Having read with great interest your "Open Letter to Dennis Kucinich" (by Danny Duncan Collum) in the September-October 2003 issue of Sojourners, I welcome this opportunity to respond. You are quite right in observing that at the heart of my presidential campaign is a compelling desire to build up the democratic culture of this nation, and to encourage an economic order that serves the needs of ordinary citizens.
I suspect that, indeed, you and I are in agreement about a good number of issues that affect the everyday lives of Americans. So it is with respect that I listen to your concerns about my personal and public views concerning abortion and a woman’s right to choose. I was previously a supporter of anti-choice legislation. My position on this sensitive issue has changed. The change was gradual, and often painful, but always immersed in a contemplative awareness of the very real ways that lives are affected.
I had candid, open conversations with many women as I sought to better understand the complexities of this issue. The heartfelt stories and decisions that I heard caused me to reconsider the impact of my personal and political voice. I do not take lightly the serious nature of pregnancy, nor of the responsibility a woman holds in deciding either to terminate a pregnancy or to carry a pregnancy to term. But, I also must respect the many factors that only she can weigh in coming to her decision. And when decisions are made, it is my sincere hope that she will seek the counsel of others whom she trusts and respects, such as her doctors, her partner, perhaps other family members or close friends, and certainly her spiritual leaders.
I further believe that a woman’s right to choose must be protected as a prime tenet of personal privacy and gender equality. Within this context a woman is free to make her own choices, with full consideration of the implications, including the overlapping medical, social, and spiritual ones. This is a decision for a woman to make, not for her government to make for her, and I cannot in good conscience criminalize her choices.
Like many, I would prefer to see the occasion for pregnancy termination to be acutely reduced. I continue to be a strong supporter of birth control and sex education being widely available to all persons of childbearing age. The May-June 2002 issue of Sojourners cites a list of 10 rules for effective sex education endorsed by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, including "tailor material to age, culture, and experience" and "train peer leaders." These are excellent guidelines, and I would add that in many ways they apply to persons throughout the span of their reproductive years.
I also wish to assure you that my position on a woman’s right to choose is not motivated by hope of political or financial gain for my presidential campaign. Quite to the contrary, the Kucinich for President campaign is very much a grassroots effort. I have not sought, not will I accept, donations from corporations or PACs. It would be unconscionable for me to accept money or political support in exchange for a shifting of my beliefs or positions. Donations to my campaign are coming from open, warm-hearted individuals who are committed to advancing a national community based on principles of peaceful partnership, economic and social opportunity, and good will toward the rest of the world.
As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, my concerns for the American community have been broad-based and farsighted. Through my presidential campaign and beyond, I will continue these efforts to ensure that all citizens are included in the envisioning of a new America. I encourage a continued exchange of both information and imagination about ways to sensitively address the challenges ahead. Staff and readers of Sojourners are invited to contact me through the Kucinich for President campaign office at 11808 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, OH 44111; (866) 413-3664; www.kucinich.us.
Dennis J. Kucinich, Cleveland, Ohio