For future reference: the parties on the right to life

What a party has to say about the right to life is relevant to anyone who takes civic responsibility seriously. Here is what the two major American parties have to say on the subject, in their most recently-issued platforms (2012). This is not to be confused with what an individual candidate might say, which might be enough to make me ask “so why are you running with THAT party?”

First, the Democrats. The full platform is at this link. [Note: link is broken as of April 2015. Current Democratic web site is democrats.org.] While the platform addresses many rights at length, the right to life is not mentioned. “Right to choose” gets the ink.

Protecting A Woman’s Right to Choose. The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.

The Republican party takes a different approach (full platform here).

The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life

Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion and permitted States to extend health care coverage to children before birth. We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by enacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties on healthcare providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery where the death of the infant is intended. We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions – gender discrimination in its most lethal form – and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain; and we applaud U.S. House Republicans for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia. We call for a ban on the use of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

We also salute the many States that have passed laws for informed consent, mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation. We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy. We salute those who provide them with counseling and adoption alternatives and empower them to choose life, and we take comfort in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.

Each state’s GOP has its own platform. New Hampshire’s, for example, has this to say about the right to life:

Support the unborn child’s fundamental right to life and implement all possible legal protections; encourage individuals and organizations who provide alternatives to abortion by meeting the needs of mothers through adoption, support, counseling and educational services; require parental consent for minors seeking abortions, ban the use of public resources to fund or promote abortion, appoint judges who respect traditional families values and the sanctity of innocent life, and support similar efforts at the federal level; oppose euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.

In recent years, Democratic candidates have been remarkably consistent in their support for abortion, while Republicans can be all over the place. A Republican voter can be forgiven for assuming a Republican candidate is pro-life (after all, the platform’s pretty clear), but verifying that with the candidate is always a good idea.

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Respect for life goes without saying – or does it? Red State 2013, day 2

After spending two days amid Republicans and conservative independents at Red State Gathering in 2013 in New Orleans, I can report on my reality check. Either everyone there was so pro-life that it didn’t bear mentioning, or else everyone there was so taken with urgent matters like Obamacare and IRS overreach that the right to life is out at the edge of the political radar screen. Take that for what it’s worth. This was not a life-themed event, and one reason I came was to hear what candidates said when they weren’t prompted to make a generic me-too pro-life statement.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas (photo by Ellen Kolb)
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas (photo by Ellen Kolb)

Halfway through Day 2 at Red State, Texas Governor Rick Perry got his half-hour at the mic. He only took about 15 minutes for his statement, leaving the rest for Q&A. He crammed a lot into those fifteen minutes: a pitch for businesses to come to Texas, a review of the state’s economic growth on his watch, a verbal shot at “an Administration that’s aimless abroad and arrogant at home,” and – oh, happy day – a defense of the right to life. Calling the unborn “our most vulnerable citizens,” he said “We protect life in the state of Texas.” He’s proud of the new law restricting post-20-week abortions and requiring higher safety standards for abortion facilities.

About time, I thought. Once Friday’s opening prayer was out of the way, neither abortion-minded women nor their children made it into the speeches until Governor Perry got up to the podium.

A few candidates from around the country who spoke after Gov. Perry also mentioned the right to life. Watch these names as you browse the news during election season next year: Art Halvorson, candidate for Congress from Pennsylvania; Rob Maness, candidate for Senate from Louisiana (now there’s a red-meat conservative); Greg Brannon, candidate for Senate from North Carolina. They’re all Republicans. Red State means to keep Republicans honest. That’s apparently enough of a job without trying to convert Democrats on the life issues or anything else.

What got the most attention from speakers and attendees alike? The problems with Obamacare, which certainly have pro-life implications … the IRS scandal, not a phony one whatever Jay Carney may be telling me, that leaves me wondering how little I have to do to attract inappropriate attention from a taxing authority … government spending and the next debt ceiling vote … immigration and border security.

All those matters are urgent, to be sure. I worry, though, about how many important matters will be crowded out of political debate because they lack that urgency. Roe has been with us for forty years. Abortion is more or less legal in all 50 states, and every regulation that passes, no matter how minor, brings forth screams from abortion advocates. Even Gosnell’s horrors have already faded from the front pages, replaced by profiles of the woman in pink sneakers who put her abortion advocacy right out there when she tried to filibuster to death Texas’s 20-week bill. Where legal and unrestricted abortion is part of the fabric of the contemporary Democratic party, the issue of abortion is more like white noise within today’s Republican party. Those who want to ignore it, do so.

Imagine pro-life Republicans being attacked, and maybe losing office, because of their stands on the “urgent” stuff. This will be in primaries, mind you. It’s going to happen in 2014 and 2016 without strong pushback from pro-life voters of all political persuasions.

So does being pro-life go without saying among Republicans? No. Do independents care? This one sure does.