Pro-life supporters in Colorado go to great lengths to express their displeasure with the Democratic National Committee's official pro-choice stance on abortion.
Consistency is important in reproductive rights debate
With President Obama’s foolish and ill-fated attempt to force religious employers to pay for health insurance benefits for employees that run counter to their teachings, social issues such as abortion have moved at least temporarily into a prominent place in the political debate.
I think this is a place that Mitt Romney does not want to go because of his inconsistency on this issue.
I suggest that an examination of Romney’s track record should be disturbing to all who are thinking of supporting his bid for the presidency. The issue is not only abortion per se, but rather whether Romney has any convictions he will not ignore or renounce in order to please the electorate.
If he fudged his position on abortion 20 years ago because it was his only path to electability, what might he be saying with his fingers crossed in 2012? Not just conservatives trying to decide if Romney is one of them, but all citizens should be asking if there is a core of convictions that Romney will not abandon in return for public applause.
I ran for Congress in 1998 in an era of prosperity. Except for the question of the possible impeachment of President Clinton, there were no burning issues.
That situation offered the opportunity for me to talk about matters such as education and the reform of entitlements (isn’t it clear to everyone with an IQ at least in double digits that as it stands, Social Security is unsustainable?).
One reason I enjoyed campaigning is that it gave me an opportunity to have a voice on issues beyond those that concerned our immediate economic future.
During six months of essentially full time campaigning, taking me to each of the 99 towns and cities making up what was then New York’s 27th Congressional district, I was asked about my stand on abortion more than any other issue. I also sought and ultimately received the endorsement of the Right To Life Party, which in 1998 enjoyed automatic ballot access.
Whenever asked, I stated clearly that I was pro-life. In fact, when the nine Democratic county chairs from the 27th district met in February 1998 and endorsed me, they asked if there is anything they should know about me (the “no surprises” question). I stated that I was pro-life.
Some did not like that, although I pointed out that longtime Buffalo-area Democratic Congressman John LaFalce was strongly and publicly pro-life. They went ahead with the endorsement, although my ‘revelation’ did not set well with some.
I visited the sesquicentennial celebration of the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, which was in our district at the time.
I was frequently asked about my view on abortion, and I said something like, “I’m pro-life; let’s talk.” Most did not accept my invitation. I even handed a campaign brochure to one of the great warriors of Women’s Rights, Betty Friedan.
When the Right To Life Party considered endorsing me, I was asked to respond to a questionnaire about abortion. There were four questions, and I answered three of them to their liking. However, I refused to answer the question about whether I would support an anti-abortion amendment to the Constitution.
My refusal was based on the fact that I could imagine voting either yes or no depending on the specific provisions.
I pointed out that Congress votes on words and not ideas. Show me a proposed amendment, I said, and I will tell you whether I would vote for it. I was never shown a draft, but I got the party’s endorsement–barely.
I always pointed out to people that I believe that in practice pro-life and pro-choice people can work together on many issues although they will be divided on certain matters.
I pointed out, for example, that I favored programs that provided more pre-natal care, more early education for children, and more educational opportunities for single mothers; generally these are popular among pro-choice folks.
I did not, I think, ever become maudlin; but I did mention that the three sons I had adopted were all probably ‘good candidates for abortion’ when they were in their mothers’ wombs. All the mothers were poor, unwed, and alcoholic.
Certainly those are the sorts of women who will hear that they cannot afford a child and that they needed to get on with their own lives. Since I love and celebrate my sons’ lives, it would be hard for me to support elective abortions, abortions of convenience if you will.
Compare my way of dealing with abortion with Mitt Romney’s. He took a strong pro-choice stance when he ran against Ted Kennedy in 1994 and a somewhat milder pro-choice stance when he ran for governor of Massachusetts.
His advisors have said that he was always pro-life but that he had to pretend to be pro-choice in order to have a chance to win office in Massachusetts. If an issue rooted in such deep personal convictions could be faked in order to win high office, what is not up for dissimulation?
If people didn’t trust Bill Clinton once they found out he violated his marriage vow, how can some of those same people trust Mitt Romney’s current version of who he is?
Dealing with abortion on the campaign trail is no fun. It is not like talking about Social Security or education. On those issues, people can vehemently disagree with you but still like and respect you.
On abortion, people who disagree with you often think you are a bad person! That is one of the costs of being a candidate for high office. Some folks will viscerally dislike you.
I say to Mitt Romney that he should have been true to the idea that if you can’t stand the heat, you shouldn’t ask citizens to send you into the fiery furnace of public office.
Maybe Paris was worth a mass (King Henry IV’s conversion to Catholicism in 1593 so he could inherit the throne), but the White House is not worth selling out to each audience-du-jour.