WASHINGTON — A major abortion rights group Wednesday surprised many people — including Hillary Clinton's staff and feminists — when its political action committee endorsed Barack Obama over Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination with three weeks of primaries still ahead.
Both candidates get 100-percent ratings from the group for their congressional voting records. But Clinton's been around a lot longer — and she's a woman.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement that she believes Obama is now certain to secure the nomination and that his differences with Republican John McCain on abortion rights and the selection of judicial nominees "will be a major reason many voters, especially pro-choice Independent and Republican women, will cross party lines to support Sen. Obama in the fall."
Keenan also said Obama "can unify Americans on both sides of this issue behind commonsense, common-ground ways to prevent unintended pregnancy."
The Clinton campaign was holding a conference call to make clear that Clinton was definitely staying in the race after a strong performance last night in West Virginia, when news of the NARAL endorsement went out. Asked by a reporter on the call for his response, Clinton's communications director Howard Wolfson said, “'Surprised’ would be my response” and that Clinton's leadership and advocacy on abortion rights had been "second to none."
EMILY’s List president Ellen R. Malcolm said of the endorsement, “I think it is tremendously disrespectful to Sen. Clinton — who held up the nomination of a FDA commissioner in order to force approval of Plan B and who spoke so eloquently during the Supreme Court nomination about the importance of protecting Roe vs. Wade — to not give her the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process. It certainly must be disconcerting for elected leaders who stand up for reproductive rights and expect the choice community will stand with them.”
Then again, EMILY's List's mission is to elect not just Democrats who support abortion rights, but Democratic women who support abortion rights.