Indiana Right to Lifes New Endorsement Policy

Indiana Right to Life’s political action committee will no longer support Democratic candidates for office.

This decision is unbelievably shortsighted.

Since the rise of the influence of the abortion lobby in the Democratic party there has been fewer and fewer pro-life Democrats in office, for a number of reasons and we need not detail them here. But the point is this. The pro-life Democrats in elected office and those Democrats with “mixed views” on abortion, like them or not, have played a very important legislative role.

The number of pro-choice Republicans in Congress is slightly less than pro-life Democrats. So without pro-life Democrats, none of the pro-life bills that made it through Congress during the Bush Administration would have passed without their votes. When appropriations bills are on the congressional floor, without pro-life Democrats, the Hyde Amendment would not get enough votes. Inevitably, without this bloc of votes very few pro-life bills (and many pro-choice bills) would pass. That is the current political reality.

No one is arguing that pro-life Democrats have a marginal influence, if any, in the Democratic Party. No one is arguing that the Democratic Party’s platform on abortion is going to change today or tomorrow.

For those that do not share my political views, the reality really is this: pro-life Democrats are a necessary evil to you regardless of whether you like it or not. The Hyde Amendment is not a law — obviously. The Hyde Amendment or “Hyde language” is offered in variously named amendments or “riders” that are routinely attached to annual appropriations bills since 1976. Such provisions prevent funds allocated by appropriation bills for the Department of Health and Human Services from funding abortion services.

The reality is there is, for example, no federal law that says the U.S. government cannot fund abortions. Rather budget-related bills have repeatedly adopted a pro-life amendment saying that none of the funds within that specific legislation can be used to fund abortions. Apparently no one in the pro-life movement with status or influence has ever thought to introduce legislation to make this a federal-wide law. The implications of this fact is that to circumvent federal funding of abortion, appropriation bills must have this pro-life rider attached to it. But this has only been the case because there has always been enough pro-life votes in Congress, Republican and Democrat, to ensure that Hyde language endures. To the present, we have always had a slim pro-life majority in Congress to ensure that this remains the case.

What will we do the day this is not the case and Congress fails to attach Hyde language to an appropriation bill? We have seen this once already — there were not enough votes to attach the Dornan amendment (an amendment with “Hyde language”) to an appropriations bill for the District of Columbia and now there is no legal prohibition against federal funding of abortion in our nation’s capitol. The so-called obvious answer to this problem is to un-elect those that would vote with us on this critical issue?

If the pro-life movement decides to explicitly (it’s sort of already the case) become an arm solely of the Republican Party and vote out all Democrats, pro-life or pro-choice, then the pro-life movement will have to reap the consequences of such a change in the political landscape.

Pro-life laws will have a hell of a time riding out the inevitable swings of political power from one party to the other. Therefore, the fate of the unborn will inevitably be contingent on the temporal success of a single faction. One party will make progress one way and see it all unraveled as the other inevitably comes back into power.

In my view, as a pro-life Democrat, we will be sitting around forever waiting on Republicans to appoint the right justices to the Supreme Court. I am surely not going to pretend that Democrats are going to be our saviors on this matter. But Republican presidents post-Roe have appointed 7 out of 9 justices. Do they need to replace a whole 9 to get a 5 to 4 ruling reversing Roe, or at least, major portions of Roe? Clearly on this front, the GOP on its own has some issues because a number of Republicans want to govern as if abortion is a non-issue.

I am deeply sympathetic to frustrations in the pro-life movement in regard to congressional figures who are both pro-life and a Democrat. But to say that there is no such thing, all of a sudden, as a pro-life Democrat is to create a very disastrous myth.

Back in November, the vote on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment revealed that there are 64 Democrats who — many not being perfectly pro-life — are more with us on the issue than Democratic leadership. Pro-life votes in a Democratic caucus is a thorn in the side for Democratic strategists. For what reason should the pro-life movement give up this stumbling block, even if it is not resolute and immovable, to delay, or even stop, the Democratic leadership’s abortion-on-demand agenda?

Robert George’s “American Principles Project” makes the point impeccably:

For the pro-life movement to give up its courting and support of pro-life Democrats is to fall into simple partisanship, and to ultimately give up any hope of upward mobility on the part of pro-life Democrats within their own party. And to abandon the possibility or pro-life Democrats is to permanently chain ourselves to one party, as opposed to reforming and converting both parties. A truly pro-life representative on either side of the aisle is an ally with us for the cause of protecting unborn human life, period.

A strategy, however, which seeks to actively reduce the number of pro-life Democrats smacks of using the life issue as a political pawn, or of using the ends to justify the means. For example, some say that we must have pro-life Republicans before the life issues will be addressed better in Congress, so the way to get there is to reduce the number of Democrats.

Such a political calculus does real harm in the short run (abandoning pro-life Democrats), for a potential good (more pro-life Republicans) that I would argue remains obscured by the vagaries of government (the GOP’s continued reluctance to completely embrace the life issue as a winning social issue suggests we have plenty of work to do within the GOP as well). The winning strategy would be instead to say that any pro-abortion candidate will lose pro-life support to a pro-life candidate, any day. That’s a messaging strategy that, if carried out consistently, candidates will heed.

It helps to think about the situation in reverse: pro-choice Republicans are a real impediment within the GOP to pro-life unity within the party. And yet you do not hear pro-abortion advocates saying that pro-abortion Republicans need to disappear or switch parties. Pro-aborts are, instead, perfectly happy to have pro-abort Republicans destroying the party unity on life issues within the GOP. In the same (but opposite) way, we pro-lifers should be overjoyed to see pro-life Democrats surviving in their party despite the anti-life ideology of their leadership. Supporting your issue on both sides of the aisle isn’t just principled, it’s smart.

…The unborn don’t care what letter is behind the name of their defenders, and neither should we.

In a recent post, I made the point that the pro-life movement has very non-traditional manifestations across the political spectrum that does the great service of challenging stereotypical presumptions. The life issues are not religious issues and one does not need to be a conservative Republican and not even a Christian to take a principled stand against abortion and other intrinsically evil attacks on human life. Indeed, the pro-life movement is and should be politically diverse.

But for the pro-life movement to adopt a policy such as the one taken by the Indiana Right to Life to endorse only candidates of a single party to the exclusion of even principled, qualified candidates of the other party would strike at the heart of unity in the pro-life movement when it could have been avoided. If official pro-life organizations choose only to endorse pro-life candidates who also happen to be conservative Republicans, it will only reinforce the false mentality that one must be a Republican to be pro-life and the pro-life movement will say with little credibility that it welcomes all despite their political views insofar as they support the sanctity of human life.

22 Responses to Indiana Right to Lifes New Endorsement Policy

  1. Yes; but if it is a pro-choice Republican, everything is cool.

  2. Steve says:

    Given that the party platform is explicitly pro-abortion, I don’t have a problem with this.

    Now, if only NRLC and its affiliates would quit endorsing pro-life in name only Republicans.

  3. Donald R. McClarey says:

    I basically agree with Eric. It is a short sighted policy. I have very little hope that pro-life Democrats will make much headway in their party in the foreseeable future, but the door should not be slammed shut on the possibility. At the same time rank and file pro-life Democrats must do their best to expose Democrats who run as pro-lifers and then, by their votes, reveal themselves to be anything but.

  4. Blackadder says:

    Yes; but if it is a pro-choice Republican, everything is cool.

    In practice pro-choice Republicans often seem to be more pro-life than pro-life Democrats.

  5. I can see why a pro-life organization would take this approach, given that there have been a number of cases in which pro-life Democrats (particularly high profile pro-life Democrats) have chosen to vote pro-choice on the big stuff, and pro-life on the little stuff. (Casey Jr. springs very much to mind here.)

    That said, it strikes me as an incredibly short-sighted policy. Pro-life Democrats will often find themselves left out by their own party’s sources of funding, and without pro-life help they will become even rarer than they already are. Given that the American system is fairly evenly balanced between the two parties, aligning with only the GOP (which itself is far from 100% pro-life) seems like a bad call, even if pro-life Democrats do not represent a fully reliable source of votes.

  6. Unfortunately, this is a result of Stupak’s actions. Too many pro-life groups promoted Stupak as the essence of the pro-life Democrat only to see him denounce them from the floor. Democrats need to work harder to regain the trust and good-will that was quite high while Stupak was standing strong.

    That said, I agree with everyone above that this is a terrible policy. We need strong pro-life Democrats if nothing else to push the pro-life Republicans to get their party to actually do something about abortion. If Republicans think the pro-lifers will leave if nothing is done, then they’ll do something as the loss of Christians would devastate the party’s numbers. Furthermore, being pro-life is now too confused w/ being republican so that pro-lifers are automatically presumed to be supporters of the war, capital punishment, and torture, all of which makes us seem hypocritical.

  7. j. christian says:

    I’m in agreement here: Although it’s understandable in light of certain recent events, it’s a short sighted policy. This is not a partisan issue.

  8. M.Z. says:

    Democrats need to work harder to regain the trust and good-will that was quite high while Stupak was standing strong.

    That is wrong in both premise and conclusion. Decisions like the one made by Indiana RTL don’t occur when there is a surplus of trust and goodwill. When there is a surplus of trust and goodwill you get things like NRTL deciding the ESCR is no longer worth beating up people on their side for supporting. Granted, using embryos for research is more disgusting than providing tens of millions that previously didn’t have health insurance with insurance, but you have to pick your fights, right?

    As for the Democrats, last I checked they didn’t have any difficulty putting up viable candidates that supported abortion rights. In most districts, putting up a pro-choice candidate isn’t an impediment to electing a Democrat. For the pro-life community to claim that you need to be a good Republican to oppose abortion, unnecessarily alienates voters that are opposed to abortion. Despite what the pro-life community tells itself, abortion is a minor consideration in nearly every national election. Asking voters opposed to abortion to support candidates who will act inimically to their values but put a frowny face next to the check box on support of abortion rights is to ask them to act against their interests and ultimately a losing battle.

    Since the pro-life movement has been co-opted by the Republican Party, Indiana RTL’s decision is hardly shocking and merely a confirmation of what was unofficially policy in the pro-life community.

  9. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Since the pro-life movement has been co-opted by the Republican Party”

    Complete rubbish. The pro-life movement largely supports the Republican party because the Democrat party overwhelmingly views abortion as a constitutional, if not a sacred, right. Fortunately, the fact that the Democrat party is largely a preserve of the pro-aborts will be less of a problem after November when there will, in all likelihood, be far fewer Democrats holding elected office. Of course, as long as people who claim to be pro-life vote for pro-abort candidates, like the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history, the Democrats will have little cause to change their allegiance to abortion uber alles.

  10. Mike Petrik says:

    Donald is right. The truth is that the pro-life movement has been so successful within the GOP that in many states pro-choicers have a hard time securing nominations and advancing within the party. This has understandably caused Republican politicians who are indifferent to abortion to claim pro-life status. These pretend pro-lifers are a problem, but the truth is they suggest the fairer claim that the Republican Party that has been co-opted by the pro-life movement, not the other way around.

  11. M.Z. says:

    If you believe the co-opting has been the other way, then just simply explain why:
    a) NRTL acceded to mainstream GOP thought and removed opposing ESCR as condition for being called pro-life, and
    b) Indiana RTL finds Democrats irreconcilably opposed to being pro-life in the wake of pro-lifers supporting a health care bill that will allow tens of millions to receive health insurance.

  12. smf says:

    Keep in mind all politics is local. Likely this has more to do with goings on in Indiana politics than this discussion suggests.

    However, while I agree that the end game on abortion requires more than one pro-life party, at the moment we have a wishy-washy pro-life party, and a completely committed pro-abortion party. I have no objection to deciding you can not support any candidate standing for election on the part of the pro-abortion party at this time. It is completely defensible.

    Let us be rather honest, even most of the pro-life Democrats stand with their party on many central issues that undermine the pro-life cause. As examples, consider things like the leadership votes in the house and senate, and committee chairmanships and make-up. To be quite blunt, by the Democratic caucuses having the majority in a chamber, that puts their people automatically in control of the chamber and the committees, and thus for the most part puts pro-abortion people in those positions, again automatically by their being in the majority.

    Maybe we really need a more radical solution, like a pro-life party or at least a bipartisan pro-life caucus that puts up its own people for leadership posts.

  13. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Indiana RTL finds Democrats irreconcilably opposed to being pro-life in the wake of pro-lifers supporting a health care bill that will allow tens of millions to receive health insurance.”

    Because the bill passed allows public funding of abortion, something that Stupak said time and time again before he caved and retreated waving a completely meaningless executive order.

    “NRTL acceded to mainstream GOP thought and removed opposing ESCR as condition for being called pro-life,”

    Cite chapter and verse. As the list of articles on embryonic stem cell research linked below at the National Right to Life website indicate, it appears to me that National Right to Life is just as opposed to escr as ever.

    However, when confronted with a candidate who is bad on escr and good on abortion, for example John McCain, and a candidate who is bad on both, Obama, I can understand NRLC supporting the candidate who is at least right on abortion. My unenthusiastic support of John McCain, as opposed to my enthusiastic opposition to Obama, was premised on just such a calculation.

  14. Donald R. McClarey says:

    I might also add that prior to 2008 National Right to Life had been highly critical of John McCain, not just in regard to escr, but also in regard to McCain-Feingold which NRLC rightly viewed as an impairment on the ability of advocacy groups to engage in issue advertising in elections. A link below to articles on the NRLC website regarding John McCain.

    NRLC did not endorse McCain because he was the Republican nominee, but rather because Obama was a total pro-abort and completely opposed to everything NRLC stands for.

  15. I seems unsurprising to me that pro-life groups make some compromises to get along with the GOP — just as peace and environmental groups make certain compromises in dealing with the Democratic Party, which is where they find 80% or more of their support. It is basically just how things work in a two party system.

    That said, I think Eric is right to highlight what a short-sighted policy this is. It is never a bad thing to have support in both parties. And while I can see while a right to life group might have a general policy that in a race with two pro-life candidates they would put most or all of their support behind the one from the more generally pro-life party (this is also a necessity of the two party system) there is no reason they shouldn’t support pro-life Democrats in the primary, and against pro-choice Republicans.

  16. Tim Shipe says:

    I have some big time experience on this front- as I’ve posted before “Pro-Life Movement: Democrats Need Not Apply” or some similar title. The movement must deal with candidates on an individual basis- that is called fairness- don’t use one guy like Stupak as your excuse- reminds me of the adage ‘tough cases make for bad lawmaking’. All I wanted was to be judged by my merits, as far as my credibility could be ascertained, and if a Democrat makes explicit promises and even proposing legislation that goes beyond the minimums put out by the orgs, then why the heck shouldn’t he/she be given the opportunity to put a dent in the Dem pro-abortion machine- from the inside? Platforms are not binding, they are symbolic and hardly noticed by the rank and file.

    My sense and experience from the campaign trail was that many- not all- pro-lifers have other issues that seem of equal if not more importance- despite the rhetoric. For example, I was grilled by one pro-life organizational leader on my views on immigration reform- she being a Catholic had views more distant from our Bishop than mine, and I had to remind her heatedly that I wanted to be judged by a pro-life organization on the basis on my pro-life positions and proposals- in short I wanted the chance to compete for an endorsement- and I was not given the opportunity- now I wonder how many Dem candidates out there who were like me- stuffed from the inside of the Party by pro-aborts, and denied a voice and opportunity from the pro-life community because they don’t want to upset the Repubs. Seems to me that the pro-abort lobby does the same thing in choosing only Dems to support, but they also do a much better job of getting direct action or else out of that Party. My judgment is that if the Repubs were given either a hardcore ultimatum to get abortion made illegal at the Federal level or else- then it would make sense to exclude Dem lifers while this was happening- but I don’t see the pro-life orgs being tough on the Repubs, they seem to be carrying water for the GOP and not given much respect as a consequence by the powers that be in the Party.

  17. MikeInOhio says:

    At this time, giving support to Democratic candidates results in giving support to the current Democratic leadership, which has resulted in support for the radical agenda we see underway today. This is regardless of the merits of a single Democratic candidate.

    That is not to say that condition will always be true. But the power and the willingness of the Democratic leadership to use its majority to steamroll, threaten, bully, arm-twist and buy votes in pursuit of its pro-death agenda is a factor that can not be responsibly ignored.

  18. WJ says:

    I find completely plausible and utterly depressing Tim Shipe’s anecdotes about his own attempt to secure backing for his Democratic candidacy from pro-life organizations. The bit about being grilled on “immigration reform” is especially predictable.

    The co-opting of Catholicity by both the right and the left in this country–in different arenas and with different emphases to be sure–will last so long as Catholics choose to enable it. But when’s the last time you heard a homily which stressed the incompatibility between the civitas terrena and the civitas Dei, one which stressed that one’s allegiance to the Church takes absolute precedence over one’s allegiance to party, one which chose to emphasize, rather than downplay, the tensions between a Catholic and an American liberal anthropology?

    Only a persecution can save us.

  19. Phillip says:

    Though I guess I can understand if Indiana Right to Life was lied to by the Reps. and all efforts on the state level to limit abortion are blocked by Dems. Such is how personal sin gets affects social relation. Not only is abortion further strengthened as a structure of sin by Obamacare through the betrayal of the Culture of Life by these reps, but also the trust between social groups undermined.
    Such is how social sin is formed through personal sin.

  20. c matt says:

    But Republican presidents post-Roe have appointed 7 out of 9 justices. Do they need to replace a whole 9 to get a 5 to 4 ruling reversing Roe, or at least, major portions of Roe?

    True. But they had hostile senators to deal with who “borked”, as you may recall, many first choices for the bench.

  21. Phillip says:

    Yeah, Bork would have been the 5th vote in Casey vs. Planned Parenthood to overturn Roe v. Wade. Instead, because of efforts of stellar “social justice” Senators such as Ted Kennedy, we got Justice Kennedy – the fifth vote to uphold R v. W. Again, personal sin upholding structures of sin.

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