I am constantly criticized by my Republicans friends about the apparent contradictory position of being a pro-life Democrat. To them this position is contradictory and dishonest. To me voting with this political platform is irrelevant and insignificant. Why? Because whether or not someone is pro-life is a moral argument, and these kind of arguments are mainly used to divide the masses. They are also nearly impossible to legislate. Republicans go to the polls to elect pro-life candidates and what they get in return is the Republican agenda: tax subsidies for corporations, increased military spending, tax breaks for the wealthy, and pork spending for major donors that funded the campaigns. What doesn’t happen is any major change in the moral issues that were instrumental in driving voter turnout.
Let me give a couple examples. From 2002 – 2006 the GOP controlled the House, Senate, Presidency, Governorships, and appointed 7 of 9 Supreme Court seats. In 2006 they attempted to pass a gay marriage amendment that did not even garner enough Republican support to make it out of the Senate. They did not challenge Roe v. Wade or push though any lower court case giving the Supreme Court a chance to rule on abortion (they did however find a way to deliver the Affordable Health Care Act to the high court). In four years of total control the only moral law the GOP passed was the 2003 partial-birth abortion bill, which was a minor feat given the overwhelming bi-partisan support.
Abortion rates have been declining over the past thirty years. Directly following the passing of Roe v. Wade, 30 of every 1000 women were having abortions. Today that number has fallen to 19. What’s even more interesting is the abortion rate experienced its sharpest decline during the Clinton Administration (from 25 to 20 abortions per thousand) and has been relatively flat ever since. Data suggests abortion rates correlate to the economic conditions of the US (and not who is president). When the economy is tough, the abortion rate rises as couples rethink their choices about having children, given the financial pressures that raising children bring.
Improving economic conditions is not the only lever to drive down abortion cases. In 2006 Governor Romney passed a statewide health reform that contracted private insurance companies to provide care for the state’s uninsured. Directly following the implementation of the law, the state’s abortion rate declined. The thinking behind this is that expanding healthcare led to greater doctor access, who then could deliver education and access to contraceptives. Brian Fung of The Atlantic wrote extensively about the Massachusetts findings and made the same argument for the Affordable Health Care Act.
I am quite aware of President Obama’s pro-choice stance, but like his Republican counterparts, his position is empty rhetoric. President Obama has not signed one piece of legislation or a solitary executive order that expands access to abortion in the US. In fact, the only abortion-related executive order he has signed denied using federal funds to pay for abortions. President Obama has passed a significant healthcare bill that makes access to doctors easier for millions of Americans.
When my Republican friends come and lecture me why I should support their pro-life candidates due to moral obligations, I quickly ask what impact will the candidates have on legislating abortion? Until a reasonable response is articulated, I will continue to vote for the man who made access to contraceptives and doctors available for 20 million additional women.