Belief vs. Outcome

J.B. Sivanich

John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his candidate for Vice President is a testament to the power of the pro-life lobby in the Republican party. It is no secret that he first wanted Sen. Joe Lieberman or former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge to run with him, but had to bow to the threats from the “base” that they would refuse to vote if he selected either of these pro-choicers as his running mate.
This is a questionable move on McCain’s part since numbers showed that he needed to win a majority of independents and even some registered democrats this year if he wanted a chance to win. He should have counted on the base to come out in large anti-Obama drives and picked someone much less polarizing who would have a shot of winning over independents and some democrats.
It is also not a logical move on the part of the base. By forcing McCain to appease them, they disregarded the facts that McCain needed a VP that could win over independents and Hillary supporters in order to get to the White House. By refusing to acknowledge empirical data just because it did not suit their ideology, the base has done itself more harm than good, as most people recognize that Sarah Palin has cost McCain and the Republican party the White House.
But all of this begs a certain question: “Why is it so important that the Vice President be pro-life?” The Vice President’s official role is the President of the Senate and a back-up in case something happens to the President. Ever since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Case in 1973, action over fundamentals of abortion have been restricted to the judicial sphere, since the ruling declared abortion a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution nullifying all laws prohibiting it.
Aside from regulating the funding of medical programs that fund abortions as part of legislation, the only way a Vice President could have a say over the abortion issue is by assuming the presidency – which would require the death or impeachment of the president – and being given the opportunity to select a judge for the Supreme Court.
This brings up even another obstacle, since most modern presidents have forsworn the idea of placing a litmus test on Supreme Court nominees. It is also interesting to note that five Republican-appointed Supreme Court judges upheld Roe v. Wade in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.
Another thing is if Roe v. Wade is overturned, decisions on the legality of abortion would only be kicked back to the state; some states would keep abortion legal and some would not. The end result is that only women who did not have the means or will to travel would be prevented from having an abortion. Making abortion a states’ rights issue essentially makes it an issue of class discrimination.
These reasons have led prominent Catholic legal scholar Nicholas Cafardi, who views abortion as an “unspeakable evil,” to say that the battle to outlaw abortion has been permanently lost. He wrote this in a provocative opinion piece in ********The National Catholic Reporter******* that came out in support of Barack Obama from a Catholic, pro-life perspective.
Besides noting that Catholic social teaching on “intrinsically evil acts” extends past abortion to torture, stem-cell research, racism, etc., Cafardi argues that an Obama presidency would do more to reduce the number of abortions than a McCain presidency would. He says that Obama has put abortion-reduction language into the Democratic party’s platform while the Republican party has removed such language from theirs.
Cafardi also points to data that shows that the number of abortions drop as the “safety social net is strengthened” and draws the conclusion that if Obama’s economic proposals do more to alleviate poverty than McCain’s plan, it will only support the idea that an Obama presidency will lead to fewer abortions.
Though McCain and George Bush are not carbon copies, it might prove fruitful to look at a recent move by our staunchly pro-life president to see how abortion issues would play out in a future Republican administration. Citing its false support for China’s one-child-only policy, which sometimes forces abortions, Bush ordered that the U.S. Agency for International Aid not give any means of contraceptive to the British aid group Mary Stopes International, which operates clinics in Africa.
According to the Stopes organization’s own estimates, this withholding of funding will result in 62,000 additional abortions and the deaths of 660 women during childbirth. It is a sad move by President Bush; the cost of his political statement can be measured in human life.
If the pro-life movement wants to see better results, they should take a closer look at which moves and battles are most efficient and practical to take and leave the ideology to follow.