Candidate Rudolph Giuliani has endured a great deal of criticism from the pro-life community in recent weeks. His statement to CNN that he supported the taxpayer funding of abortions surprised many who thought Giuliani was going to make a concerted effort to reach out to pro-life voters. Another statement that a strict-constructionist Supreme Court nominee could theoretically uphold the Roe v. Wade decision has not done him any favors with pro-lifers either.
Now, Giuliani’s policy team have largely defended him by citing the larger than average decline in abortions that occurred in New York City under his watch. However, a more robust defense is going to be necessary to win the approval of pro-life voters. This is because it does not appear that there are any specific pro-life policies that Giuliani implemented that directly led to this abortion decline. Furthermore, abortion numbers fell substantially under President Clinton’s administration, but that hardly makes him a hero to the pro-life movement.
All is not lost, however. There is still plenty of time before the 2008 primaries. And Giuliani can still craft a strategy that could make him acceptable to many pro-life voters. Now because of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, any president is going to be somewhat limited in his ability to restrict abortion. The three primary things a president can do are sign 1) incremental legislation, 2) appoint pro-lifers to executive-branch agencies, and 3) nominate strict constructionists to judiciary. Even though candidate Giuliani has publicly taken a pro-choice position, these are all issues on which he can cooperate with the pro-life movement
First, Mayor Giuliani should enthusiastically support any and all incremental pro-life legislation that is being considered by Congress. This would include the Hyde Amendment, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, and the Child Custody Protection Act. Most of these pieces of legislation enjoy broad support among the general public. Furthermore, my research indicates that at the state level, incremental legislation has been effective at reducing the incidence of abortion. More importantly, by supporting these pieces of legislation, candidate Giuliani would show the pro-life movement that he is knowledgeable about their legislative priorities and well versed on the issues important to them at the federal level.
Regarding his executive-branch appointments, selecting a pro-life running mate — should he receive the nomination — would be an excellent start. However, candidate Giuliani should go beyond that. He should pledge to uphold the Mexico City policy which denies federal funds to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that perform or promote abortion as a method of Family Planning. Finally, he should also pledge to appoint pro-life delegates to United Nations conferences that deal with issues of family planning, women, and abortion. Even though these are quintessential Beltway issues, candidate Giuliani needs all the friends he get can in the pro-life community.
Finally, Giuliani should make it a point to denounce judicial activism at every turn. Not just decisions about abortion but decisions regarding other issues as well including same-sex marriage and property rights. He could also score points by denouncing Democrats for blocking many of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Most importantly, candidate Giuliani should repeatedly pledge to appoint Supreme Court judges in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. This was a winning issue for Republicans in 2000 and 2002 and could be again in 2008. More importantly this would allow Giuliani to demonstrate to pro-lifers that he realizes the importance of sound judicial nominations and that he would make that issue a priority as president.
The 2008 election poses a unique opportunity for Mayor Giuliani. Under most circumstances, a supporter of abortion rights would have little chance of receiving the Republican nomination for president. However, the importance of the war on terror has caused many pro-life conservatives to consider candidates who appear strong on the war, but are not completely pro-life. Furthermore, the fact that pro-life voters are skeptical of the other top-tier Republican candidates works to Giuliani’s advantage as well. Regardless, pro-lifers still wield a considerable amount of influence in Republican primaries and pro-life voters want to at least nominate a candidate who will help them build on the hard-fought incremental gains made since Roe v. Wade. Giuliani could still be this candidate — if he plays his cards right.
– Michael J. New is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama