Will HB 1077 impact statehouse races?

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Will abortion politics motivate voters to vote for Democrats?

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
I hate the subject of abortion. With a deep, dark abiding passion.

But it’s possible I may have underestimated its impact on the 2012 elections when it comes to local state house races.

I spent the better part of my Saturday morning last week on the courthouse steps in West Chester listening to a rally put on by the Southern Chester County Women’s Rights Coalition — an impressively well-managed and well-attended event, by the way — and one thing seems pretty clear: There are a lot of very angry women when it comes to the state legislature’s attempt to potentially require trans-vaginal ultrasounds on women wishing to have abortions.

There is some wide disagreement on whether HB 1077 actually requires the insertion of a 10-inch probe into women or not, with opponents likening it to rape, while supporters say it protects women’s right to know about the development of the fetus.

House Bill 1077 appears to have been stalled — “laid on the table” in unfortunate legislative-speak — but based on what I saw last week, the bill may well live to haunt any number of local legislators.

No single issue has perverted the American political process more than abortion — and no, I’m not going to pander to the politically correct “Pro-life” and “Pro-Choice” tags — both of which are cop-outs. I’d like to smack all of the voters on either side of the issue who have made it their litmus test for supporting a political candidate, as we now have a more dysfunctional and less effective government than at any time since the early 20th century.

Yes, you built that.

Do I have a personal axe to grind here? Yup. The last time (and I mean the last time ever until the sun goes supernova) I ran for office — seeking the only elected position on Earth with less to do with abortion than dogcatcher, Chester County Clerk of Courts — guess what question I got more than any other?

“What’s your stance on abortion?”

Seriously? Not efficiency. Not “should we cut headcount” (I said yes, which basically got me excommunicated from my own party)? Not “are there better ways to run a county department?” Nope.

Folks HAD to know my stance on abortion. And even when I pointed out that the job I was running for had nothing, in even a tangential way, to do with abortion, they pressed me for an answer.

Finally, proving definitively that my skill set in no way lined up with running for or holding elective office, I answered thusly: “I pledge to never, ever perform abortions in the Clerk of Courts office.”

While it had the intended effect, it’s hard for people to keep talking about abortion when they’re either standing with their mouth hanging open or sputtering, it was probably not the answer expected of a politician. On the plus side, it took voters who thought they only kinda disliked me and turned them into rabid opponents, freeing up my spare time from 2009 to 2013 for other pursuits, such as this operation.

My own stance: I’m not smart enough or divine enough to make the decision of where and when life starts. It’s somewhere between a mass of cells and a living baby, but the science is a little gray, and I feel completely unqualified to dictate to someone else what’s right. It seems kind of arrogant and in violation of the “judge not, lest ye be judged…” theory.

But…some people, such as a number of local Republican legislators, feel otherwise. In the same way that the Voter ID law was little more than a naked attempt to discourage certain populations from voting, despite the claims of protecting the vote (let’s be honest, there are far better ways to keep dead people from voting — much as that might hurt Delaware County GOP turnout), HB 1077 is an attempt to intimidate women from getting abortions, not some benevolent law to ensure women are fully informed.

Women in Chester County — and even some of us guys — aren’t that stupid.

Don’t call it “voter protection,” call it “keeping the poor, the old and minorities from the polls.” And with HB 1077, seriously? If the GOP really has the courage of its convictions, call it what it is: “An act to reduce and prevent abortions by forcing unneeded medical exams on women.”

C’mon guys, have some cojones, be honest about your priorities.

If you’re going to ignore the giant pension crisis — and yes, many local GOP legislators, I’m looking at you, a crisis you not only were directly responsible for creating and even personally profited from — can’t you be honest with us about the pressing legislative issues that you’ve chosen to work on instead?

Nope, of course not, because that would lead to a lot of ex-legislators.

Which brings us back to the top — it’s beginning to look like people might be figuring it out anyway, and last Saturday’s event, which drew a couple of hundred people, suggests that there are some very angry folks out there and, maybe, the political will for some of them to do something about it this fall.

Clearly, local candidates are running on this issue (you can see for yourself in the unedited video compilation below of candidate speeches from those running on the Democratic ticket this fall. Two notes: due to a technical glitch, 6th District Congressional Manan Trivedi’s comments were not recorded, and 158th Democratic state house candidate Susan Rzucidlo was the only candidate from The Times coverage area not to attend the event.)

And yes, if the GOP has a similar event, we’ll cover that and offer the speeches in a similar format. We think you should get a chance to see and hear from these folks in their own words.

It will be interesting to see if this message connects with independent-minded Chester County voters who seem no more enthusiastic about government tampering with their bodies and bedrooms than tampering with their right to own and bear arms.

* * *

When I started The Times, initially just in the Unionville area and with the anticipation of getting help and support from a national local news startup which promptly went bellyup the week before we launched, I wasn’t entirely sure how this would work out — or if we’d make it to Christmas 2010.

Two years later, officially, as of Monday, we’ve grown to include three coverage areas with plans to expand further in 2013.

Like most 2-year-olds, we’re not entirely out of our diapers — we’ve learned to stand on our own two feet, and occasionally say things that make sense (an exception being my partner, Kathleen Brady Shea, an experienced hand who always makes sense), when we’re not running off at the mall.

We appreciate your support, your patience and how you — our readers — have helped us to grow by spreading the word, passing us on with Facebook links and so on. When your marketing budget amounts to spare change found under the couch, your kind words have made all the difference.

Of course, we also want to thank our many loyal advertisers — who see both the opportunity to support increasing conversation and a civic exchange of news and ideas, while, at the same time growing their businesses.

We feel strongly that the best is yet to come — and we continue to do a job that makes you want to stick around and come along for the ride.

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2 Comments

  1. I just wanted to say that while I was not at the event as was mentioned. I instead was at a family commitment and so was unavailable on that day. You can go to http://www.susanforpa.com/online/issues/ to find out where I stand on many issues.

    On the abortion issue I believe we need to find common ground to reduce the number of abortions through education and access to birth control while allowing women to make that decision themselves; this is an exceptionally difficult decision that should be made by the woman, her family and her doctor. Government should not take away the right of any individual to make important life decisions.

  2. Vidya Rajan says:

    Your newspapers do the area a service, and you should be rightly proud of your achievements.
    As to your comments on abortion – bravo. It’s a sad situation when we decide our representatives, local and national, on the basis of something that has nothing to do with government or governance.

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