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The Best of Reproductive Rights at the DNC

The Democratic National Convention is underway this week in Charlotte, North Carolina, making the pitch for re-electing President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats. And, much like the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida last week, a large portion of the events will be geared to women voters.Nancy Keenan, President of the National Abortion Rights Action League - Pro-Choice America (NARAL), addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 4, 2012. (REUTERS/Eric Thayer)

To this end, Democrats have introduced a long line of female speakers, politicians and advocates to address the issues explicitly facing women and their families, and have planned numerous events to rally their support.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker kicked off events at a Planned Parenthood Federation of America rally by drawing a stark contrast between the two conventions--the RNC spoke at women, while the Democrats were prepared to advocate for women.

He added, “I heard people stand up and say, ‘I love women.” I heard people say, ‘I’ve got a sister, I’ve got a mother.’ That’s like saying you’re not a bigot because you have a black friend. That’s like saying, ‘I love Latinos, I go to Taco Bell every week,’” drawing laughter and cheers from the crowd.

“When it comes to your actions, when it comes to your deeds, when it comes to what you do every day, you are denigrating those very people you claim to love,” he said. “So I don’t understand how somebody can say they love women when they are denying women access to health care, when they are denying women strategies to protect their life, when they are implementing policies that undermine all the ground that we have gained, not as just women, but as this nation.”

Meanwhile, North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue understands well what is at stake.  As the pro-choice governor of a state controlled by anti-choice politicians, she saw her own vetos of bills meant to erode abortion access overturned and passed without her support. She knows first hand the devotion that those who oppose abortion dedicate to ending access, as she told MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

“They’re going to go somewhere to end the pregnancy if they can afford it,” Perdue said. “But for poor women you’ll be back to the days of coat hangers in the bathtub and you’ll see women die. No, choice is a huge issue. I'm old enough to think that war was fought.” 

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"We know that and we see what’s happened in Texas. We’ve seen what has happened all over the country. People have got to stand up. Women have to understand that it might be their daughter or their granddaughter who’s raped. And there’s no such thing as legitimate rape. Rape is a rape, and that young woman should have a choice about what to do with her body and her life.

NARAL Pro-Choice American's President Nancy Keenan also used the "rape is rape" line in her speech. But she gave no appologies for believing that access to abortion, as well as a full spectrum of reproductive rights, should be available to all women, and not just at the whim of whoever controls the White House.

“Put simply, women in America cannot trust Mitt Romney. We cannot trust Mitt Romney to protect our health. He would repeal ObamaCare, taking away our access to better maternity and prenatal care, and the law's near universal coverage of birth control. And we cannot trust Mitt Romney to respect our rights....Mitt Romney would take away our power to make decisions about our lives and our futures. But there's one decision he cannot take away — and that's the one women will make on Nov. 6.”

But even those at the convention who didn't support abortion understood the dire impact that the election could have on women's health. The anti-choice Democrats met to discuss the importance of continuing to support the Affordable Care Act, noting the key role that access to quality preventative health care, reproductive services and contraception will have on lowering the number of unwanted pregnancies and prevent the need for abortion in the first place.

Thomas Berg, from the University of St. Thomas, said the Republicans’ determination to repeal the A.C.A. would only hinder the anti-abortion cause.  He argued that Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care law has driven down the abortion rate among teenagers, and he suggested that the A.C.A. will do the same. The A.C.A. includes “a number of pro-life benefits” such as funds to assist pregnant students on college campuses.

During the question and answer session, a reporter from RedState.com asked the panelists how they could support President Obama, who, she said, favors “infanticide.” Everyone on stage looked a little embarrassed.

By way of an answer, Stephen Schneck from The Catholic University of America told the audience that Mr. Romney proposes to slash Medicaid–which pays for more than one-third of all births in the United States. Births are expensive, whereas abortion costs almost nothing, suggesting that abortions would “skyrocket” if Mr. Romney came to power by as much as 6 or even 8 percent.

The GOP spent the last week emphasizing that the economy should be forefront on women's minds when they go to the polls in November. Now, the Democrats will spend their week reminding women that when it comes to economic security, there are few factors as relevant as their own health, and their ability to control their reproductive futures.