Politicians who are either unwilling or incapable of defending their strongly held positions on abortion commit an inexcusable offense against their constituents in our representative democracy. Healthy policy debate is not possible in this content-free environment and it is time to demand representation with justification; it is time for politicians to engage the debate.

Almost one hundred and fifty years ago Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held a series of seven debates that were dedicated to the most contentious social issue of their day: slavery. These ~20 hours of detailed political discourse are an example of the kind of debate that is an essential part of a democracy. These debates allowed the citizens of Illinois to choose who could best represent them as an informed citizenry.

Sadly, our democracy has descended to the point where politicians are not required to justify their positions either during a campaign or in written correspondence with their constituents. Sound bites and bumper sticker arguments are not satisfactory and we must demand more from our elected representatives.

This site was created to document one constituent's attempt to get their representatives to perform the most fundamental process of a democracy: to engage the debate.

[The full text of the Lincoln/Douglas debates can be found here]


Form letter reply or no reply at all. It is not clear that anyone has even read the correspondence beyond possibly noting the topic. A complete disregard of a constituent's specific questions especially after repeated attempts. A complete lack of engagement in the democratic process.

Demonstrably Irrational

Attempts to address the specific points raised by the constituent but in a demonstrably unreasoned manner, whether sincere or through deliberate rationalization.

A valid, rational argument that places truth above politics and partisanship. Fully engaged in the democratic process.


"I have a right to claim that if a man says he knows a thing, then he must show how he knows it. I always have a right to claim this, and it is not satisfactory to me that he may be 'conscientious' on the subject."  - Abraham Lincoln debating Stephen Douglas, 8/21/1858

A citizen attempts to engage the abortion debate with:

   Senator Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate, CA
   Senator Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate, CA
   Representative Barbara Lee, U.S. Congress, CA

   Governor Gray Davis, CA
   Senator Don Perata, CA Senate District 09


Senator Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate, CA

Undemocratically Disengaged19 Contacts: After nearly two years and 19 contacts with Senator Feinstein's office, she has refused to engage. Over that time her office has replied essentially with 3 form letters which, of course, do not address any of my stated concerns. Such complete disregard for a constituents genuine concerns on an issue of such great importance is inexcusable from a person who purports to represent.

Senator Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate, CA

Demonstrably Irrational22 Contacts: After nearly 2 years of nothing but form letters in reply to my queries, I finally made some limited progress. The Senator's position was described as using viability (as determined by the woman and her doctor) as the line where rights should be granted. I then replied with a letter describing several arguments refuting viability as a rational line where rights should be granted and in response the office reverted to form letters.

Representative Barbara Lee, CA

Undemocratically Disengaged23 Contacts: The office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee refuses to engage in the democratic process. After not engaging for two full years after repeated attempts, Barbara Lee's Legislative Director apologized for the lack of an adequate response to my queries and then also failed to reply herself. The office of Barbara Lee is either unwilling or unable to reply to my questions; neither option is worthy of an elected representative in what is supposed to be a representative democracy.

Recalled Governor Gray Davis, CA

Undemocratically Disengaged9 Contacts: The office of Governor Davis fails to live up to the Governor's own stated principle on engaging with citizens. Governor Davis stated that, "an informed and engaged citizenry is essential to the democratic process" and yet his own Constituent Affairs Department repeatedly agreed that it is perfectly sufficient for the Governor to take a position and offer absolutely no justification for it. Governor Davis, if you believe what you say about the essence of Democracy then please live up to your words and engage this debate.

Senator Don Perata, CA Senate District 09

Undemocratically Disengaged38 Contacts: In what many might consider an outright act of political intimidation, the office of Senate Majority Leader Don Perata has refused not only to engage this debate, his office has chosen to waste the time, energy and the financial resources of the California Highway Patrol in an apparent attempt to silence rational questioning of his positions by this constituent. His office did not attempt even a single official, non-form letter reply after repeated attempts over nearly two years.


Although I have not heard the excuse made in any of my contacts with these representatives, some may claim that answering such detailed questions would be too much of a drain on staff resources.

For this reason I would like to recommend that those who purport to represent others and take clear stands on issues of great importance should make their reasoning clear by writing it down in a white paper of sorts. This could then be posted on the representative's web site or simply mailed to any who seek a more detailed explanation of the representative's position.

By having such information available it would actually reduce the impact on the representative's staff for they would no longer have to play these cat and mouse games of pretending to reply over and over. The quickest way to have a discussion is to simply get straight to the point.

On the other hand, if the representative does not wish to explain why they have taken such a firm stand on a given issue then perhaps they should stop pretending to represent others in this representative democracy and find another line of work.

Please send your comments and questions to info@EngageTheDebate.com



The 3 central points of this issue that these politicians refuse to engage. (Boxer, #1)

Response to the illogical position of viability as a place to grant rights. (Boxer, #15)

Response to illogical position of birth as a place to grant rights. (Perata, #32)

Addressing what is the most central point of this debate even according to Justice Blackmun himself: the personhood of the unborn. (Feinstein, #16)



Accused of being a stalker (Perata, #26) and was then contacted by the California Highway Patrol in what some may consider an outright act of political intimidation. (Perata, #37)

Governor Davis, who originally wrote that "an engaged citizenry is essential to the democratic process," then had a staff member cut off any attempted engagement by repeatedly informing me that the Governor "does not have to justify any position." (Davis, #9)