Ramesh Ponnuru responded Friday to my piece on Rudolph W. Giuliani and the Religious Right by accusing me of performing “spin for the mayor.” My dreidel impersonation, Ramesh wrote, includes “cherry-picking” data to advance my arguments.
It hardly is “cherry-picking” to analyze Giuliani’s abortion record by documenting the decreases during his tenure in New York City’s total abortions, its abortion ratio (abortions per 1,000 live births), local-taxpayer-financed Medicaid abortions, and local-Medicaid-abortion spending. I suppose it also would be “cherry-picking” to invoke GDP growth, the unemployment rate, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and rising tax revenues to prove that President Bush’s tax cuts are working.
Ramesh complained that I failed to tell readers that abortions “remained extremely high…”
Yes, abortions remained extremely high in New York City, a liberal metropolis that some have dubbed America’s abortion capitol. In this environment, it is incredibly unfair to flog Giuliani because abortions dropped “just” 17 percent on his watch, while America managed only a 13 percent simultaneous decline in abortions. Even more impressive, Medicaid abortions tumbled 23 percent. (Because the 1976 Hyde Amendment prohibits nearly all federal abortion spending, no equivalent federal datum exists.) So, apparently scorn is the appropriate reaction to a nearly one-quarter cut in taxpayer-funded abortions.
Damn you, Rudy! Why didn’t you slash Medicaid abortions by 50 percent?
What’s important is that these numbers not only did not rise; they fell significantly, and much more than they did nationally. If Rudy really were the pom-pom-waving abortion monger his critics claim he is (“Gotham, Gotham, Sis-Boom-Bah…Get an abortion, Rah-Rah-Rah!”), abortions should have increased during his term, or at least not slid more quickly than they did from sea to shining sea.
Ramesh also posited that I did not mention that under Giuliani, abortions in New York City “declined less than the statewide average.”
Here are the facts: Between 1993 and 2001, abortions waned 26.9 percent in New York State, excluding the five boroughs; 20.1 percent in New York State overall (including Gotham); and 16.9 percent in New York City.
Giuliani was mayor of New York City, not governor of New York State. Thus, he should be judged according to data relevant to his jurisdiction. Still, these figures are no surprise. Syracuse tends to be more socially conservative than the socially liberal South Bronx. Upstate abortion figures naturally reflect a generally more pro-life culture north of Yonkers, just as Illinois’ incidence of abortion most likely decreases the further one drives south of Chicago.
That said, between 1993 and 2001, taxpayer-funded Medicaid abortions in upstate New York slipped 21.7 percent, slid 22.6 percent statewide, and sank 22.9 percent in New York City. So, when it came to government-subsidized abortions, Gotham was more pro-life during Giuliani Time than was the rest of the Empire State.
Speaking of cherry-picking, Ramesh scoured the website of Social Conservatives for Rudy (which I cited), located its list of Rudy-friendly public officials, selected Rep. Judy Biggert (R., Ill.), then highlighted a few of her anti-life votes, presumably to associate Giuliani with several dreadful public policies. This is like picking one cherry from atop a tree, peeling it, and triumphantly waving its pit in the air.
Without such acrobatics, here are a dozen members of Congress who have endorsed Giuliani, not just praised him, along with their National Right to Life Committee ratings for the 109th Congress:
Rep. Charles Boustany (R., La.) — NRLC rating: 100 percent
Rep. Phil English (R., Pa.) — NRLC rating: 100 percent
Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) — NRLC rating: 100 percent
Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R., N.J.) — NRLC rating: 100 percent
Rep. Candice Miller (R., Mich.) — NRLC rating: 100 percent
Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) — NRLC rating: 100 percent
Rep. George Radanovich (R., Calif.) — NRLC rating: 100 percent
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) — NRLC rating: 100 percent
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) — NRLC rating: 100 percent
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) — NRLC rating: 100 percent
Rep. Jim Walsh (R-NY) — NRLC rating: 100 percent
Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL) — NRLC rating: 100 percent
Among Giuliani’s nine other congressional endorsers, five enjoy 82 ratings, three range between 70 and 44, while one (Biggert) earns a mere 9. However, Rudy’s congressional team averages an 84 NRLC rating. This is not a bad collective score for those on Capitol Hill who support a man smeared by his adversaries as “Mr. Abortion.” (For details click here.)
These members of Congress grasp what seems to escape Ramesh and other Rudy foes: Giuliani is no social liberal. The impressive abortion reductions during his mayoralty should be counted among the socially conservative advances that Giuliani either engineered or witnessed on his watch. (Adoption hikes, crime cuts, welfare reform, charter schools, and racial-quota elimination were among many others he enacted.) Were Giuliani as energetically pro-choice as his detractors claim, he would have presided over smaller — or even nonexistent — declines in abortion.
Finally, independent of Ramesh Ponnuru’s comments, any third-party bid by pro-lifers if Giuliani were nominated almost certainly would catapult today’s Democratic frontrunner into the Oval Office. That would empower Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton to pursue a proudly pro-abortion agenda, which would increase, not decrease, the number of fetuses killed in America. If that, bafflingly, is what some Religious Right activists would consider a pro-life triumph, the sun rises in the west, Niagara Falls flows upstream, and I have long, blond hair.