Dear Hillary - Please Don't Pick Tim Kaine As Your VP

We won’t even be fully recovered from our Trump hangover by the time the DNC rolls out next week. Today, Hillary Clinton is poised to announce her vice-presidential pick. At the top of the list of potential candidates is Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. If Clinton goes with Kaine, it’ll be a disappointing and fruitless attempt to appeal to more conservative voters.

So who is Tim Kaine? I’m not a single-issue voter, but his stance on a particular issue is deeply disturbing, especially in light of the current political landscape. Senator Kaine, you see, describes himself as “personally opposed to abortion.” He claims he supports the right to choose—so long as it doesn’t involve so-called “partial birth abortion,” which he favors outlawing. Senator Kaine also supports parental notification laws, which endanger teens across the United States, and “informed consent” bills requiring physicians to spout anti-abortion propaganda to their patients. We can also thank the good Senator for Virginia’s “Choose Life” license plates and the promotion of abstinence-based education, which doesn’t work.

This guy. 

At a time when abortion rights are under systematic attack, when Planned Parenthood clinics are being bombed and set on fire, when states across the country are doubling down on things like fetal personhood laws, a candidate who is equivocal on abortion is a huge problem. A “traditional Catholic position” paired with a fig leaf of support for “privacy” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

One of Kaine’s most troubling positions is his dangerous endorsement of “partial birth abortion” bans. This term is popular among the right-wing set because it conjures up the image of innocent babies being murdered and summarily ejected from the womb. But it’s not an actual medical term, or a real medical procedure. What most people mean by “partial-birth abortion” is intact dilation and extraction, which was used in just 0.17 percent of abortions in 2000. Patients and care providers may opt for D&E for personal or medical reasons—including in cases of miscarriage where patients would like to be able to say goodbye to a wanted pregnancy on their own terms.

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Laws dictating the type and nature of procedures that abortion providers can offer are extremely dangerous. Because politicians are making up names for procedure, they introduce a confusing note to abortion practice as providers may not be clear on what is legal and what is not. Look, for example, to Utah and its “fetal pain” legislation. This law requires care providers to use anesthesia on the fetus — but physicians don’t know how to respond to the legislation because anesthesia can endanger patients and fetuses don’t even feel pain until the third trimester. This is direct interference not just with individual rights, but the practice of medicine, and it is dangerous.

Clinton knows that the majority of Americans don’t agree with Kaine. Fifty-six percent of the American public supports abortion rights, according to recent numbers from Pew. This year represents a tremendous opportunity for the Democrats: A chance to elect an unabashedly pro-choice presidential slate. With extremist Donald Trump in the other corner, the Democrats have a leg up on the moderate vote. Secretary Clinton doesn’t need to appeal to conservatives by pandering with an anti-abortion pick, and she shouldn’t.

Hillary should be loud and proud about supporting abortion rights. Photo by Marc Nozell (Creative Commons).

This is a candidate who has repeatedly announced her unreserved support for Planned Parenthood, and for repealing the Hyde Amendment. She has referred to abortion as “a fundamental human right.” Why would she dilute that by choosing an anti-abortion VP candidate, which is what Senator Kaine is, even if he wants to cloak it in a guise of “I don’t like it but I guess it’s okay if you do it”? She’s already shakier on abortion than many people realize: She supports “late pregnancy regulation,” which is ominously nebulous. We don’t need two Democrats who think that abortion should be subject to conditional regulation. Of note: her former opponent Bernie has indicated that he supports abortion without reservations as a personal choice, and does not favor restrictions on when and how people get the procedure. Those are the mainstream ideals her VP pick should embrace.   

In 2008, the Democrats compromised with Joe Biden, who believes that life begins at conception, opposes “partial-birth abortion,” and doesn’t support federal funding for the procedure. The party was desperate for a win, it knew that Senator John McCain was popular with moderates, and it wanted to draw the anti-abortion vote, so it throw the electorate a bone. With Joe Biden in the house, the White House wouldn’t be a nonstop two for one abortion party.

Democrats, including Secretary Clinton, are fond of parroting the “safe, legal, and rare” line with regards to abortion, though it hasn’t appeared in her lexicon much lately. It’s a red herring. “Abortion on demand and without apology” should be the watchword, because anything else is stigmatizing, suggesting that abortion is something wrong that people should be ashamed about. In a political climate where abortion rights are under sustained attack, we cannot afford to be squeamish about abortion. This was the Democrats’ chance to come out swinging for choice. Let’s hope they don’t blow it.

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by s.e. smith
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s.e. smith is a writer, agitator, and commentator based in Northern California.

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1 Comment Has Been Posted

Nice plea. Thanks to

Nice plea. Thanks to wikileaks, we know the decision was actually made prior to 2015.

Stings doesn't it?

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