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Women's groups unite to support Barack Obama, not John McCain

June 11, 2008 |  7:26 pm

Soon after Hillary Clinton's announcement on Saturday that she was suspending her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, there were concerns that many women who formed her base -- you know, those "18 million cracks" in the glass ceiling -- might not go along with her endorsement of Barack Obama.

Those fears were assuaged a bit on Wednesday, as two of Clinton's staunchest supporters -- the head of EMILY's List, Ellen Malcolm, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida -- participated in a conference call organized by the Center for American Progress.

EMILY's List describes itself as "the nation's largest political network and financial resource" for  "electing pro-choice Democratic women to federal, state and local office" and was officially neutral in the primary and caucus contests. [Correction update: In fact, early in the campaign the group endorsed Clinton. Also, the co-sponsor was the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the advocacy arm of the Center for American Progress. Our apologies.]

About a month ago, Malcolm -- who personally backed Clinton -- issued a harsh statement.....

... after another organization that supports abortion rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America, endorsed Obama just three weeks before the primaries ended.

The timing of that endorsement, Malcolm said then, was “tremendously disrespectful to Sen. Clinton, who held up the nomination of an FDA commissioner in order to force approval of Plan B [emergency contraception] and who spoke so eloquently during the Supreme Court nomination hearings about the importance of protecting Roe vs. Wade."

But that's all water under the bridge, Malcolm emphasized Wednesday, focusing her attention on the GOP's presumptive nominee.

"We are now moving into general election mode," Malcolm said, "and it's quite clear there are vast differences on the issues between Sen. Obama and John McCain. ... We are focused on the goal, to change the direction of this country, and we will do that."

McCain is "wrong on issues that matter to us most," Wasserman Schultz added.  "There is a real fear that John McCain is dangerous for women. ... The last thing that women need to do is to vote for John McCain."

NARAL, the onetime target of Malcolm's ire, apparently got the memo about the day's talking points as well, sending reporters and editorial writers a "story idea" titled "The Gap Between McCain and Pro-Choice Women Voters."

For McCain, NARAL wrote, "keeping the 'moderate maverick' image is getting a lot harder, especially as these voters hear about McCain’s consistently anti-choice comments and voting record" -- and the group then went on to offer "five questions" -- on abortion, women's health issues and sex education, among others -- "that John McCain should answer before any pro-choice voter considers him in November."

The talking points even got circulated in the afterlife, according to a Huffington Post item from Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Richards' late mother, Ann Richards, was the no-nonsense governor of Texas who in 1988, during an address to the Democratic National Convention, brought down the house by describing George H.W. Bush as having been born "with a silver foot in his mouth."

"It's our time to put a president in the White House who cares about women's health, take back our country, and move once again with progress and commitment to the future," Cecile Richards wrote. "That's what Hillary Clinton said when she suspended her presidential campaign and that's what my mother Ann Richards would say if she were alive today."

And, Cecile added, "Mom would have said that women voting for John McCain would be like chickens choosing to vote for the Colonel."

-- Leslie Hoffecker