Tim Kaine’s Abortion Stance Isn’t Ideal, But Here’s How He Exemplifies What It Means To Be Pro-Choice
Understandably, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who will be speaking at the Democratic convention Wednesday, wasn’t exactly the top pick of young progressives hoping to see Elizabeth Warren or some person of color on Hillary Clinton’s ticket. Aside from his unexciting old-white-man-ness, legitimate criticisms of him exist, like the sizable political donations he’s received from banks and the loose rules he’s supported for the investment sector, but arguably the most resounding criticism against him is actually pretty irrelevant. Although Kaine personally opposes abortion as a dedicated Roman Catholic, he exemplifies what it means to be pro-choice.
If you think about it, pro-choice people’s disapproval of Kaine solely because of his personal opinions, which have never affected his voting record, ultimately undermines what the term “pro-choice” means. There’s nothing wrong with a politician having certain personal values or following a certain religion until they start imposing that religion on others.
That being said, it’s completely understandable that the passionately pro-choice aren’t enthusiastic about Kaine personally opposing abortion due to his religion. Opposition to abortion typically stems from condescendingly perceiving it as immoral, reckless, or even tantamount to murder, and adding gendered, negative connotations to a simple medical procedure and the human right to access said procedure.
However, the simple fact of the matter is that no one likes abortion or wants it like they want an iPhone (contrary to what the anti-choice movement wants you to believe), and the big need for abortion speaks to unfortunate minimal access to or understanding of contraception. The circumstances around abortion are often critical, related to financial hardship, health, or the simple fact that becoming a mother is not for everyone. Our culture’s tendency to pressure women down that path is bad enough — we don’t need to strip them of their legal right to choose, too.
There is a reason the movement is called “pro-choice” and not “pro-abortion,” and despite his personal objection to the procedure, Kaine understands this, and his voting record is proof. He co-sponsored the Protecting Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, which restored contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act, in 2013. In light of religious freedom bills that would allow employers and health care providers to deny women any reproductive health service the employers or providers morally oppose that are presently under consideration in the Senate, this act — and Kaine’s support for it — are more relevant now than ever. Kaine has also proposed legislation to give women access to affordable, over-the-counter birth control access, and altogether boasts a deeply impressive 100 percent pro-choice voting record from NARAL.
Of course, it would have been more encouraging to have a vice presidential candidate who openly supports and works to destigmatize abortion, but Kaine’s record on this issue still makes him a good ally.
Frankly, it’s disturbing to me that anyone would associate Kaine with the likes of anti-choice former presidential candidates Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, who vehemently oppose not only the procedure, as Kaine does, but women having human rights and autonomy. There simply is no comparison between their voting records and their understandings of women.
Kaine exemplifies truths about freedom of religion and what it means to be pro-choice that are frequently excluded from the mainstream dialogue. He has the freedom to personally oppose whatever he wants, and if this doesn’t impact others, then what right do we have to scorn him for a mere ideology? The pro-choice movement is about supporting individual decision making above all else, and if your decision is that abortion isn’t right to you, but you believe that everyone gets to choose what it is to them, then congratulations — like Tim Kaine, you’re pro-choice! Kaine respects, supports, and has consistently stood up for women having the freedom to choose to be mothers.
It’s entirely within your rights to dislike abortion and choose not to have one, just as it’s within any woman’s right to understand abortion as a simple medical procedure and decide that it’s what’s best for her. That’s what the pro-choice movement is, and whatever your personal opinion of the procedure, if you support women having the right and the resources to choose, you are part of the movement and deserve the respect of its supporters.
Kaine might not have been your first choice for Clinton’s running mate, and that’s just fine. Other than Clinton, who reportedly really likes the guy, he probably wasn’t anyone’s first choice. But if you want to talk shit about him, and it’s well within your rights to do so, you’re going to have to find something other than his personal opinion about abortion to reference.