Right-to-Life Pariahs

A national Catholic weekly's article bemoning the lack of physical Presidential presence at the commemoration of the 35th anniversary of Roe v Wade got me thinking.  Is there any more reliable and less respected voting bloc than right-to-lifers? 

Right-to-lifers are assiduously avoided by all Republican politicians.  When the right-to-life crowd marches on DC, the president addresses them over the telephone, a tradition started by the sainted Ronald Reagan himself.  Even Randy Kuhl, who is reliably pro-life, has his picture taken with local protesters on the Capitol steps, not at the rally, and there are no signs to distinguish this group from a set of farmers or PTA members. 

Symbolism aside, there's also been little progress on the core right-to-life issue.  The "conservative justices" appointed to the Supreme Court have pretty clearly signaled that Roe v Wade is the law of the land.  Even though abortion rates are declining in the US, the use of RU-486 is way up, and a lot of RU-486 is being prescribed by physicians who don't do surgical abortions.  Finally, the use of Plan B, which is also considered "abortion" by most pro-lifers, is widespread yet not counted in the abortion statistics.

While RU-486 and Plan B were quietly making abortions easier, the Republicans chose to make a stand over federal funding of stem cell research.  Though this fight went the right-to-lifer's way, it was a hollow victory.  Stopping embryonic research was never on the table.  Only federal funding was cut, and some big states rushed to enact laws to fund research that would ultimately attract lucrative biotech firms.  An observer only slightly more cynical than me might conclude that the whole stem cell dust-up was an attempt by Republicans to distract right-to-lifers from the growing ascendancy of chemical abortion.

So, Republicans are ashamed to be pictured at right-to-life rallies, and if you count Plan B, the abortion rate is through the roof.  Yet right-to-lifers are the most reliable single-issue voting bloc in the country. 

I can't think of a constituency as loyal as right-to-lifers that gets the same pariah treatment from Democrats.    Even the less-loyal union bloc is still embraced by Democrats, who aren't afraid to get their pictures taken at union rallys.   And Democrats don't run away from pro-choice parades.

At some point, it will dawn on pro-lifers that voting Republican is an empty gesture.  Until then, the Republicans will treat them like untouchables while counting on their votes come election day.


Political correctness does not allow me to mention another voting block that is solidly democratic but they seem to be having the same problems democrats promised to clean up starting with LBJ in 1964.

We had two anniversaries that were important to both major blocs this week. In one commemoration, which was a national holiday, all major party candidates attended. In the other, no candidates attended and the President addressed the commemoration over the phone.

I'll grant you that both blocs may be taken for granted by the respective parties on occasion, and some lip service may be paid. However, the lip service to the Right-to-Life bloc is paid over the phone and out of sight of the media. That's pariah treatment the other bloc doesn't get.

I would think it would be worse to show up and not deliver than to not show up and not deliver.

Both blocs have some strange leadership. One side pays homage to the leadership, the other side doesn't.

Yeah, but I think the Dems have delivered a great deal of what legislation can be expected to deliver to that bloc. The results may not be perfect, but it's hard to pin that on lack of legislative action.

In contrast, the GOP has not delivered all that legislation can deliver to the RTL movement. Plan B and RU-486 have been pretty much untouched.

Results are the key -

Republicans have attempted to restrict abortions and enact parental notification laws, etc. They haven't helped, but they haven't hurt.

A case can be made that Democrats pass laws that look good, but actually hurt the ones they are supposed to be helping. Everyone seems to be complaining about the lack of at home fathers, but legislation has made it so easy for a young woman not to have to worry about having a father around to help raise the children. This unfortunately leads to deeper poverty and higher incarceration levels.

Many are clamoring to allow their children into private schools, but the Democrats won't buck the teachers' unions.

On the absent fathers -- I think you'll agree that unwed mothers present a big social dilemma. On one hand, we have a humanitarian duty to assist the children, who are innocent and deserve our help regardless of the circumstances of their birth. On the other hand, benefits that go to the child via the mother incent some mothers to have more children, in an indirect and very dysfunctional way. (BTW, it's a poverty issue, not a race issue - the poverty issues of every race can be traced to the problem of absent fathers.) I don't see that the Dems are letting anyone down here - the welfare reforms of the 90's were instituted by Democrats and did some good, though it's true that there's a lot more that could be done.

As for the private schools, I agree that they provide much-needed competition in poor areas and, yes, Democrats are pretty weak-kneed in the face of teachers' unions.

You say that R's have tried to restrict abortions and do parental notification, but don't you think they've dropped the ball on RU-486 and Plan B? As you know, I think that RU-486 and Plan B should be handed out freely, but I was surprised to read the "35th anniversary of Roe V Wade" pieces that pointed out that chemical abortions are the new trend and seem to be happening with the tacit assent of the Republican leadership.

This should go without saying, but it's pretty clear the Republicans will never ever ever give pro-lifers the one thing pro-lifers really want: the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Of the two Bush appointees to the court, it looks as though at least one (Roberts) will uphold it, for example.

It's a shell game -- if R v W is overturned, pro-choice Republicans (a majority of the party) will flee the party in droves. The most important winning issue for Republicans -- opposition to reproductive rights -- would turn into its biggest losing issue over night. The Republican party would largely cease to exist.

So they'll never let it happen.

Speaking for this particular Republican, abortion rights does not keep me in the party. Ironically, the issue that bothers me the most is loss of individual freedoms. I want to keep my rifles, I want to smoke on my property, I want to be responsible for bringing up my children, I want to burn coal in my furnace, I want to be able to build what I want on my land, etc. I feel that the Democrats will turn us into a nanny state with the loss of many things I hold dear.

I realize people consider abortion an individual right, but the destruction of human flesh, blood and bones doesn't sit well with me even if I am told that the flesh, blood and bones isn't real life.

For the record, I don't consider RU-486 or Plan B abortion.

Many people I know feel this way. I think you are dreaming if you think there would be a tidal wave of Republicans becoming Democrats if Roe was overturned.

I think you are dreaming if you think there would be a tidal wave of Republicans becoming Democrats if Roe was overturned.

I'm not. Everyone who's studied the issue knows this. Ask any pro-choice Republican if he'd still be a Republican if the Roe v. Wade were overturned and the Republican party was trying to make all abortion illegal. Most will leave. And the party is something like 50% pro-choice if by pro-choice I mean someone who thinks abortion should be generally legal, at least early in the pregnancy. Say half those people leave the party (I think probably more than half would). End of party.

Pro-lifers who vote Republican because of the issue are suckers, pure and simple.

Ironically, the issue that bothers me the most is loss of individual freedoms.

Okay, I can why you dislike Bush so much! These issues weren't even big for me before Bush and now I'm very big on them. I can imagine how angry it must make people for whom these were always important issues.

Point me to the data on pro-lifers leaving the Republican Party if Roe is overturned.

I misspoke -- I said pro-choicers will leave if it's overturned. I'll look for data.

Here's a good article about what would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned:

If Roe falls in June 2007, abortion will almost certainly become the central issue in the 2008 presidential election. And Republicans are already worrying about the political fallout. “We’d be blown away in the suburbs, and you wouldn’t see another Republican president for twenty years,” a pro-choice Republican congressman recently told Roll Call. Karl Rove has long dodged questions about whether he thinks Roe should be overturned, and Ken Mehlman, the head of the Republican National Committee, has refused to comment on the South Dakota law, making it clear that he’d rather talk about anything else. The fact that Electoral College battleground states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, are likely to be facing the fiercest state fights over abortion can’t be good news for the GOP.

Exile - can't get your link to work


It's an interesting article.


Okay, it seems it's me, it's something about the page. The last one worked in preview mode but not once I hit submit. So I'll just give a raw URL.

The web page you link to is pure conjecture and out of date. It is strictly an opinion piece. Frankly I think it is wishful thinking on your part.

No state will totally attempt to ban abortion without leaving in out clauses for rape, insect and health of the mother.

I just went through the first page and a half of the web story:

"Both camps believe that the demise of Roe may occur sooner rather than later" – didn’t happen

"Outraged Senate Democrats then mount a filibuster" - they are the majority, no need for a filibuster

"The day after Roe fell, of course, abortion would be neither legal nor illegal throughout the United States" – about time someone on the left admitted to this

"Since the South Dakota ban passed, the approval rating of the governor, Mike Rounds, has dropped by 12 percentage points, and several state legislators have announced their intention to switch parties from Republican to Democrat" – The ban was rejected by referendum in 2006 at the same time that Rounds beat his Democrat opponent by 26 percentage points, and the legislature is still controlled by Republicans.

You make some very good points about the accuracy of the article. But it's not the article itself I believe....If Karl Rove won't come out in favor of ending Roe v. Wade, then it's a loser for Republicans. It's really that simple for me. I'm not a Rove-lover, but you can bet he's crunched the numbers very thoroughly.

The one thing I haven't made clear here is this: abortion is a hugely winning issue for Republicans. The modern Republican party is based almost entirely on opposition to civil rights for African-Americans (not that they overtly oppose them now -- I'm talking about the Nixon strategy) and opposition to reproductive rights. Any change in the reproductive rights landscape hurts them because it's such a big winner for them now. Right now they get the entire pro-life vote but they also have pro-choicers voting for them in many cases.

With Roe v. Wade gone, they'll have a choice: continue to hold a near monopoly on pro-lifers (about 35% of the population or so) or lose all the pro-choice voters.

I'm not trying to link reproductive rights with civil rights there. I don't think there's much of a connection. I'm just trying to describe the modern Republican coalition. I don't think traditional conservative/libertarian types like you are that much of a part of it, unfortunately. (Which is too bad, because I think you guys make a lot of good points.)

Each party has their own signature issues. The case you make on abortion can be made in reverse. Let's say that gun ownership is outlawed by a Democrat congress and president. Every Democrat friend I have will become a Republican. That is why both parties take a more moderate position on issues than some of their extreme members would like them to.

Democrats will continue to try to limit the "right to bear arms" and Republicans will continue to try to limit abortion rights, but neither party will want to kill either of them.

I agree with what you say here. Which is why I don't think Roe v. Wade will be overturned and also why Democrats are backing away from gun issues.

As recently as 40 years ago civil rights was a Republican Issue. The main obstacle to passing the civil right act of 1964 was a group of Senate Democrats.

Democrats, to their credit, one-upped the Republicans by introducing quotas and set-asides for minorities. This did not sit well with most Republicans and they would not get into a "bidding war" with the Democrats as to what they could do for minorities. Republicans, rightly or wrongly, have always felt that equal opportunity was enough.

On the earlier point, if you don't buy the notion that Republicans will leave the party if abortion is outlawed, how about swing voters? I think that's what Rove was really worried about. Suburban swing voters were key to the recent Bush wins but are overwhelmingly pro-choice. They would swing the other way if they connected voting Republican with a real chance that abortion would be outlawed.

Also, on guns. I don't think Dems promise to outlaw gun ownership. The promise is to limit handguns and assault rifles. The bait that the Republicans hold out to the RTL voter is eliminating abortion.

I think all but the most extreme pro-lifers understand that abortion will always be with us. You have a point that the Republicans promise too much, but there are no alternatives for pro-life voters.

One big issue is federal money. When a Democrat is president much more money will be set aside for abortion clinics, government paid abortions, etc. Republicans do just the opposite.

I don't think that abortion will ever be outlawed. If it ever is, and the Republicans are the reason, they will loose swing voters.

Elmer, I agree it would be better to reduce abortions. But I don't think that any of this crap the Republicans propose -- parental notification laws, monkeying around with federal money -- actually accomplishes this. It just makes it harder and more humiliating for the women who do get abortions.

Abortions are reduced when unwanted pregnancies are. It's that simple. Did you know the US has three times the rate of abortion than that awful, left-wing, pot-legalizing country, Holland? Do you think that's because those lefties in Holland make it hard to get an abortion? No, it's because they have sensible birth control policies. None of this abstinence only crap that doesn't work.

This issue really isn't that complicated as long as Roe v. Wade is around. People can get serious about reducing abortions with sensible birth control policy or they can whine and moan.

(Just to be clear: I'm not accusing you of supporting abstinence only or of whining and moaning here.)

As a father of two females (and one male) it irritates me that my daughter can't take an aspirin at school without my permission but she can make what is potentially the most important decision in her life without even letting me know.

That's fine but let's not pretend it actually affects the abortion rate. Parental notification laws are aimed at the gut not at the brain. It's a Stephen Colbert kind of program in that sense.

Am not pretending that it will reduce abortion rates, just think it is the right thing to do.

Do you really think it's an important issue though? I don't. I'm against parental notification laws but it is nowhere near the top of my list. It's down there below stuff about sharing interstate money with the states and how we should designate Guam and Puerto Rico.

I don't even know where the candidates stand on it. I can see it both ways -- I can see the parent wanting to know and I can see it where the daughter wants to do it without notifying the parents. And, not to get grisly here, but the latter especially important in the case of incest. (Sorry to bring that up but it is an important part of the abortion debate and it's almost certainly more common in the parts of the country that are strongly pro-life.)

If my daughter was pregnant, it would be more important to me than the Iraq War, the economy and gun control put together.

Incest is wrong in the first place. Not sure how you think it would affect parental notification. If you are worried about the child being forced to keep the baby I believe the laws should allow minors to bypass their parents in certain situations.

I'm not sure that I think for parents with good relationships with their daughters (as I'm guessing you do), it's so much of an issue. Anyway, I'm not really comfortable talking about what you or some other specific person I know would do as it's obviously personal.

And I'll also say that if the daughter doesn't want the baby and the parents want her to keep it, that's a tough situation with no good solution, parental notification or not. There's no good way for an unwanted teen pregnancy to work itself out. The emphasis needs to be on prevention.

What I mean is that when teen-age daughters of people I know got pregnant, they told their parents immediately anyway. They turned to their parents for help and support, is how I would put it.

Exile - good point and I'm sure my daughters would too