July 13, 2005

Pushing The Envelope on The Right to Life

A few short years ago there was precious little discussion of Social Security reform at all, let alone private accounts. Now polling shows that a majority of Americans support personal accounts of some form. It would've been difficult to blame the President for not pushing reform of Social Security, given its reputation as difficult and unpopular to change. Yet he went on a road tour for weeks promoting it.

The problem as I see it is that his performance on the right to life consists largely of two things: 1) being willing to sign pro-life acts of Congress, and 2) opposing federal funding of embryo destruction. While I'm glad that the President signed into law things like the PBA ban and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act ('Laci and Conner's Law') - especially since Clinton repeatedly vetoed a partial-birth abortion ban on fraudulent claims of medical necessity - it doesn't strike me that he had a very big role in either. He's a supporter, but he didn't appear to be the driving force. I don't recall him spending a lot of time as president pushing Congress on the issue or trying to drum up political support. It's hard to get all worked up about the stem cell stance, since it's not about banning stem cell research, but about not federally funding it - a world of difference.

He coasts on the momentum of supporting the pro-life side while not expending political capital on behalf of it. If anything he consumes the political capital of supporting these two issues - which have support in the 60s or 70s - and spends it elsewhere. There's nothing wrong with gaining and expending political points, but it's frustrating to see such a monumentally-important issue ignored.

It's an important time to support the right to life movement because of the SCOTUS nomination the President is about to make. Republican SCOTUS nominations have not been very good to the pro-life movement, with Republican appointees Stevens, Souter, Kennedy and O'Connor all supporting a constitutional right to abortion. In fact, the Court is 7-2 Republican to Democratic appointees, yet 6-3 for abortion rights and 5-4 for partial-birth abortion.

The President should appoint someone serious about the right to life, rather than continuing to walk the fine line of doing just enough to hold support and show some real leadership on the issue. History will remember his actions.

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