A Pledge I Won’t Sign

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The Susan B. Anthony List is promoting a “pro-life citizen’s pledge” in addition to its much-publicized pro-life presidential leadership pledge. Citizens who sign the first pledge commit not to support any presidential candidate who has not said that they will, for example, appoint only pro-lifers to executive-branch positions relevant to abortion policy (such as the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General).

Perhaps needless to say, I certainly want a president who will appoint pro-lifers to those positions, and my confidence that a candidate would appoint pro-lifers to those positions will be a factor I consider in the voting booth. So, naturally, I think the pledge-writers’ hearts are in the right place.

But this pledge, taken seriously, would preclude me from voting for Mitt Romney against Barack Obama in 2012 — which is to say, that given these entirely imaginable options, it would preclude me from doing what I can to advance the pro-life cause. (It would have precluded me from supporting Bush over Gore in 2000, too, since Bush made no such commitment on personnel.) It would preclude me from voting for Romney in the primaries even if I believed he offered pro-lifers our best shot at replacing Obama with someone who would appoint good justices to the Supreme Court.

I would happily (though unnecessarily) take a pledge to cast a vote in solidarity with the unborn victims of abortion. I won’t take a pledge that constricts my ability to fulfill that one.

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