A somewhat less adversarial view of abortion
By Paul M. Weyrich
Our British cousins have been informed that the Democratic Party – by logical extension, Liberalism – is moving away from its ironclad support for legalized abortion. Even in this age of instant communication, it is easy to get the signals mixed. It is my unpleasant duty to report to the defenders of innocent life in America and in Great Britain that the Democratic Party is far from taking a neutral stance on abortion, much less embracing the pro-life cause.
The genesis for this column came from an article, “Liberals Ready to Abandon U.S. Right to Abortion,” published on July 3 in the British newspaper, The Observer. The journalist, Gaby Wood, asserted that “Abortion may still be the most divisive issue in the [United States], but in a move indicative of creeping conservatism, Democrats now seem happy to amend – even relinquish – their position on it.” Wood cited several liberals who argued that Democrats would need to abandon their nearly religious abhorrance of the Right’s view of abortion to win the 2008 Presidential Election and Congressional seats. Wood quoted Cynthia Gorney, author of A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars, who suggested that many Democrats say that “clinging to [the Roe v. Wade decision] is costing us more than it’s gaining us.”
I certainly agree and I would think millions of former Democrats who, over the past three decades switched their partisan allegiance because of the abortion issue, would share my sentiment. Many Americans – even those who are not strictly pro-life – question unrestricted legalized abortion, particularly when confronted with the facts about gruesome procedures, such as partial birth abortion. President Bush had the support of those who opposed legalized abortion in the last election.
Admittedly there is more pro-life activity within the Democratic Party. Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) is actively advancing its own pro-life legislative agenda to reduce abortions. Called the 95-10 Initiative, it is designed to reduce abortions by 95% over the next ten years. The fact that DFLA announced its plan at Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters is taken as a sign of change within the Party.
The 95-10 Initiative may be well-intentioned. Certainly social conservatives would embrace its recommendations, such as parental notification in certain circumstances and that all women’s health centers or clinics provide pregnancy counseling and information about adoption and the harmful side effects of an abortion. Conservatives should be concerned that many proposals would require more federal spending and would not offer the legal protection that many in the pro-life movement favor. (Pro-lifers should be more vocal about their demands because innocent human life is at stake.) Grants to school districts for pregnancy prevention education programs easily could be hijacked by the Left to fund more sex education programs that could be viewed as approving of teen sex.
Democrats, such as Senator Ben Nelson (NE) and Representative Jerry Costello (IL) have endorsed the 95-10 Initiative. While DFLA struggles to be accepted by the Democratic Party and Liberalism, advocates of legalized abortion maintain a strong grip on the Party and Liberalism.
Abortion rights advocate Benjamin Wittes recently had an article published in Atlantic Monthly. He advised like-minded readers to “let Roe die” because it had become such a divisive issue and it would dominate the battle for the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice. He expressed dismay that “a single narrow issue pushes to the sidelines discussion of a broad array of other important legal questions.”
Douglas Johnson, Legislative Director, National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), argues that no matter how sincere Wittes is organizations, such as the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro-Choice America, EMILY’s List, Planned Parenthood, People for the American Way and Alliance for Justice – will not let the Democratic Party or Liberalism weaken its support for abortion rights.
Johnson wrote to me: “The quoted Benjamin Wittes is sincere, but – the forthcoming battle over confirmation(s) will amply demonstrate – he does not speak for the activists who are so influential in the Democratic Party’s nomination process for federal offices, nor for most Democratic members of Congress, nor for many big Democratic donors. Not to mention the liberals in the news media who are just getting warmed up. Some Democratic officeholders are adjusting their rhetoric a bit, but we don’t see any substantive retreat among the party leadership.”
Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
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