Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When 'pro-choice' is anti-abortion

Noting Tony Campolo's comments at the Democrats for Life Town Hall concerning the number of Americans divided between the pro-life and pro-choice camps, we noted:
some of the “pro-choice” people referenced by Campolo don’t approve of legalized abortion in most cases, while some of the pro-lifers make exceptions of their own.

A new Knights of Columbus survey backs this contention.

CNA reports:
Only 15 percent of self-described “pro-choice” respondents favored unrestricted abortion throughout a pregnancy. About 43 percent of pro-choice respondents said abortion should be restricted to the first trimester and 23 percent would restrict abortion only to cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life was in danger.

Significantly, CNA says, only 15 percent of self-described “pro-choice” respondents favored unrestricted abortion throughout a pregnancy, the status quo under Roe v. Wade. Among the overall population, only eight percent favored that position.

(Unfortunately, the Knights' survey does not examine whether self-described pro-life people have views more consistent with the label they choose for themselves. This is an intelligence failure which leaves weaknesses unexamined.)

When 23 percent of self-described pro-choice voters sound like compromising Republicans, it is clear that the anti-abortion coalition is not as broad as it could be.

Early pro-life leaders likely chose their label in an attempt to set a positive, non-adversarial tone like that perceived in the label "anti-abortion." Perhaps the word choice was meant to distinguish them from the "wrong kind" of abortion opponents, especially the violent ones portrayed on "Law & Order."

This move of rhetorical self-satisfaction has drawbacks, as when people begin to think of "pro-life" as outré. Ask such a person "How pro-life are you?" and they could respond very equivocally as they distance themselves from stereotypes. Ask such a person "How anti-abortion are you?" and you might get a concrete answer on which to base a discussion.

The abortion debate is being obscured by its labels. Pro-life candidates and their publicists need to remind the electorate how radical Roe v. Wade is and how conflicted the pro-choice side is.

When a vigorous pro-life candidate describes his consistent stand in his campaign literature, he must do more than consider his acceptability to his base. Rather, he must propose actual legal reform.

Failed Colorado Senate candidate Pete Coors' 2004 political position paper is an exemplar of the tendency merely to signal support.

"I have a fundamental belief in the sanctity of human life. I am opposed to abortion," Coors explains there.

That was his entire statement on the issue.

Not very helpful. Its lack of explanation even fosters doubt about whether the man is only "personally opposed" and therefore not interested in political action on the issue.

In his present campaign, Sen. McCain only describes Roe as a "flawed decision," without explaining the flaws for the reader's benefit.

What is needed in these position statements is a minimal effort at voter education and coalition building. A candidate should add something like this:
Roe v. Wade was a bad decision. Did you know Roe v. Wade and related Supreme Court decisions legalize almost all abortions throughout all nine months of a woman's pregnancy? This is a case where the court is out of touch with America.

More than sixty percent of Americans, many of whom consider themselves pro-choice, favor allowing abortions no more often than in cases of rape, incest, and a danger to the mother's life. Another 24 percent favor banning abortions performed later than the first trimester of pregnancy.

If I am elected and Roe is overturned, I pledge to work to bring our laws and the outliers of the American medical profession into line with our standards for protecting human life in its earliest months. While I personally believe abortion should be prohibited in all but the most extreme cases, I will gladly reach out to those who believe otherwise to enact anti-abortion legislation that 84 percent of Americans would favor.

The eight percent of people who favor the Roe status quo have been allowed to misrepresent the national consensus for too long. May the truth come out.

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