Friday, June 5, 2009

A Different Perspective on Alexia Kelley

Huffington Post: The New Pro-lifer, by Cristina Page:

In our pain, anger and profound sadness over the murder of Dr. Tiller, pro-choice people risk losing an opportunity to see a better day as a country and a movement. In the wake of our loss, it is tempting to continue to categorize in one fixed way all who oppose abortion. To do so would be easy, but also foolish. We must admit and accept that not all who are opposed to abortion are the same. Especially since a new movement of pro-lifers has extended a hand in search of a better way.

Yesterday offered a unique opportunity to make this distinction. Alexia Kelley, co-founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, was appointed Director of Faith-based and Community Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)...

Moments after the announcement, John O'Brien, president of the pro-choice group Catholics for Choice, released a statement calling the Kelley appointment "a defeat for reason and logic."...

O'Brien's complaint is that the choice of Kelley, given her previous role overseeing a Catholic, anti-abortion organization, puts important social policies in danger of being hijacked by those same Bushian forces. But Kelley is not the Bush-styled pro-lifer of yore. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, which Kelley founded, is a progressive organization that has also played a primary role in instigating a nationwide discussion of common ground on abortion. Her group has championed policies aimed at preventing the need for abortion, policies that have been identified as those pro-choice people can support too. It would be a mistake to group Kelley among anti-abortion operatives who snub opportunities to improve the relationship between pro-choice and pro-life communities, and who refuse to do anything to reduce the need for abortion.

Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Contraception, President/Executive Branch, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink

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Professor Borgmann,
I've been reading the CACG (Catholic Alliance for Common Good) report, "Reducing Abortion in America: The Effect of Socioeconomic Factors" to better understand why Catholics for Choice characterized Kelley's appointment as a loss for pro-choice advocates.

On page 3 of the report, it says "The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has long advocated for a comprehensive strategy to reduce abortions. In addition to seeking legal restrictions on access to abortion..." What I don't see is a distinction CACG makes between its own position and that of the USCCB, if, indeed, there is one.

As a feminist pro-choice advocate, that makes me nervous.

Posted by: cynematic | Jun 5, 2009 10:41:53 PM

Thanks for your comment. I share your concerns. While I welcome many of Kelley's progressive positions, and while Cristina Page points out that her organization has not actively sought or supported restrictions on abortion or contraception, Kelley is clearly opposed to both. It is hard to see how she can serve in this position at HHS without confronting these issues head-on.

Posted by: Caitlin Borgmann | Jun 6, 2009 10:58:52 AM

What makes you conclude that she is opposed to birth control and abortion? There is nothing on record that she personally opposes contraception and frankly it's ridiculous to suggest she opposes birth control based on her progressive commitment. Also, why would she take a position with the Obama Administration or with Secretary Sebelius (who she adamantly defended in her nomination process) if she was opposed to their policy positions? Obama and Sebelius are both pro choice. Your conclusion is absolutely illogical. Kelley is a longtime progressive, serving in both the Kerry campaign and as a volunteer in the Obama campaign. Why would she commit herself to working for pro choice candidates and be in a pro choice party if she was anti abortion?

The pro choice community can have such a naive and knee jerk analysis of political strategy.

Do you want to lose the Catholic vote election after election, and witness the further erosion of reproductive rights? Catholics are progressive on many social justice issues, but many in swing states are ambivalent on abortion. And rightly so. Abortion is not something to be taken lightly. It is a traumatic medical procedure for any woman making such a decision. But it should obviously remain safe and legal. I am so tired of the wacko left wing of the Democratic party as much as I am tired of the wacko right wing of the Republican party. That is why I find Obama so refreshing, as well as the people he is bringing into his administration. He is trying to find common ground on very difficult issues and will likely have some success in getting very important things accomplished, step by step.

For the record, Kelley did more to provide space for pro life or ambivalent Catholic voters in the Democratic party than anyone in the last two election cycles. You should be thanking her for taking the divisive abortion issue OFF the table for Catholic voters and for the fact that Obama is choosing the next Supreme Court justice NOT John McCain.

Posted by: VMHauser | Jun 12, 2009 2:17:29 PM

Nothing on record? Read the Catholics for Choice report, which includes quotations and sources that you can verify directly (on contraception, for example, see p. 13 of the CFC report). Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, the organization Kelley co-founded, has made its opposition to contraception and abortion quite explicit. If that's not enough evidence for you, I'm not sure what you are looking for. Will she press those positions as a member of the Obama administration? I have no idea. I certainly hope not. That is why I said I have concerns, not that I had reached any sort of definitive conclusion about her.

Posted by: Caitlin Borgmann | Jun 12, 2009 7:46:41 PM

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