The divisive 1991 confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, involving charges of sexual harassment, launched 1992′s Year of the Woman. That election’s windfall brought four new women to the U.S. Senate and 20 to the House — and turned women’s rights groups into a force to be reckoned with.
Now another Supreme Court appointment battle looms, with abortion rights a likely central issue. But internal squabbles, declining membership and complacency during the Clinton years have left most women’s rights groups in weakened shape for the clash over Judge John G. Roberts Jr.
The National Organization for Women’s political donations shriveled to $44,000 in 2004 from $327,000 in 1992. Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., facing a revolt among affiliates in part because of the politicization of the group, ousted its president in January and hasn’t taken a position on the Roberts nomination. NARAL Pro-Choice America’s new president was still on an introductory tour to affiliates and donors around the country when the Supreme Court fight started.
And while liberal feminist groups have been losing influence over the last decade not just with the American public, but in Washington, DC as well, conservative groups are flourishing:
Meanwhile, an array of conservative organizations is stronger than ever. They spent the Clinton years recruiting members and electing lawmakers, particularly to the Senate. High School Bible clubs flourished and anti-abortion organizations established footholds in colleges and universities across the country. The groups helped create a generation of women more receptive to restricting access to abortions and, because of broader access to birth control, less sympathetic to women with unwanted pregnancies, recent polls and focus groups have found.
This article gives me hope. It sounds like America is indeed turning more conservative on social issues, even if our politicians in DC choose to take a more ‘moderate’ approach. That said, a majority of Americans still oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, and that’s something that ‘women’s rights’ groups like NOW and NARAL are using in an attempt to galvanize their supporters and bring in new ones:
"Bush has been our number-one membership recruiter," says Kim Gandy, president of NOW, which held dozens of protests the day after Judge Roberts was nominated. NARAL sent emails to 800,000 activists urging them to begin petition drives and contact their senators to express opposition to the nomination. Both groups, and others, added their lawyers to a coalition that is mining Judge Roberts’s record for clues on how he might rule on the high court. They also are coordinating with Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to ensure the nominee is questioned on abortion rights during his hearings next month.
And no doubt coordinating with the media to make sure we know Roberts’ wife’s views on abortion, too, since they haven’t yet gotten an answer that satisfies them from Roberts himself. Hard to believe NARAL managed to have the time to tackle the Roberts nomination what with the planning involved for the ‘Screw Abstinence" party,’ the ‘outreach event’ aimed at educating adults about sexual freedom – in a bar.
Do I feel these groups will fade into irrelevancy? No. But the fact that their influence with the American people and DC politicians is lessening should be an encouraging sign that our cultural compass, which has slowly been turning southward, may just be ticking up a bit north.
(Wink: Dean Esmay)
Linking up with Mudville Gazette’s open post.