Republican views on abortion are rooted firmly in the belief that an unborn child, like any individual in this country, has an individual right to life that should not be infringed upon by others. The party adamantly believes that the rights guaranteed to all Americans in the Fourteenth Amendment apply to unborn children as well. They support a constitutional amendment which states this, and which will end abortion entirely. Republicans oppose using public revenues to promote or carry out abortions, and also oppose any health care options that include the coverage of abortion. Instead, republicans support tax incentives for those who choose adoption over abortion. However, the republican pro-life agenda, as stated in their 2004 party platform, does not include punitive action against women who have an abortion. In fact, republicans wish to provide women with problem pregnancies with the resources and support they need, as long as it is not infringing on the rights of their children. The party’s agenda is solely to pass legislation to defend the rights outlined in the Fourteenth Amendment for unborn children.
The Republican platform on abortion has four main elements, which have been fought for, ever since they were outlined in the 1984 platform. They are: that an unborn child has a “fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” the endorsement of a “human life” constitutional amendment, which would ban abortion, a call for judges who “respect human life” by supporting such an amendment, and new laws to state that the fetus is a “person” under the 14th Amendment. While the current Republican Party platform contains no exceptions for rape, incest, birth defect, or risks to the mother’s health, these issues are controversial even within the party, with some republicans believing in exceptions for these cases, and others holding a very firm pro-life stance.
As a means of fighting towards an abortion ban, republicans work at the federal level to defund abortion, and have even reached into the private sector by encouraging health insurance providers to not cover abortions. They seek Supreme Court justices who are likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, and push for incremental laws that are progressively stronger, hoping to begin a sway in public opinion. At the state level, they also seek incrementally stronger restriction laws, specifically in the hopes that one will provide grounds for an overturning of Casey v. Planned Parenthood.
Abortion and the Constitution
The Republican Party seeks legislation that makes it 100% clear that the fourteenth amendment pertains to unborn children. Therefore, they support the appointment of judges who hold the same views on abortion, and will uphold these ideals when looking at the constitutionality of abortion.
The most renowned abortion case is Roe v. Wade, which prompted a landmark decision regarding abortion on the part of the Supreme Court. Roe v. Wade was decided simultaneously with a companion case, Doe v. Bolton. The court ruled, 7-2, that a women’s right to have an abortion was defended under the right to privacy by due process as outlined in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, as long as the right was balanced against the state’s two interests in regulating abortion: the protection of the health of the mother, and the protection of prenatal life. In order to balance these interests, the court ruled to restrict abortion by the trimester of the pregnancy. The decision legalized abortion before viability, with Viability defined as being “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid”, adding that viability “is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.” This is where the court ruling and the Republican party differ; republicans believe that a child is a “person,” and that it’s rights should be protected by law, from conception on, not only when it is considered viable. It was this case that divided the nation into what are today known as pro-life and pro-choice beliefs, and prompted the inter-party debate on abortion that has been ongoing since the ruling.
As a part of its beliefs on the issue, the Republican Party advocates for measures to be taken to prevent the need for abortion. The party supports an increase in educational funding to be used to teach abstinence in schools, to not only prevent unwanted pregnancies but to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and infections as well. In relation to this, republicans oppose school-based clinics to provide abortion, counseling, and contraception, as they believe this money would be better spent on abstinence education. The Republican Party also supports efforts to improve the foster care system, as well as efforts to increase funding to family services.
Democrats vs Republicans on Abortion
Many democrats and other pro-abortion groups color republicans as anti-women’s-rights, or as being callous on the issues of women’s freedoms. This is especially common in cases where republicans are against abortion in cases of rape or birth defect. However, most republicans are not against women’s rights, they are simply defending the rights that they believe the unborn child has. They seek to provide women with unwanted pregnancies with whatever support they can, as long as it does not infringe on another’s (in this case, the child’s) rights. However, this coloring of pro-life republicans as women haters has definitely affected the party’s support from the female demographic. In the latest presidential election, President Obama held an overwhelming majority of women’s votes, and many speculate that it was, at least in part, due to the republican views on abortion.
While many republicans will argue that public opinion is on their side on the issue of abortion, many republicans have lost elections where women’s rights became prominent issues, seemingly because of their stance on abortion. Many felt that strong anti-abortion stances are what cost Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia and Todd Akin in Missouri what should have been winnable races. Part of this is because abortion is an ever-changing issue in the public’s mind. There are too many dependent factors for most people to have a set-in-stone opinion on the issue. Consistently, the majority of Americans support restrictions on access to abortion. However, the public opinion sways in several cases, such as rape, potential birth defect, and when the pregnancy endangers the woman’s health. Many who oppose abortion for other reasons will support it when it is due to these reasons, which is why it is unclear whether the Republican Party is gaining or losing support due to its pro-life policies as a whole. Over 200 new state-level abortion restrictions have been put into place over the last few years, and very few of the Republicans who helped enact them have been ousted from office in the aftermath.
It is certain, however, that some Republican candidates have lost themselves support due to opposing abortions in the cases of rape, birth defect, and a health risk to the mother. Ken Cuccinelli faced Planned Parenthood’s campaign against him, saying he was “wrong for women, wrong for Virginia,” due to his opposition of abortion in rape victims. Exit polling later found that these abortion views were a key player in Virginians who opposed Cuccinelli. Similarly, many of us remember Todd Akin’s statement that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant as a defense of his view that abortion should not be legal, even in the case of rape. Akin’s case differs from Cucinelli’s in that the brunt of his opposition came from his statements about the female body and what was and was not legitimate rape, rather than the fact that he opposed abortion in rape cases. However, that isn’t to say that he would have garnered support if he had worded his explanation differently. Overall, Republicans who stand on the far right of the abortion issue seem to have less support from the general public than those who stand closer to the middle, and believe in exceptions to the rule.
Last year, Republicans stated that they were going to work to be inclusive and accepting on social issues. However, this past January at the Republican National Committee, a group of social conservatives introduced a resolution urging Republicans to speak out on the issue of abortion. The resolution reads “The Republican National Committee urges all Republican pro-life candidates, consultants, and other national Republican Political Action Committees to reject a strategy of silence on the abortion issue when candidates are attacked with ‘war on women’ rhetoric.” This move put many republicans who are more moderate in a hard place, and also has the potential to harm the party’s image and support base, especially on an issue where wording can make or break their numbers. The Republican’s statement last year that they will be more inclusive and welcoming was made for a reason – because Republicans nationwide are losing support over their controversial social beliefs. Abortion has been becoming a larger and larger issue, both for republicans and democrats, for the 2014 midterm races, and will probably continue to be through the 2016 elections.
President Richard Nixon on Abortion
As the president in office at the time of the ruling for Roe v. Wade, it would be expected for Richard Nixon to have a good deal to say on the abortion issue. However, at the time that the ruling was made, Nixon declined to comment publicly about it. He later stated that “There are times when an abortion is necessary, I know that,” stating that he considered abortion in the case of rape to be one of these times. However, he believed that greater access to abortion would create an air of permissiveness about the procedure, which was not acceptable.
Mitt Romney on Abortion
Romney is a Republican whose views on abortion include exceptions. While he has in the past defended a woman’s right to choose, he stated in his 2002 campaign for governor that he believes abortion is the “wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother.” Romney also stands apart from the bulk of his party on the issue of a federal ban on abortion, and rather believing the issue should be left to the states. Romney stated in an interview to the Boston Globe in 2005 “while the nation remains so divided over abortion, I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.”
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- Abortion and the 14th Amendment – National Review
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