Michelle Obama, wife of proposed Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, joined other Democratic leaders at the Women’s Caucus of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, pledging to support female candidates, advocate policies in women’s interest, and preserve the legal status quo of permissive abortion laws. The speakers all backed Barack Obama, whom one called a “steadfast supporter of women’s right to choose.”
Speaking of her husband, Michelle Obama said: “He’ll protect a woman’s freedom of choice, because government should have no say in whether or when a woman embraces the sacred responsibility of parenthood.”
When her speech began, Democratic protesters who support Sen. Hillary Clinton disrupted the event, standing before the Colorado Convention Center ballroom’s stage and carrying signs which called Clinton a “Smart Choice.”
Feigning unawareness of the protesters, who were belatedly escorted from the room, Michelle Obama said Hillary’s candidacy had made her husband a stronger candidate. Towards the end of the speech, she pledged that the Democrats would not “take women’s votes for granted” and could not “assume that women know where Barack stands.”
About half an hour before Michelle Obama’s speech, other protestors made an appearance following the speech of another Women’s Caucus speaker. The group consisted of a half-dozen women of various ages hurrying to the stage and displaying their shirts, which read “I regret my abortion.” As the displeased audience shouted “Obama, Obama,” security personnel quickly escorted the protesters out of the room.
They had disrupted the caucus just before California Sen. Barbara Boxer was scheduled to speak.
Sen. Barbara Boxer
Boxer, who was introduced as the “leading defender of the right to choose,” responded to the removed protesters by saying they have a right to an opinion, but “all we want is our right to choose.”
“They can choose what they want to choose, and we can choose what we want to choose... That’s America! That’s what Democracy means, that’s what freedom means, that’s what individual rights mean,” Boxer asserted to audience applause.
“We believe in the right to choose for our personal health, and we know the right choice to protect that right to choose: it is President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden,” she said.
Attacking presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Boxer said that McCain has a rating of zero percent from NARAL and zero from Planned Parenthood.
“Now you have to be pretty radical to have a zero rating,” she claimed.
Boxer, like other caucus speakers, noted McCain’s vote against requiring insurance companies to provide contraceptives. This lack of coverage was presented as an inequality and compared to insurance provided impotence medicine.
The California Senator then attacked McCain’s pledge to appoint Supreme Court justices similar to Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who are considered hostile to Roe v. Wade.
“They want to, essentially, make it illegal for us to have a right to choose, and to make us criminals, and to make doctors criminals!” she exclaimed.
Noting Barack Obama’s 100 percent rating from pro-abortion groups NARAL and Planned Parenthood, Boxer emphasized the slogan “He’s a hero, John McCain’s a zero!”
She received a standing ovation for the remark.
Boxer also claimed that McCain had voted against a program to help children who witness domestic violence.
Later in the caucus meeting, New York U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter warned the audience “we are in as much danger today… as we were almost when we first started here. There is so much at stake for women on this one issue, and it’s critical that we elect Barack Obama.”
Calling Obama a “steadfast supporter of women’s right to choose,” she noted Obama’s vote to repeal the Mexico City Policy and his co-sponsorship of the Prevention First Act. She characterized his other votes as being against policies that would “restrict women’s health care.”
Gov. Madeline Kunan
Vermont Governor Madeline Kunan also attacked new Bush administration regulations that would protect the consciences of pro-life medical professionals and healthcare workers from being forced to cooperate in unethical practices. She said “we probably can’t stop it, but we can change it next year.”
Though the regulation is based on providing protection of conscience, Kunan charged, it doesn’t protect the women health care professionals and doctors are “supposed to serve.”
Rep. Slaughter apparently alleged the regulation does not honor long-standing medical ethics, noting the “intent” of the Hippocratic Oath “where the doctor swears to ‘do no harm.’”
She then implied that legal abortion and contraception was necessary for women’s progress in society.
“It was the right to control our reproductive systems that made it possible for almost all of us to achieve our own dreams which our parents had paid for,” Rep. Slaughter said.
Other policy discussions at the Women’s Caucus included children’s health insurance, gas prices, and workplace and pay equality. Caucus speakers also emphasized what they saw as the need to promote female candidates to achieve parity in the ratio of women to men in the U.S. House and Senate.
At one point in the caucus, former Vermont Governor Madeline Kunan told how she investigated why Rwanda led all nations in its proportion of top female legislators.
Calling a Rwandan legislator, Gov. Kunan said she learned that the Rwandan constitution demanded a quota. She was then told that Rwandans vote for so many women because “we do what we have to do for the survival of our children.”
“I suggest to you,” Gov. Kunan concluded, “We in the United States of America have to do this, be politically engaged, for the survival of our children and of children all over the world.”