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The Voter’s Right to Choose: Anthony Gemma and the Politics of Abortion in 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Anthony Gemma is clearly a well-meaning person who cares a lot about Rhode Island and has done a lot for people in this state—both those with clogged toilets and women with breast cancer. That being said, there is one reason why I personally could not imagine voting for him—and that is his anti-choice position. Granted, there are a lot of other issues, and I don't have a single-issue litmus test–for example, I wouldn't necessarily rule out voting for Jim Langevin given all his great work on other issues—but given that Gemma has three pro-choice primary opponents, all of whom seem qualified to serve in Congress and who have not entirely dissimilar political positions from him (granted, he and David Segal are fairly different in quite a lot of areas, but I would say he isn't too far politically from Lynch of Cicilline other than choice), there is no reason for a pro-choice voter to vote for him.

I recently told a pro-choice woman friend of mine that I was perplexed that someone who founded a breast cancer awareness foundation would run as the right-to-lifers candidate for Congress. She said it made perfect sense to her. Women with breast cancer, even according to anti-choicers, are victims of a disease that is not their own fault. Everyone agrees with that. But not everyone would say the same of women with unwanted pregnancies. Most, like Gemma, would agree that women who are victims of rape or incest are "victims," and thus should be able to have an abortion legally. But they believe that most other women with unwanted pregnancies—and even those with high-risk pregnancies—should keep their legs closed if they don't want to worry about an abortion.

Needless to say, this is an easy position for a heterosexual man to hold. But it doesn't mesh with reality in my opinion. In addition, I want to make clear that I do not believe the question of "victimhood" is even really pertinent to my views on the issue, despite my lengthy discussion of it. The fundamental issue is the constitutionally recognized right to privacy—or in layman's terms, the right of a woman and her doctor to make their own medical decisions, particularly in the first trimester and in some circumstances in the second and third trimesters.

As the husband of a pregnant woman who is soon to be a father, I am frustrated that we are still fighting over this same issue, and that the fight will not end anytime soon. But I do think it would be an awful shame if Rhode Island elected two anti-choice Democrats to Congress. Congressman Langevin's vote on the terrible Stupak Amendment, which aimed to prevent women from buying insurance with abortion coverage—even if they spent THEIR OWN money—was just one reminder of how great the stakes are.

Peter Ian Asen is a resident of the Second Congressional District and can be reached on Facebook.


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