The Corner

Elections

Mayor Pete Dodges the Question, Again

South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg during the Democratic primary debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif., December 19, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

In response to Buttigieg on Late-Term Abortion

Ramesh had a great post earlier this afternoon detailing the falsehoods about Roe that Pete Buttigieg relies on when talking about abortion. A few thoughts I’d like to add.

During Sunday evening’s Fox News town hall, Buttigieg demonstrated not only that today’s Democratic party has no time for members who dissent from the party line on unlimited abortion but also that he has little idea how to justify his dismissive position without dodging the question.

Kristen Day, president of the long-suffering interest group Democrats for Life, was given an opportunity to address a question to the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., an occurrence that almost certainly would not have been permitted at a town hall operated by any mainstream outlet aside from Fox. (It is important to ensure that the public never knows of the existence of the elusive “pro-life Democrats,” voters who comprise about one-third of the party’s membership.)

“Do you want the support of . . . pro-life Democratic voters?” Day asked. “There are about 21 million of us. And if so, would you support more-moderate platform language in the Democratic party to ensure that the party of diversity, of inclusion really does include everybody?”

Butttigieg offered several equivocations in response, including the following: “The best I can offer is that if we can’t agree on where to draw the line, the next best thing we can do is agree on who should draw the line. And in my view, it’s the woman who’s faced with that decision in her own life.”

This wasn’t the first time that Buttigieg has used this evasive formulation. In fact, when he took part in a Fox News town hall last spring, also hosted by Chris Wallace, he offered a similarly indirect reply. Here’s the key part of that exchange:

Wallace: Do you believe, at any point in pregnancy, whether it’s at six weeks or eight weeks or 24 weeks or whenever, that there should be any limit on a woman’s right to abortion?

Buttigieg: I think the dialogue has gotten so caught up in when you draw the line that we’ve gotten away from the fundamental question of who gets to draw the line. And I trust women to draw the line.

The mayor falls back on this stock answer whenever he’s asked to approach the question at the heart of the abortion debate: Do human beings in the womb have the same right to life as any other human being, or are there situations in which we can justify allowing them to be killed? It’s a clever rhetorical move on his part, pretending that the real controversy over abortion hinges on who gets to decide rather than on the substance of the decision in question.

But his response didn’t work on Sunday. After Buttigieg offered this paltry reply, Wallace asked Day if she was satisfied with the mayor’s answer. Unsurprisingly, she was not.

“In 1996 . . . there was language in the Democratic platform that said that we understand that people have very differing views on this issue, but we are a big tent party that includes everybody,“ Day said, before reiterating her question of whether Buttigieg is willing to add similar language back into the platform.

Unsurprisingly, he is not.

“I support the position of my party that this kind of medical care needs to be available to everyone,” Buttigieg replied. “And I support the Roe vs. Wade framework that holds that early in pregnancy there are very few restrictions and late in pregnancy there are very few exceptions.”

“So that would be a no?” Day shot back.

Her irritation is understandable. Rather than directly responding, Buttigieg both begged the question and misrepresented the substance of Roe. Referring to abortion as “this kind of medical care” assumes an answer to one of the central points of contention: A pro-life Democrat like Day evidently does not concur with the mayor’s assertion that abortion, a form of killing, constitutes “medical care.”

What’s more, Buttigieg commonly relies on this inaccurate articulation of Roe, not only a false description of abortion jurisprudence but also a cop-out to avoid stating his opinion on whether abortion limitations of any kind are an acceptable or desirable public policy.

Here’s how the exchange at the town hall concluded:

Wallace: So what do you say to Democrats who are pro-life . . . on an issue of such deep conscience, that they should overlook this particular issue and look at the whole sum of views, or go find another party?

Buttigieg: Look, I’ve never encountered a politician or, frankly, another person that I agreed with 100 percent of the time, and even on very important things. . . . I may have my views, but I cannot imagine that a decision that a woman confronts is going to ever be better medically or morally because it’s being dictated by any government official. And that’s just where I am on the issue.

(APPLAUSE)

Wallace: I think it’s fair to say Kristen is not clapping, but that’s part of the process.

Buttigieg: I understand.

It’s safe to assume that millions of pro-life Democrats do not.

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