Missouri voters elected five pro-choice women in Democratic state primaries on Tuesday, moving the candidates closer to state and federal office.

Claire McCaskill defeated sitting Democratic Governor Bob Holden. Her victory marks the state’s first ousting of a sitting governor in a primary. If she wins the general election, she will become the state’s first female governor. McCaskill, who served for five years in the state House of Representatives and currently serves as Missouri auditor, will face Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt on Nov. 2.

A lot is at stake for reproductive rights in Missouri. The state legislature has declared its opposition to women’s right to choose and has greatly restricted insurance coverage of abortion. According to NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, the legislature has also sought to pass several laws that would overturn the protections granted by Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established that most abortions were private decisions.

In the U.S. Senate race, Nancy Farmer won a landslide primary victory over rivals Charles Berry and Ronald Bonar. Linda Jacobsen, meanwhile, ran unopposed for the U.S. House of Representatives seat for District 9.

On the state level, Rebecca McDowell Cook won the primary for lieutenant governor and Robin Carnahan was unopposed in the primary for secretary of state. Pro-choice candidate Russ Carnahan also won his Democratic primary for the U.S. House seat for District 3, to be vacated by Dick Gephardt.

The candidates all have a strong record on women’s rights issues, and many of them are endorsed by pro-choice advocacy groups EMILY’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri.

(The day, however, dealt a heavy blow to supporters of same-sex marriage. Forty-one percent of registered voters, nearly 1.5 million people, participated in the primary, up from the average 15 to 25 percent in past years, according to press reports. The high turnout was fueled by the ballot’s inclusion of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Voters passed the amendment with 70 percent approval.)


The Vatican, in a July 31 pamphlet addressed to bishops worldwide, accused feminism of trying to blur the differences between men and women and of threatening to destroy the traditional family structure.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, one of Pope John Paul II’s closest aides, wrote the 37-page document. He referred to the “lethal effects” that feminism had produced in the drive for equality, which he said makes “homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.”

Ratzinger wrote that recent approaches to women’s issues have been fueled by a desire to provoke antagonism and bitterness among women, leading them to believe that “in order to be themselves, (they) must make themselves the adversaries of men.”

While upholding the church’s ban on female priests, the document also espoused support for the fair treatment of working women in other professions. In accordance with the Pope’s record of supporting women who seek employment outside the home, the document said those who choose to work should be granted an appropriate work schedule and “should not have to choose between relinquishing their family life or enduring continual stress.”

Critics of the document said the attack on feminism opened the door for religious conservatives to condemn any sort of advocacy for women. Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice in Washington, D.C., told Reuters the pamphlet could only have been written by “men who have no significant relationship with women and no knowledge of the enormous positive changes the women’s rights movement has meant for both men and women.”

The pamphlets reference to homosexual couples harkened back to a similar document the Vatican released last summer, which called for politicians to block or repeal any legislation that gave equal rights to same-sex relationships, claiming lesbian and gay people were going “against natural and moral law.”

–Robin Hindery.