Politics & Policy

Party of Intolerance

Democrats and abortion.

In selecting a running mate, Barack Obama supposedly hopes to create a diverse ticket. The most likely picks are white males, centrist in politics and low-key in demeanor. But it appears that one litmus test remains: support for abortion.

This may sound surprising at first — for example, Democrats for Life of America has talked up Virginia’s Gov. Tim Kaine, a Roman Catholic and one-time missionary. However, Kaine takes the standard-liberal personally-opposed-but-let-it-happen position. When he ran for governor, he promised to implement restrictive state laws and supported a ban on partial-birth abortion, but his backing for Roe v. Wade places him well within the Democratic mainstream. If a politician won’t work to overturn Roe, he or she differs only at the margin from full-throttled abortion-rights advocates.

Obama is reportedly also considering Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, another personally-opposed-politically-okay-with-it Catholic. Planned Parenthood has endorsed her.

Obama can control who gets an entry to the veep sweepstakes, but his preferences have created trouble for him with the left-wing evangelicals he has consulted. They may run left on economics, but to their credit Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, and similarly minded “progressives” have pushed Obama to support an “abortion-reduction agenda.” Most of the policies have nothing directly to do with abortion, but, in Campolo’s words, “address the economic problems that are driving hundreds of thousands of young women to think that abortion is their only option.” Alas, never has he demonstrated that significant numbers of young women eliminate their babies because of a lack of day care. And the minimum wage is more likely to keep a poor woman out of work than to increase her income.

Obama has not signed on. He did back a ban on partial-birth abortion, but with an exception for “mental health” that essentially renders it meaningless. At least he has maintained an attitude towards the leftie pro-lifers described by Beliefnet’s Steve Waldman as “conspicuous respectfulness.”

In contrast, abortion-rights activists were livid at Campolo & Co. Kate Michelman, former head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for a Free Choice, called Campolo’s proposal “condescending and sexist.” Worse, it represented “a tacit condemnation of the choices many women make.” Worst of all, it suggested that “having a baby is a more moral choice than abortion.”

But even if one believes abortion should be legal, it still makes sense to condemn it. In fact, if one is truly “personally opposed” — as Michelman and Kissling clearly are not, but as many prominent liberals claim to be — that is the only possible response.

Surely it isn’t that hard to understand why some might think it better to birth than to kill one’s baby. Often pregnancy is unwanted, but other than in the case of rape, it remains freely chosen. If Obama truly wants a diverse ticket — one that reflects the country’s views — he should take into account the fact that many Americans see the issue this way.

– Doug Bandow is a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and the author of Leviathan Unchained: Washington’s Bipartisan Big Government Consensus (forthcoming, Xulon Press).

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of several books, including Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics and Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

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