Birthright Citizenship and Abortion

by Cesar Conda

As a pro-immigration conservative (yes, I know, we could fit in a phone booth), I am opposed to Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R., S.C.) proposal to end birthright citizenship for babies who, through no fault of their own, are born in this country to illegal immigrants. Innocent children shouldn’t be held responsible for the sins of their parents.

In terms of why not amend the Constitution: The Fourteenth Amendment rejected the idea that someone could be a person but less than a person legally, as well as the idea that citizenship can be made dependent on race. It is of enormous symbolic importance. There is no data supporting the claim that significant numbers of women deliberately cross the border to give birth in the United States in order to take advantage of this provision.

Further, the Republican party would be committing political suicide if it were to endorse ending birthright citizenship, as it would cost the party Latino votes, which are crucial in Florida and in several Western states. It could also hurt the GOP’s prospects in the upcoming mid-term election by diverting attention from the Democrats’ record of over-spending, over-taxing, and exploding the national debt. Given inexorable demographic trends, the GOP could be rendered politically irrelevant, certainly at the presidential level, for generations.

But wearing my other hat as the co-chair of the Susan B. Anthony List’s executive committee (though speaking strictly for myself), my biggest fear is that Graham’s proposal, if enacted by constitutional amendment or by statute, will lead to more abortions: Undocumented immigrants with unplanned pregnancies might choose to have abortions instead of risking apprehension by the police or government immigration agents (not to mention possible deportation down the line) at the hospital maternity ward. Some women terminate their pregnancies for less serious and sometimes superficial reasons. It also might encourage women to have unsafe births outside of a hospital setting.

Senator Graham’s plan to end birthright citizenship is not only substantively and politically flawed, but it undermines a bedrock principle of modern conservatism — preserving the sanctity of life. Republicans and conservatives ought to think long and hard before embracing such a controversial proposal.

– Cesar Conda, formerly assistant for domestic policy to Vice President Dick Cheney, is co-chair of the Susan B. Anthony List’s executive committee.