The Corner


Will Any 2020 Democrats Reject Abortion Extremism?

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D., Texas), former candidate for Senate greets supporters in Carrollton, Texas, November 2, 2018. (Mike Segar/REUTERS)

During his very first week on the campaign trail, Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke has twice reiterated his support for a woman’s “reproductive rights,” even in the last three months of pregnancy, after an unborn child is able to survive outside the womb.

As our own Jack Crowe has documented on NRO, O’Rourke yesterday responded to a question about third-trimester abortions by restating the question to the crowd — intentionally leaving out that the woman had asked whether he supports the abortion of viable fetuses rather than simply delivering them.

“The question is about abortion and reproductive rights, and my answer to you is that should be a decision that the woman makes. I trust her,” O’Rourke said, greeted by applause.

Today at Penn State, O’Rourke was asked to clarify the answer he gave yesterday, and he doubled down. From Jack’s coverage:

“I just want to make sure that I had clarity: Yesterday when you were asked about abortion, you said it’s a woman’s right to choose, correct? Does that include up into the third trimester?” asked the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito, who trailed O’Rourke as he was walking the Penn State University campus.

“I think those decisions are best left to a woman and her doctor. I know better than to assume anything about a woman’s decision, an incredibly difficult decision when it comes to her reproductive rights,” O’Rourke responded. “Roe v. Wade, though it’s being tested unlike any other time, it’s still the law of the land, it must be upheld. When we’re talking about universal health care, we’re talking about women’s health care.”

These comments aren’t particularly interesting in themselves, as they fail to respond to the specific questions being posed about abortion late in pregnancy and the implications of allowing the abortion of viable fetuses. His remarks are the usual platitudes espoused by politicians who wish to broadly defend abortion rights and demonstrate to left-wing supporters of abortion that they’re on board.

But in one sense, O’Rourke’s comments are highly interesting, because they indicate that he has decided not to invoke the usual Democratic defense of third-trimester abortion: the claim that these procedures only take place in cases when fetuses are gravely ill or when a continuation of pregnancy presents a grave threat to a mother’s life.

This sort of defense, of course, is inaccurate. Most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy take place for reasons other than fetal- or maternal-health complications, and directly aborting a fetus rather than ending a pregnancy via C-section delivery is never medically necessary. But Beto doesn’t even bother to pay lip service to the usual line. Instead, he simply says he trusts women and defers to Roe.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that Roe and subsequent jurisprudence contradict O’Rourke’s blanket permissiveness of a woman’s right to choose for abortion in all circumstances. Both Roe v. Wade and the subsequent Planned Parenthood v. Casey affirmed the state’s right to regulate abortion later in pregnancy, after the point of fetal viability. O’Rourke says he supports Roe even as he says he will never question a woman’s choice to abort.

Most obviously, these comments demonstrate O’Rourke’s lack of familiarity with abortion policy; he doesn’t demonstrate a particularly adept grasp of the usual talking points nor of the relevant jurisprudence. But the line he takes — along with the fact that a handful of his fellow 2020 contenders opposed a bill last month in the Senate that would have required doctors to give medical care to infants who survive abortion procedures — indicates that this election cycle’s Democratic candidates intend to embrace abortion on demand, until birth.

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