On the other hand, if you believe that abortion -- even the destruction of a microscopic embryo consisting of a few cells -- is murder, or at least the killing of a potential person, you can't not see it as a major moral issue. I know this attitude is alien to many progressives, but it's crucial to understand it if you want to understand people with pro-life views.
For those who are convinced that abortion is murder, or at least a morally significant act of killing, traditional "choice" rhetoric rings hollow. "I'm personally opposed to it, but it should be a choice for others" are the words of someone who views abortion as distasteful or unpleasant, but not actually evil. This is why the choice argument represents a "frame" that will never work for many people. Hardcore pro-lifers view the killing of an embryo or fetus as equivalent to gunning a child down on the street, and they view the institutionalization of abortion as morally equivalent to the institutionalization of slavery -- a system that treats human beings as sub-human, mere property to be disposed of as their owner sees fit. Others do not take such a strong view, but still believe that something morally bad is happening when a fetus is destroyed, even if they're not sure it's murder per se.
Bill Clinton addressed abortion in a different way from John Kerry. He said he wanted it to be "safe, legal, and rare." This was an example of Clinton's extraordinary attunement to the sensibilities of middle America. The distinction between Clinton's rhetoric and Kerry's may seem meaningless to committed pro-choicers, but it is quite significant. Clinton implied that abortion was actually bad: thus he felt it should be rare. He also felt it should be legal, but this did not imply a hands-off, nonjudgmental attitude like Kerry's. Rather it was -- or at least it could be read as -- a pragmatic approach to a difficult societal issue, built upon the understanding that outlawing abortion is not necessarily the best way to reduce it.
Kerry's support for choice represented a refusal to morally judge abortion. Clinton's support for keeping it "safe, legal, and rare" represented a moral judgement against it, combined with a practical approach to reducing it. Kerry's support for choice was his moral statement: he believed that leaving the choice up to women was the greatest moral imperative, more significant than any moral harm that might come from abortion itself. Clinton separated the moral and legal issues: he was legally in favor of abortion rights, but morally opposed to abortion, and implied that he would work to reduce its occurrence.
I believe that many people with pro-life views were more receptive to Clinton than Kerry, because of the difference between the apparent moral frameworks behind each man's rhetoric on abortion. Of course Clinton's position was still unacceptable to plenty of pro-lifers, for whom nothing short of outlawing all abortion will ever suffice. But he telegraphed to many people on the fence (for example, the vast number of Catholics who are liberal on lots of issues except abortion) that he understood their moral concern about abortion itself, and would seek to reduce it in some fashion (e.g., through education, contraception, and improving the lives of women), rather than simply declaring it a valid choice and washing his hands of the morality of it.
And while many liberal Dems do not share the view that abortion is morally problematic, it's essential that we recognize what this week's election told us. A majority of Americans do view abortion as morally negative in some way -- even many who support keeping it legal. Political rhetoric that refers to it only as a private, value-neutral choice may resonate with liberals, but it doesn't speak to most people across the country. Such rhetoric may be sufficient for Democratic candidates in safely blue states. But our candidates for national office need to recognize the cultural realities that exist in other parts of the nation. A discussion of abortion that follows the Clinton model more closely than the Kerry model will be more likely to put a Democrat back in the White House.