The other day I wrote about how a reporter for Fox News let Governor Mitt Romney off the hook when Romney suggested that he is “pro-life.” I expressed my puzzlement that the reporter did not ask the obvious follow up question which would have flushed out exactly what “pro-life” meant. I argued that it was one thing to say you’re “pro-life,” but it’s another thing to say that, as President, you are going to fight to make abortion illegal in this country again.
Well, this duplicity works on the pro-choice side as well.
First of all, like Mitt Romney (who used to be pro-choice), there are many politicians who have flipped from the pro-life side to the pro-choice side. I’ll never forget years ago, when the Reverend Jesse Jackson indicated his interest in securing the Democratic Party’s nomination for President. Until that point, Jackson had been openly pro-life. But he could read the tea leaves and he knew that the Democratic Party activists, i.e., the ones who would name the nominee, were overwhelmingly pro-choice. So, Jackson simply switched his position. There are others who did the same. Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts once got the notion of being a U.S. Senator from that state. Markey, a strong Catholic, had voted pro-life for many years and it served him well in his heavily Catholic district. However, when he started to focus on a statewide seat and looked at the polls, he knew he had to switch to pro-choice. He did, but still didn’t get the nomination. Interestingly, he remained in Congress and voted pro-choice from then on with no damage to his office. Then, there was Senator Edward Kennedy who, in the early days, argued that “life begins at conception.” Ultimately, however, he made the slow switch over to the pro-choice position.
But what does it mean to be pro-choice? Here’s where you have to be careful. There are a number of politicians who say they are pro-choice, but that just means that they would not make abortion illegal in this country. Ultimately, however, his or her constituents might discover that their Member of Congress actually supports parental consent laws, 24 hour waiting periods, informed consent laws and other proposals that restrict access to abortion services. Sorry, folks, I forgot to tell you about that one!
So, when some politician gets up and says they are pro-life or pro-choice, don’t let them off the hook! Ask the follow up questions, just like the reporters do at the White House press conferences. Delve into their feelings about the issue. After all, chances are very high that that politician will never get a chance to vote on the legalization of abortion, but they will be voting on the ancillary issues, on proposals that practically make the right to abortion null and void.