Mission: Depress pro-life turnout


Working late tonight, and I took a late dinner break at the nearby McDonald's. It was recently given a complete makeover -- a style I'll call High Tech Googie for the sake of calling it something -- and it's got a couple of big screen TVs. I sat down next to the one showing MSNBC, and "Scarborough Country" was just ending.

Then "Hardball" started, and the subject was the Catholic vote and a dramatic jump in John Kerry's support among white Catholics, according to a Pew Research survey. Then, host Chris Matthews was talking to Bill Donahue of the Catholic Action League. Matthews, with an unusually calm tone and demeanor, insisted that George W. Bush is not pro-life, that he's unfairly getting credit for being pro-life, but he isn't because he isn't even promising to ban abortion in his second term. Matthews repeated his assertion several times. (As soon as the transcript is online, I'll link to it.) According to Matthews, to be pro-life, the President would have either to promise to work for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion or to promise to appoint to the courts only those judges who are committed to overturning Roe v. Wade.

So a pattern begins to emerge. We saw another example in Andrew Sullivan's promotion of bogus numbers purporting to show that the number of abortions have been on the rise since Bush took office.

There was a study -- about the time of the 2000 election, if I recall correctly -- that said that abortion was a decisive issue for about 15% of voters. 9% of voters nationwide would vote only for a pro-life candidate, 6% would vote only for a pro-choice candidate. That's a 3-point advantage for the pro-life candidate in a race with a clear distinction between candidates on the abortion issue. And that's why the Democrats are so desperate to take the issue off the table by blurring the clear distinction between Bush and Kerry, and, in theOklahoma senate race, between liberal, pro-abortion Democrat Brad Carson and conservative, pro-life Republican Tom Coburn.

Chris Matthews surely understands that there is not the political will in this country to support a full-on effort to ban abortion. A "Human Life Amendment" to the Constitution would not pass Congress, and even if it did, it would probably fall short of the required number of states for ratification. If the President were to announce a policy of only nominating judges committed to overturning Roe v. Wade, he'd be accused of trying to overturn the Constitution. There is not a pro-life majority in the Senate, and Bush has had a hard enough time getting his judicial nominees confirmed even without an explicit "litmus test." Bush has said he will appoint only judges committed to interpreting the law, not making it, a stance which implies rejection of the "emanations and penumbras" approach taken by the court in Roe v. Wade.

In the current political climate, there is not a popular consensus for banning abortion, but there is a consensus for restricting abortion at the margins -- banning barbaric practices like partial-birth abortion, insisting on parental notification when a minor has an abortion, requiring a woman to give informed consent before an abortion. There is also a consensus that government shouldn't be funding abortion services or the promotion of abortion, here or abroad, and that clinics and hospitals should not be required to provide abortions as a condition of receiving federal funds for other services. All of these incremental changes help to save lives, and President Bush has promoted and supported these changes, while Senator Kerry has opposed them.

See for yourself: The National Right to Life Committee has fact sheets (in PDF format -- handy for printing and handing out at church) comparing the records of the presidential candidates and Senate candidates in key states. (Here's the one for the Coburn-Carson race.) And here's another PDF factsheet with detail on Bush's pro-life record.

It looks like there is a coordinated effort, with the cooperation of the mainstream media, to blur distinctions on issues where the Democrats are out of step with the majority of Americans. It will take concerted grass-roots efforts to get the truth out that there is a clear difference on issues that matter.

UPDATE: Kathryn Jean Lopez of NRO has an interview with a pro-life obstetrician on the specific things Bush has done to aid the cause of the unborn and what Kerry has done to hurt that same cause.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 21, 2004 11:50 PM.

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