ knowledge. Nancy Pelosi even voted against the federal fetal-homicide bill, which was r-introduced in Congress in response to Scott Peterson’s double crime of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Connor.

The Palin-Pelosi disparity on the fundamental human right to life presents a living drama that could be entitled A Tale of Two Women. As our nation writes the first chapter, we too can begin with that that famous opening line: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

It does seem to be the worst of times when we witness Speaker Pelosi describe herself as an “ardent, practicing Catholic” and then hold herself out as a theologian by correcting the Vatican on its own abortion position. On the August 24 Meet the Press program, Pelosi also ignored modern embryology that establishes when human life begins so as to defend Senator Obama’s position that the matter is “above his pay grade.” Pelosi’s statements on the Sunday morning talk show so distorted both science and religion that bishops and citizens were compelled to sign statements and petitions urging Speaker Pelosi to correct herself. (It’s not too late for you to sign on here.)

But we could be witnessing the best of times as well with the rise of Sarah Palin. John McCain’s running mate is a woman who unapologetically embodies authentic feminism — or what Palin refers to as her ideal of acting with a “servant’s heart.” Authentic feminism is the philosophy recognizing that women (like men) find fulfillment by giving of themselves, as opposed to radical feminism which insists that women can only find fulfillment by asserting themselves, even against their own unborn children.

Palin’s example of integrating self-giving leadership in her family and her community is a witness to the vision of suffragette leader Susan B. Anthony and her colleague Elizabeth Cady Stanton who wrote of abortion: “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.”

In the 1992 Casey decision which affirmed Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court stated that “[t]he ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives” with abortion. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 112 S.Ct. 2791, 2809 (1992). Palin’s example of giving birth to a baby with Down Syndrome despite abortion pressure, and her example of showing support for her teenaged daughter experiencing an unexpected pregnancy exposes the lie of the radical feminist philosophy that women need abortion to succeed.

Sarah Palin knows firsthand that new life is often inconvenient, and that each human life brings challenges. But she also knows that our greatest challenges, when welcomed with a servant’s heart, also bring unexpected joys and blessings — like a special baby to love, or a new grandchild to hug. She has experienced the profound truth that we are often in the convergence of the best of times and the worst of times. And she knows that it’s how we respond that reveals our character. Sarah Palin has responded to the challenges in both her family and her State with grace and principled integrity. She has responded to her critics with brilliant wit and disarming humor. She is a woman to watch.

A Tale of Two Women has begun, and the citizens of this country will determine how the story ends. The final chapter may very well conclude with the words, “Move over, Madam Speaker.”

Dorinda C. Bordlee is Vice President and Senior Counsel of Bioethics Defense Fund, a public-interest law firm dedicated to advocating for the human right to life through litigation, legislation and public education. She can be contacted for interviews or media appearances at dbordlee@bdfund.org.


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