The platforms that the two political parties publish every four years are a lot like the warranties that come with washers or refrigerators: Nobody ever reads them, but if you do, you find that nothing in them actually applies.
This year, though, the Republican platform is getting lots of attention because it contains a plank calling for a human life amendment to the Constitution that outlaws abortion and makes no exception for rape, incest or the health of the mother.
That's pretty much the same pro-life plank that was in party platforms in previous campaigns, but it is in the spotlight because of the clueless comments of Congressman Todd Akin — that a woman's reproductive system actually shuts down during rape, preventing conception — and the selection by Mitt Romney of Paul Ryan as his running mate, a man who describes himself as "as pro-life as you can get."
Are you pregnant and contemplating an abortion? Is your daughter or your sister or your best friend pregnant and considering an abortion? Do you know anybody who is pregnant and considering an abortion?
Has there been an "abortion specialist" in your public library recently, helping patrons find abortion clinics? Or was that a guy helping people apply for jobs? Or someone helping an adult learn to read so he can apply for a job?
Did your community association have a meeting about abortion? Is your high school PTA or sports booster group looking to raise money to fund abortions? Or are they looking for money to pay for schools supplies for poor children or sports equipment for which there is no money in the shrinking school budget?
Are you worried about the number of abortions performed in your community, or the number of students in your child's elementary classroom?
Did the police come to your door to ask if you had had an abortion? Or were they there to warn you to be more vigilant because the crummy economy is making criminals more desperate and bold?
Are there long lines at the abortion clinic in your neighborhood? Or is there one at the gas station with the cheapest prices? Are your neighbors worried about how they are going to pay for their child's abortion? Or is it college tuition that they need to find the money for? Or a wedding?
Are you worried about how you are going to get an abortion when you need one? Or are you worried about how much longer your job will last and what you will do when it finally goes away?
Do you see my point? Or do you think this is an election about abortion?
The Republican platform is an assault on the right of women to make their own reproductive choices, but that's not new. Indeed, it is in some ways at odds with the (latest) position of the presumptive nominee. Mitt Romney has said he supports rape, incest and life of the mother exceptions to abortion restrictions.
In contrast, President Barack Obama supports a woman's right to choose, and he said he doesn't think a bunch of men should sit around and make those decisions for her.
Good to know, if you are making a choice between presidential candidates based only on their view of a woman's right to choose — a matter, by the way, over which the president has no authority.
But there is so much more at stake in this election, including the fundamental role of government, a stalled economy, a nearly bankrupt Medicare, a quagmire of a war in Afghanistan and the frightening instability of the Arab world.
That the Republicans should write such a pro-life plank for this election season is no surprise. Their own candidate, John McCain, could not get them to moderate their words in the last election.
But the fact that it is grabbing all the headlines — thanks in part to the crazy talk of Todd Akin — infuriates me.
Please, gentlemen. Can we hear what you have to say about one or two of the other grave issues we face?
Those of us who are already born would like to know what you will do to protect us.