When President Tony Perkins and Executive VP Chuck Donovan of the Family Research Council published their article on June 25th, entitled “Our Right To Choose Someone Besides Rudy,” they highlighted two very important points about the abortion debate and how it relates to 2008.
The first point is one about which they are absolutely correct: The Republican Party has, since its founding, been a party with a “moral core.” The GOP has, as Perkins and Donovan put it, tied a “Gordian Knot” between itself and respect for human life.
The second point, however, is a point that they miss entirely: Rudy Giuliani will not, nor is he trying to, “untie” that knot. The nomination of Rudy as the Republican nominee will not undo the Reagan coalition that includes pro-life social conservatives.
First of all, the argument that the Republican Party’s very survival depends on its ability to nominate only 100% Perkins/Donovan-style pro-lifers for national office is severely flawed. Pre-Roe v. Wade, when the GOP was not clearly defined as “the pro-life party,” and when Republicans embraced those with libertarian views on abortion (a la Goldwater and Ford) as fully as those without, Republicans still somehow managed to survive and flourish. In fact, the GOP’s biggest presidential popular vote victory in recent memory (that of Nixon in ’72) occurred in the days when abortion was not a litmus test issue for Republican candidates.
Perkins and Donovan, in their article, imply that the pro-life views of social conservatives like myself is the foundation that makes general “smaller government conservatism” possible in the first place. And yet, Barry Goldwater, universally recognized as the founder of modern American conservatism, was himself libertarian on the issue of abortion (thereby earning the label of “pro-choice”).
All of which brings us to Rudy Giuliani, who, while he happens to have the best chance at keeping a liberal out of the White House, and while he happens to have the best executive/leadership credentials of any top-tier candidate, and while he happens to be the one candidate who’s actually centering his campaign around real ideas and solutions to America’s most vexing problems, happens to be personally pro-choice. As a result, some pro-lifers like Tony Perkins and James Dobson have simply rejected Giuliani out of hand and have used their vast political and religious influence to urge others to do the same.
Now, there is nothing wrong in disagreeing with Giuliani on abortion. Individuals even have the right to reject Giuliani entirely, just because of that one issue, and they have the right to advise others to do the same. However, just because one has the right to take that approach doesn’t necessarily make it the right approach to take.
For the record, the writer of this article is fully pro-life and does happen to disagree with Giuliani on the abortion issue. However, disagreeing with a candidate on one issue (or even a few issues) does not require rejecting that candidate entirely. Ronald Reagan once stated: “My 80% ally is not my 20% enemy.”
Rudy can be acceptable, even palatable, to pro-life social conservatives if we just take the time to look at Rudy’s record on abortion, as well as how he would govern on the issue if elected President.
Under Mayor Giuliani’s administration, New York City abortions plummeted by 16%, even steeper than the 12% nation-wide decline during the same period. Rudy did this via a three-pronged approach: Doing nothing to promote abortions, aggressively promoting abortion-alternatives like adoptions (the increase in adoptions that occurred during Rudy’s tenure was 133% higher than the increase that occurred in the previous eight years), and by fostering a culture of respect for human life, personal responsibility, and family values.
Rudy’s tight enforcement of the law and cleaning up of New York’s streets didn’t just mean less graffiti and broken windows, it also meant people more thoroughly respecting the right of others to live safe and happy lives. Rudy’s slashing of the city welfare rolls by 60% and cutting of city-funded bureaucracy by nearly 20% didn’t just mean a healthier economy and employment rate, it also meant people taking responsibility for their actions and making wiser choices. Rudy’s cracking down on bum dads who didn’t pay child support and sweeping sex shops and porn theaters out of Times Square didn’t just mean a prettier face for the city, it also meant strengthening the core unit of society–the family. Ultimately, all these factors also added up to create an atmosphere where parents felt more hopeful and more secure in the idea of bringing another human being into the world. As a result, Rudy made the abortion option far less palatable and saved countless lives that would have otherwise been aborted.
So, how does all this apply to a Giuliani presidential administration, one might ask? Interestingly enough, Giuliani, being the results-driven executive he is, has been the only Republican candidate to, putting the flowery pro-life rhetoric aside, actually advocate concrete, statistical reduction in abortion as a main goal of his presidency. Outlined in his “12 Commitments” to the American People, Rudy has pledged to see to it that abortions are significantly reduced during his administration.
And really, how would a President Giuliani differ in practice from a President Bush? Rudy has stated that he will nominate strict constructionist judges like Roberts, Alito, and Scalia, to the Supreme Court (the kind of judges that might overturn Roe v. Wade and send the abortion issue back to the individual states to decide), and Rudy has also stated that he supports the Hyde Amendment (which bans almost all federal funding of abortions), as well as the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. Except for the fact that the March for Life might not snag President Rudy as the keynote speaker, a President Giuliani would function exactly the same on abortion as George W. Bush has in the past six years (and possibly even better).
Pro-life leaders like Tony Perkins and Chuck Donovan and James Dobson have every right to choose someone other than Rudy. However, it might be good for them to re-evaluate the benefits of blacklisting candidates because that candidate doesn’t approach one particular issue in the exact same way they do. Also, Perkins and others should keep in mind that the abortion issue is more than just politics–individual human lives are at stake. And if the ballot in November, 2008 is between a Democrat (who, as President, would appoint liberal Supreme Court judges, would veto the Hyde Amendment and the PBA Ban, and would do absolutely nothing to reduce abortions) and Rudy Giuliani (who, as President, would do all the exact opposite things), perhaps the action that would be in the best interest of all those individual unborn lives would not be for us to sit on our hands and pout.