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Progressive Candidate Darcy Burner: How I Became the Target of a Right-Wing Smear Campaign

After giving a speech about the politics of abortion, Burner became the target of a dishonest campaign cooked up by conservative bloggers.

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DB: Your grandmother is completely correct.

JH: Her opinion is very common in other countries. We see abortion as such a hot-button issue here that it’s hard to remember that it’s very much a settled issue in much of Western Europe and Canada. It’s interesting that a small group of religious conservatives have managed to stigmatize this issue for so many people.

DB: A big part of the problem is that most Americans don’t understand how many women this affects. They don’t understand what the underlying stories are. When I was pregnant with my son I had a conversation with my doctor in which he told me that there was a very good chance that if I continued the pregnancy I wouldn’t survive it. My husband and I talked very seriously about what the options were. We made a decision -- I made a decision -- that I was willing to take the risks that were involved in that pregnancy. But there’s no politician in the world who has the right to make that decision for me or any other woman. That I think is the kind of story that needs to be told.

JH: Darcy, we’re talking about changing the narrative. I want to get your take on another angle here. I learned a really interesting fact recently. Apparently it takes both a woman and a man to conceive. Did you know that?

DB: Really?

JH: It’s true. I swear it. And I find myself a bit conflicted about the way we talk about reproductive health issues. On the one hand I’m a good pro-choice dude -- I believe women should have agency over their own bodies. I think the choice of when to have a child and with whom is ultimately hers. But I also worry that by calling abortion -- and other debates over reproductive health -- so-called “women’s issues,” we consign them to a ghetto of sorts. I don’t really think they are women’s issues. I see them more as human rights issues. Where do you come down on that?

DB: I think you’re completely right that they’re human rights issues. They’re human rights issues that do affect men as well as women. If I had died during my pregnancy that would have had an enormous impact on my husband, not just on me. He was prepared to support a decision to terminate the pregnancy because he cared about whether I lived or died. All over the world there are men and women who are affected by this. I think the more widely we recognize that, the better.

JH: I’m going to come out here and publicly acknowledge that without access to safe, legal abortion my own life would have taken a very different course. I would have children that would have been born when I was way too young and immature to raise them. I would have had children with women who weren’t ready and in relationships that weren’t terribly mature. I’d like to think that I would have done "the right thing," but that might not be true. Perhaps I would have freaked out and run away. Even if I had done the right thing, I probably wouldn’t have gotten through college. I would probably be working some very low-skilled job, and I’m very grateful we were able to get together and make a choice not to have babies when we were basically just babies ourselves. I think it’s important that people understand exactly what you’re saying. This is not just something that affects women.

DB: It isn’t. I think it would be helpful if folks understood that no form of birth control is perfect and none of us use them perfectly. This is an issue that could impact absolutely anyone.

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