Speaking at a town hall in South Carolina yesterday, Michele Bachmann revealed that she and her husband suffered a miscarriage with what would have been their third child. She says the tragedy altered the way she thinks about the world: “When we lost that child, it changed us. And it changed us forever,”she said. It's what led to the decision to take in 23 foster children, and, says Politico, it also shaped her opposition to abortion (the pregnancy was an unplanned one).
Politico goes straight for the handicapping:
Her revelation on Wednesday marks another first for presidential politics, and one that could both humanize her and put a sharp point on her attacks on frontrunner Mitt Romney, whose position on abortion rights is often characterized as insufficiently conservative by the primary base.
Bachmann's revelation, linked as it is to reproductive health, might be a first for presidential politics (though, of course, plenty of candidates have suffered personal tragedies and the loss of children) but it also brings to mind Democratic representative Jackie Speier's speech on the House floor in February, in which she disclosed that she had undergone an abortion, during an impassioned plea in favor of Planned Parenthood. Speier, who had to undergo the procedure for medical reasons, also referred to it as losing a baby and added that the suggestion that "this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous."
Traditionally, it's been Democratic women who have made the public argument that the men legislating abortion law don't understand it in the same way they do, since men could never be faced with the realities of such choices. Bachmann's speech was a sort of version of that, a biological justification for her philosophy — you may not agree with her on abortion rights, but attacking the reason she came to her worldview would take a special kind of monster. Taken together, Speier's and Bachmann's revelations seem to signal a new willingness for female politicians to welcome the conversation turning very personal on this front. It's tricky to ascribe a couple of incidents like this to anything in particular, but there's no doubt that lately, female politicians are more apt to see their gender as an asset, in the wake of Palin's splashy entrance on the scene in 2008. Just look at the sheer number of Mama Grizzlies the GOP ran in the last election cycle. This can be relatively shallow — playing up attractiveness with a cute pair of heels, without fear of getting written off as a ditz — or, as in these cases, it can be incredibly meaningful.