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Posted by on Aug 29, 2012 in Politics | 4 comments

GOP and Its Hard Right Turn on Women’s Issues

Delegates to the 2012 GOP convention in Miami adopted a political platform on Tuesday endorsed by the National Rifle Association, “FreedomWorks, an advocacy group associated with the Tea Party movement,” and Phyllis Schlafly, who described it as “[maybe] the best one ever adopted.”

What did they say about abortion?

[W]e assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.

In other words, the 2012 GOP platform mirrors the proposal snubbed by voters in Mississippi last year. Such an amendment would end all legal abortion in the United States. Moreover, the 2012 GOP platform “declares that abortion is detrimental to women’s ‘health and well-being’.”

Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

That clause did not appear in prior platforms that endorsed a constitutional amendment (2008, 2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, 1988 and 1984). Yep, they’re being consistent on the constitution bit.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v Wade, making abortion legal across the United States.

In 1975, Gallup polls showed that only about 20% of Americans believed that abortion should always be illegal. The Republican party platform of 1976 reflected that sentiment.

The question of abortion is one of the most difficult and controversial of our time. It is undoubtedly a moral and personal issue but it also involves complex questions relating to medical science and criminal justice. There are those in our Party who favor complete support for the Supreme Court decision which permits abortion on demand. There are others who share sincere convictions that the Supreme Court’s decision must be changed by a constitutional amendment prohibiting all abortions…

The Republican Party favors a continuance of the public dialogue on abortion and supports the efforts of those who seek enactment of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.

Given the hard line towards abortion evident in the 2012 platform, it’s worth asking how public sentiment has changed in the intervening 40 years. As I noted earlier this month, that figure has been as low as 13% (in the early 1990s) but is the same today as in 1975, when Gallup began tracking this issue.

abortion opinion - gallup

Gallup public opinion polling on abortion.

As the Washington Post notes, the word abortion did not appear in the platform until 1976, after Roe v Wade.

If the Republicans have been unsuccessful in pushing the idea of personhood for almost 30 years, why write about this? Why worry?

  1. The platform does not represent the views of most (8 in 10) Americans. Should the Republicans gain control over Congress and the Presidency, why would they listen to the majority on this issue when they didn’t listen and invaded Iraq?
  2. The rhetoric that has accompanied the position could serve as a poster child for abysmal science/health education. And the GOP doesn’t believe in fact-checkers.
  3. The platform rejects funding or subsidizing health care programs that include abortion coverage. Don’t get raped or have a condom break if you’re on Medicaid or in the Armed Forces (which has a pretty bad record on the rape front).
  4. According to research from Rutgers, “winning political parties try to redeem roughly 70 percent of their concrete platform pledges.” We can see from bills introduced in the House that prohibiting all abortion in the U.S. is more than words on paper.

For most of my voting life, I’ve poo-poohed single-issue voting. However, I’m moving away from that view as I wrestle with the fact that both parties are indebted to moneyed interests. If neither party will really get us out of foreign entanglements, neither party will reduce corporate welfare (except, perhaps, at the margin), neither party will substantively cut the defense budget … then perhaps it’s time to vote where there is a clear difference in policy. And that means voting on social/civil issues, not budget ones.