Politics & Policy

Life with Rudy

Can Giuliani appeal to the pro-life, pro-family voters?

Rudy Giuliani fostered an important ecumenical moment last week, albeit one that he may not have welcomed, as Protestant and Catholic leaders alike questioned whether his presidential aspirations were invalidated by his pro-abortion beliefs. Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis announced that Giuliani should not present himself for Communion in Burke’s see, thereby also signaling to Catholic voters that they should reconsider their support of him.

James Dobson, president of the influential evangelical group, Focus on the Family, reported that “50 pro-family leaders” agreed “almost unanimously [that]…if neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate.” Since these leaders already know Hilary’s position — life begins if the mother says it begins — what they really decided was to abandon the Republican Party, if Rudy wins the nomination.

Rudy may have been a bit surprised by these events; after all, he has offered pro-life voters the by-now customary Republican presidential promise, to appoint strict-constructionist judges in the mold of Roberts, Alito, Scalia, or Thomas. Having made this pledge, he must wonder why it matters what is in his heart. But it does matter, and Rudy’s prospects may now hinge on his ability to learn why it does, and to communicate this newfound and sincere understanding.

The “Pro-life, Pro-family” voting contingent require a candidate who sees threats as they do — as the pervasive efforts of cultural and social elites– and who is vigilant, and active, and courageous in response to these threats. President George W. Bush has been that champion, and his administration has proven just how much more there is for a conservative president to do to than to select judges, even Supreme Court justices.

For years now an effort has been underway at the United Nation, for instance, to reinterpret international law in the hope of creating a universal right to abortion on demand. Various forces at the U.N. also seek to redefine the family, to establish complete sexual autonomy for adolescents, to create a worldwide right to homosexual marriage, to depress world fertility rates, and to legalize cloning in order to create human embryos for medical research.

Bush has countered this entire agenda in spite of its yielding nothing politically for his efforts; in other words, Bush has acted as an authentic “Pro-life, Pro-family” advocate. Early in his administration, he established specific orders for his diplomats at the U.N.; they were handed a text, to be recited whenever controversy arose on life issues: the U.S. does not interpret any language in the current document to establish new international rights, especially a right to abortion. With this simple act, Bush defeated so many sophisticated plans, hatched in the world’s finest law universities, think tanks, and international agencies, and the cosmopolitan world of international elites seethed.

More specifically, on his very first day in office, Bush reinstated the Reagan-era “Mexico City Policy,” which restricts federal funding from non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions in foreign countries. His enemies erupted in anger, naming the Mexico City Policy the “Global Gag Rule,” and claiming that Bush would be responsible for killing women who would not have recourse to legal abortions.

Bush also cut all U.S. financial support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the U.N.’s chief population control agency, because it was complicit in forced abortion and sterilizations in China. The European commissioner for development quickly pledged that the EU would “fill the decency gap” created by the Bush administration’s decision (the EU shifted money from international education programs to pay for the abortions and sterilizations).

Amazingly, Bush successfully campaigned at the U.N. for an international declaration against all forms of human cloning. Through it all, Bush was called the worst sort of religious fundamentalist, and a simpleton whose medieval beliefs would destroy scientific progress and deny people astounding cures.

Bush also altered the international response to AIDS, by creating a $15 billion program that included abstinence training — a major philosophical shift away from the condoms/safe-sex message that had failed so miserably, but had gone unchallenged within the international AIDS establishment. At one and the same moment, Bush became the worldwide leader in fighting AIDS, and, again, a “killer,” for embracing abstinence instead of just swathing the entire world in latex.

Bush established a new type of Mexico City Policy, this time for prostitution: no longer would the United States fund relief agencies that promote the international legalization of prostitution, which, in countries such as Thailand, almost certainly amounts to the legalization of the sexual slavery of countless women and girls. Yet again, calls of censorship, a new “gag rule,” and Bush’s responsibility for “killing” women, somehow, spread throughout right-thinking circles around the world.

In all of these cases, Bush would not have acted without strong convictions. Often he persevered even in the face of the determined opposition of America’s greatest ally in the War on Terror, Great Britain. And it is doubtful if Bush gained a single additional vote in the process, for the United Nations might as well be a million miles away from places like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Would Giuliani have taken any one of these important actions? Not caring much about these issues, would Giuliani have even known about the threats? It is time for Rudy to acknowledge what pro-lifers already know only too well: that they need a president to do more than just appoint the right justices. Executive-branch neutrality is not acceptable. Rudy has to tell “Pro-life, Pro-family” voters whether or not he can be this sort of president, and he can start by promising to continue George W. Bush’s fight — his entire fight for life and family — at the United Nations.

Douglas A. Sylva is a senior fellow at the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.

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