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— As the election looms on the horizon, abortion swirls in the cool fall air at San Diego State University, now enshrouding the entire spectacle, now skittering about the edges, now fading from sight, only to emerge again. It is the first cause of Rachel's allegiance: "I'm voting for Gore because he's for women's rights -- the right to choose. I watch the news a lot. I read magazines, and I'll admit they're [fashion] magazines -- Glamour endorses Gore, and it's the first presidential candidate ever that Glamour has endorsed. Not that I do things because of what my [fashion] magazines say, but just their article on it: Bush wants to put a lot of restrictions on women's rights and things like that, and that's really important to me."

Rachel also opposes "religion in schools," something she fears Bush will promote. "Just from the limited knowledge I have; I know that's more his stance. He'd be bringing religion into school and stuff like that. I don't think religion belongs in school -- it's separation of church and state. I just think everyone's entitled to do their own thing."

Kenneth, lounging on the steps overlooking the campus's central corridor, admits that "I really haven't had time to follow [the campaign]. I mean, I could take the time, but I just really haven't done it." However, like Rachel, he regards abortion as primary. "I'm voting Democrat. I just don't like Bush's policies on the abortion issue. I think that it should be a right and a woman should have that privilege." He does offer a caveat. "I am against it as a form of birth control. If you felt you could have sex, and you know you're taking a risk of it getting you pregnant, then own up to the responsibility of it, you know?

"But if it's for health reasons, or for some reason you wouldn't be able to support the baby economically, or something like that [where having the baby] would do more harm than good, then I'm all for [abortion]."

His friend mentions victims of rape who become pregnant. "Those are extenuating circumstances. If the woman doesn't want to have that child...then I can see that as happening. But I've also heard discussions from people who were actually products of rape, and they said that they have every right to be in this world, just like anybody else. That's a woman's issue, but I mean, I think that choice should be open to discussion."

Jeff, sitting on a bench with Daniel near the war memorial, also mentions abortion right out of the gate but volleys from the other side of the political net, picking up where Kenneth left off on the "right to be in this world." "I'm a Republican and, actually, I've got a major piece with the whole abortion-pill thing. I see Gore sayin', 'Yeah, a woman should have every single right to her body.' I can see why he's saying that, but I also think that they shouldn't...they make bad decisions about it -- killing babies. That's the whole thing with me going for Bush.

"A lot of my teachers are talking about [the election], and I get a lot of information from them, but they've already got their own opinions, and a lot of them are for Gore. Again, they want women to have all the rights. That's fine and everything; I think they should have some rights, but there's another person's right, too. Some people just don't see it that way."

Daniel joins Jeff by declaring his party allegiance. "I'm just voting for Bush because I'm a Republican, and I don't like Al Gore. I don't like what he stands for; I don't like what the Democrats stand for -- what [Jeff] was saying about the whole abortion thing. And I like what Bush was saying about taxes."

Andrea is the first girl I meet who supports Bush, so this time it's I who brings up abortion. Does she fear for her right to choose? Andrea is unruffled. "I think the whole abortion issue has been beat to death. Okay, Bush may be a little more conservative on that, but I don't think we should be so hung up about their stance on that. I really could not imagine -- no matter how conservative the President is -- that anything like that could be overturned. I know he's going to appoint some judges who could change that thing, but I really don't think this country would stand for abortion to be illegal. I'm pro-choice, and I think Bush is, too. He hasn't been real strong about pro-life. I mean, granted, he takes that stance -- probably to get more of the right-wing Christian Coalition vote -- but he's playing the politics game."

Andrea, a political science major, instead favors other Bush policies -- "flat tax, pro-death penalty...how he puts his trust in people. I'm a big advocate of giving the people more rights. I don't like having the government involved in everything, being the surrogate parent for our kids, making all these programs, making all these bans. I think that people should be able to live how they want to live," she concludes, echoing Rachel from the opposite end of the spectrum.

Andrea likes the notion of people investing their own money instead of leaving it in the hands of Social Security, and she's comfortable with the idea that the wealthy will be rewarded for investing well and having a lot of money. "They pay, what, one-third of the taxes and get one-fifth back? If the wealthy are rewarded, then yeah, dammit -- they worked hard, they should be rewarded." However, she also has faith that Bush's tax plan "will benefit the middle and lower class too, because it's going to take a certain percentage out, instead of more than it should."

Erin, lunching with her friend Jessica, is not so sanguine as Andrea. After Jessica says that she's voting for Bush because "I believe in smaller government, less intervention in people's lives," particularly in regard to health care and government HMOs, she mentions that she differs with Bush "on the pro-choice issue." Erin interjects, "That's the sole reason I wouldn't vote for him. If he were the best candidate in the world, and he wanted to outlaw abortion, I couldn't vote for him." She fears the power of the justices Bush might appoint and concludes, "Even if he wasn't able to do it, I just don't think it's right to enable him to try."

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