The liberal Web site TomPaine.com recently sent out an e-mail screaming: "Women of the World v. Bush." Another left-wing site, feministing.com, has declared: "W Stands for War on Women."
Can they be serious?
Of course, they are. The Bush-Cheney "W is for Women" campaign gimmick during Election 2004 was derided not because it was cheesy (it was, what campaign slogan isn't?), but that the established, "sophisticated" view has been women vote left. Remember the soccer moms?
Well, a few of those soccer moms became security moms in 2004 and cut 8 percentage points into the 11-point female advantage the Democrats had in the 2000 election.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Yet much of the Left is still stuck with an old template. (Could they believe, like Teresa Heinz Kerry, that two Republican brothers stole the election from the real women's choice, Kerry-Edwards?)
The text of that TomPaine.com e-mail focused on a United Nations conference on women during which the United States argued that abortion is not a fundamental human right. If the topic has anything to do with what the United Nation files under "reproductive rights" or "bioethics," the Right Is Wrong, according to the Left.
At recent hearings on Capitol Hill, Marcia Carroll, a Pennsylvania mother, recounted the story of her 14-year-old daughter being pressured into an abortion by her boyfriend's family (in New Jersey, where parental notification is not required).
The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, whose lead sponsor is Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida (and is supported by the White House), is just another attempt by conservatives to roll back women's rights if you talk to your TomPaine.com-type friends (or the ACLU, which opposes the bill). In truth, though, it would protect that 14-year-old girl and others like her from being pressured into abortion.
Where's the feminist Left's concern for these teens? The point of the bill -- prohibiting girls from being taken to neighboring states for abortions without parental consent -- is not a matter of abortion per se, but of human rights and common sense.
And it's not just on abortion that liberal activists shortchange women. How about on cloning, which this president wants banned? It was a left-wing gal, Judy Norsigian, who testified in Boston last month against an embryonic-stem-cell bill in Massachusetts that would allow "research" or "therapeutic" cloning.
In The Boston Globe, she wrote that, "There is a disturbing lack of attention to the risks to women's health posed by the advent of embryo cloning." No female George W. Bush clone, Norsigian is executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves, the Boston women's health book collective -- hardly an appendage of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.
Even putting aside the bigger moral questions: Is cloning, in any form, in the best interest of women? Are feminists comfortable with the prospect of women becoming egg poppers for hire? All of this sounds at least as important as complaining about Kirstie Alley's "Fat Actress" being bad for women, which NOW's president was seen doing not long ago on International Women's Day.
As the gender-gap myth has started to fade (as media and left-wing activists' templates are updated), so, slowly, alternatives to the likes of the left-leaning National Organization for Women have become more visible. Today, abortion opponents, especially prominent women among them like Cathy Ruse, a spokeswoman for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, talk compassionately about how "women deserve better" than abortion.
And the Susan B. Anthony List, which raises money for pro-life candidates, is now on the scene, providing a counter to the powerful E.M.I.L.Y.'S List.
Don't hold your breath waiting for Gloria Steinem's old rag, Ms., to do a profile admitting that W does stand for women, or profiling a gallery of conservative Americans who are defending some of the most vulnerable women. But it's a wide world out there. The Left would be wise to learn that. Lives may depend on it, never mind electoral margins.