Responding to Critics: The Record on Abortion
“What have conservatives ever accomplished on abortion? They talk about abortion during elections, but they never do anything. After 20 years of Republican presidents, nothing has changed. We need to try a different approach; we can save more lives by trying to reduce the number of abortions and not worrying about whether it’s legal.”
What Have They Ever Done?
Actually, though we’d love to be able to say Roe was overturned and abortion was outlawed in every state, there have been more than a few pro-life victories in the abortion fight. Our first victory was the Hyde Amendment, which prevents pro-life taxpayers from being forced to fund abortion with their tax dollars.
Though the record is not perfect, we’ve put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe if given the opportunity (even many pro-choice lawyers say Roe was ridiculously bad jurisprudence), including the recent additions of Justices Alito and Roberts.
Parental notification laws have been passed all over the US that, despite protests to the contrary, have reduced abortions just about everywhere they’ve been tried.
We’ve also been able to pass a ban on “partial birth” abortions and laws protecting abortion survivors and healthcare providers who do not want to perform these procedures. We’ve also had some success getting federal funding for pro-life crisis pregnancy centers and alternatives to embryo-destroying research.
That’s not to suggest that Republicans or conservatives have passed everything I’d like or done everything they could, nor have they focused exclusively on this issue (as if anyone expected them to), but there have been real successes and real lives have been saved.
What Would Outlawing Abortion Accomplish?
Would abortions still occur if abortion was illegal? Yes. Then why bother?
We don’t outlaw only those things we can totally stop. Murder still happens. People still speed. Armed robbery continues to occur. No one suggests we make those things legal.
Outlawing abortion would accomplish a couple of things. One, though they’d still happen, there wouldn’t be anywhere near as many.
Two, the national attitude toward abortion would change. People would eventually stop thinking of it as a “right.” In time it would make abortion less and less common.
This is true of merely overturning Roe, too. That would change the nature of the debate – from “protecting rights” to debating the morality of a procedure. That would make a subtle shift in the minds of many pro-choice people.
We Should Work to Reduce the Number of Abortions
This is the theme for many who call themselves pro-life but vote for pro-choice candidates. The question they need to answer is “how?”
What can we do to reduce the number of abortions? More importantly what haven’t we already tried?
Is it money? Will more welfare reduce the number of abortions? How? When abortion was at its peak, we were paying women per kid. What else can we do?
Is it access to contraception? Contraceptives are easily available to anyone who wants to use them. People can even get them for free with minimal effort.
Is it education? Please. One, most abortions are performed on adult women. Two, we have sex education starting in elementary school in some areas. Few women (or men) today lack the information they need to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. What they lack is character.
If lifting women out of poverty will reduce the number of abortions, great – let’s do it. But let’s not pretend that any form of government transfer payments will do that after the trillions spent on the Great Society to no avail.
But a key part of reducing the number of abortions is removing the notion that abortion is a legitimate answer to an inconvenient pregnancy from our society. That is not accomplished by refusing to make abortion illegal and saying we want to make it “rare.”
Safe, Legal, and Not-So-Rare
Those who want to vote for a pro-choice candidate to “reduce the number of abortions” also have to address the fact that the Democratic Party has removed from the party platform the language calling for a reduction in abortion. Is this the party you trust to “reduce the number of abortions?”
“We’d support many pro-life policies if they’d just include an exemption for the health of the mother.” Senator Obama even made this remark about partial birth abortion during the last debate.
Conservatives will allow exemptions for the life of the mother; liberals care very much about her “health” – they just won’t tell us what it means. That’s because the “health” is so broad that it includes any physical distress (e.g., pregnancy-induced heartburn), social problems (e.g., my husband doesn’t want another child), and mental concerns (not just depression, even “anxiety” – e.g., anxiety that I can’t abort this child).
Technically, abortion is not “constitutionally protected” after the fetus reaches viability, but Doe says that even late-term abortion is permitted to preserve the mother’s “health.”
A “health” exemption on any abortion restriction basically makes it null and void. A doctor just has to state that the procedure is necessary for the woman’s “health.”
So-Called Pro-Lifers & Obama
When conservatives say that Sen. Obama is the most pro-abortion candidate to run on a major party ticket, we’re really not exaggerating.
He has said that one of his first acts as president would be to sign the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA) that will not only outlaw every abortion restriction at the state and federal level, it will also repeal the Hyde Amendment – meaning taxpayer funded abortions. He opposes laws that had broad, bipartisan support including the partial birth abortion ban and the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. He takes a radical position on embryonic stem cell research – well to the left of most Democrats.
He has also promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who are politically liberal and judicially activist – naming Ruth Bader Ginsburg as an example. He would never appoint anyone with the slightest likelihood of overturning Roe.
Sen. Obama has even opposed including unborn children in the S-CHIP program. It’s a good thing he wasn’t around when WIC was invented.
By all means, vote for Sen. Obama if you want to, but don’t tell yourself any lies about him reducing the number of abortions. He has no interest in such a feat.
Conservatives and the Republican Party have made real headway in the fight against abortion. Their records aren’t spotless, and there is room for improvement, but if you care about the welfare of unborn human beings, there is only one party that has shown any interesting in protecting them. Vote accordingly.