Why Pro-Choice Is a Bad Choice for Democrats

New York Times | Melinda Henneberger | June 22, 2007

I KEEP reading about a universe in which social conservatives are warming to Rudy Giuliani. But this would have to be a place where his estranged children and three wives and multiple appearances in fishnets were irrelevant to the Republican base. Where the nice gay couple he moved in with between marriages would be asked to appear in the film montage at the nominating convention in St. Paul.

Even in the real world, a pro-choice Republican nominee would be a gift to the Democrats, because the Republican Party wins over so many swing voters on abortion alone. Which is why Fred Thompson, who is against abortion rights, is getting so much grateful attention from his party now. And why, despite wide opposition to the war in Iraq, Democrats must still win back such voters to take the White House next year.

Over 18 months, I traveled to 20 states listening to women of all ages, races, tax brackets and points of view speak at length on the issues they care about heading into ’08. They convinced me that the conventional wisdom was wrong about the last presidential contest, that Democrats did not lose support among women because “security moms” saw President Bush as the better protector against terrorism. What first-time defectors mentioned most often was abortion.

Why would that be, given that Roe v. Wade was decided almost 35 years ago? Opponents of abortion rights saw 2004 as the chance of a lifetime to overturn Roe, with a movement favorite already in the Oval Office and several spots on the Supreme Court likely to open up. A handful of Catholic bishops spoke out more plainly than in any previous election season and moved the Catholic swing vote that Al Gore had won in 2000 to Mr. Bush.

The standard response from Democratic leaders has been that anyone lost to them over this issue is not coming back — and that regrettable as that might be, there is nothing to be done. But that is not what I heard from these voters.

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3 thoughts on “Why Pro-Choice Is a Bad Choice for Democrats”

  1. As a Democrat hoping for more of a pro-life stance from the party, this article became even more distressing for me after reading about another entiled “Crisis of Faith”, by conservative writer Ross Douthat, in The Atlantic. The article is behind the firewall, but it’s getting a lot of play on the blogosphere and Douthat talks about it on his blog:

    The argument, in short, is that just as the elite-level secularization of the 1960s and ’70s (in the intelligentsia, the Courts, and the Democratic Party) produced backlash in the form of the religious right, so now that backlash has bred its own backlash, in the form of a mass secularism whose attitudes toward religion, politics, and church-state separation are more European than anything we’ve seen before in American political life. This, not the supposed right-wing religious revival that conservatives champion and liberals dread, is the newest new thing in American political life, and the trend that’s likely to have the most impact on the culture wars over the next decade or so.


    So, in a nutshell, a growing percentage of Americans have no religious affiliation and only secular values, and, they will be making the Democratic party their political home crowding out more liberal Christians who see pro-life positions and government aid for the poor stemming from the same Consistent Ethic of Life.

    Douthat elaborates:

    Nothing divides the United States from Europe like religion. America has its public piety and its multitude of thriving sects, Europe has its official secularism and its empty, museum-piece churches.

    .. But paradoxically, our era may be remembered as the moment when the religious gulf between the continents began to slowly close. In the United States, the Bush era has summoned up—arguably for the first time in this country’s history—a mass secularism that looks to Europe and sees a model for America to follow. In Europe, meanwhile, a rising Islam and a more assertive Christian remnant are touching off American-style culture wars on a continent that had prided itself on being past those messy controversies.

    In a paper in the American Sociological Review, Michael Hout and Claude S. Fischer announced the startling fact that the percentage of Americans who said they had “no religious preference” had doubled in less than 10 years, rising from 7 percent to 14 percent of the population. This unexpected spike wasn’t the result of growing atheism, Hout and Fischer argued; rather, more Americans were distancing themselves from organized religion as “a symbolic statement” against the religious right. If the association of religiosity with political conservatism continued to gain strength, the sociologists suggested, “then liberals’ alienation from organized religion [might] become, as it has in many other nations, institutionalized.”

    Five years later, that institutionalization seems to be proceeding. It’s showing up in an increasingly secularized younger generation: A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 20 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds reported no religious affiliation, up from just 11 percent in the late 1980s. . . .


    Not Good.

  2. Dean, IMO, the Orthodox Church has the best chance of bucking the trend you describe IF we really include our children in the life of the Church as functioning members AND eschew any form of political idelogy in place of the teachings of the Church. It means getting rid of the ethnicity first bull crap, it means no social gospel (left) as it has usually been articulated in the US. It also means that the “conservative gospel” is also put aside. As the on going conversations on this blog alone indicate such a task is harder than it may at first appear.

    Repentance, prayer, fasting, alsmgiving, the Sacraments leading to purification, illumniation and theosis. The Creed. Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Being in the world, not of it rather than the much more common of the world, but not in it.

    It can all be a load of meaningless jargon or in can be a living reality.

    The Church is the antidote if we live in Her.

  3. This is more evidence supporting the contention of Ross Douthat, the conservative writer at The Atlantic. He said:

    In Europe, meanwhile, a rising Islam and a more assertive Christian remnant are touching off American-style culture wars on a continent that had prided itself on being past those messy controversies.


    I’m not sure why the issue of religious freedom for Christians in Turkey hasn’t played a larger role in discussions over their application for membership in the European Union. But it should.

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