It’s inevitable: at some point during every election cycle, a professed pro-life candidate will completely botch a completely predictable question or series of questions on abortion. They drop an “A-bomb” on themselves. On Wednesday, in a self-engineered town hall with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews (a total friend of Republicans, or something), it was Donald Trump’s turn. In a scene ripped from the pages of Tom Clancy’s novel Executive Orders (Warning: culture reference!), Mr. Trump managed to enrage most factions in the abortion issue by saying that, should abortion be made illegal, women who have abortions should be punished in some way.
Yes, this was “Donald being Donald”: talking off-the-cuff and not taking his thought process through to completion before opening his mouth. While the Trump campaign was quick to walk back his quite clear statement that abortion-receiving women should face punishment, opposition forces now have a sound bite for all time. I’m certain that NARAL, et al. are already editing their attack ads. This will certainly snowball. As I observed after this news broke:
Quick! Someone ask him about “legitimate rape” and see if we can get a full Akin. 🙄😑 https://t.co/u7MLF2yHSC
— Allan TFH/RoEL/VLR (@allanbourdius) March 30, 2016
Trump is going to get barraged by this topic every time he faces a reporter. That’s what they do, particularly when there’s blood in the water, all the better for them if the blood is from a completely preventable, self-inflicted wound.
I’m pro-life myself, nearly absolutely so, and it flabbergasts me that pro-life politicians often seem incapable of answering the simplest of questions on abortion without a best case of foot-in-mouth. Pro-life politicians must know that they’re going to get these questions from a hostile, largely pro-abortion, media. Unpreparedness to handle them without coming across as a sanctimonious, stereotypical caricature is completely inexcusable.
The pro-life side has made amazing gains in support, which takes a hit during election years when politicians insist on making anti-abortion politics a campaign issue. The pro-life gains we have seen have nothing to do with politics or laws, but everything to do with our larger culture.
Nothing has done more to demonstrate the humanity of in-utero children than increasingly higher-resolution ultrasound pictures that every expectant parent shows around their workplaces and to friends and family over social media. Couple that with amazing advances in neonatal medicine which is making the gestational age at which a prematurely born infant can survive earlier and earlier, and we’ve got a winner.
I’ve even come up with an “unanswerable” for the pro-aborts on the point at which life begins:
If human life doesn’t begin at conception, can you please explain how human life is possible absent conception?
It’s fun to see them try to answer. Hit them with it, trust me!
Regardless, politics and government are lousy ways to change people’s hearts and minds, which is fundamentally what we in the pro-life movement need to do. Americans instinctively hate to be told what to do, especially by authority.
Pro-life politicians often also wrap themselves in our Constitution, and like so many things, it’s the Constitution that can save them from dropping “A-bombs” on themselves. Why? Next, I’m going to mention everything the Constitution says on abortion.
Our Constitution, for better or worse, is silent on the issue save for the Tenth Amendment, reserving all powers not enumerated for the federal government to the states or the people.
And that’s the approach all pro-life aspirants to and current federal office holders should take: abortion is not a federal question.
By all means: make the point that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overturned, but do it solely from a constitutional perspective, not an anti-abortion perspective. Roe’s real affront to our republic wasn’t making abortion legal nationwide, it was the subsuming by the Supreme Court of legislative responsibility and the federal government inserting itself into an area of society for which it had no enumerated power so to do.
I’m big on keeping government within its strictly enumerated powers, and reject all notions that the “general welfare” and “necessary and proper” language give our government omnibus power to act as it sees fit. The Constitution itself tells us this. Just look at the Twenty-sixth Amendment (among others):
The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
If the federal government has omnibus “necessary and proper” power, the above “Section 2” was completely unnecessary. Why enumerate a power when one is already had?
What would happen if Roe is overturned? Abortion goes back to the states, where it never should have left in the first place, and would be governed by state constitutions and state laws. Some states will have abortion restrictions or bans; others will have no restrictions. That’s the federalist system our Constitution establishes. (Aside: many state constitutions probably don’t enumerate abortion powers for them either, but that’s an issue for their individual legislatures and people.)
Our presidential candidates shouldn’t even discuss abortion except for the related, yet unspecific, goal of appointing appellate court judges and Supreme Court justices who will use a strict textual perspective in determining constitutionality.
The only abortion-related legislation a senator, congressman, or candidate for either should discuss is a constitutional amendment that will give the federal government a new enumerated power to govern abortion. And if you’re going to do that, make darn sure you’re prepared to answer any and all questions about it. Presidential candidates can do that too, but as the President has no role in the Article V amendment process, it’s symbolism not substance.
Until such time as our Constitution is amended – in either direction, pro-life or pro-abortion – the federal position on abortion should be to have no position whatsoever. As much as I applaud as a believer in life the intent of the partial birth abortion ban (passed by the 108th Congress, signed into law by President George W. Bush, deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart), I cannot countenance it from a strict constitutional view, going back to enumerated powers.
Staking out a federal role in preventing abortion absent enumerated powers is every bit as progressive as having the federal government promote abortion. We become the enemy.
My prayers are that abortions end. We do not have a government empowered to do it.
People-focused solutions and approaches first, not government. That view can save us from countless issues that should never have been ceded to government in the first place.