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Which Is More Extreme? The Evolution of Abortion Positions

The Democratic Party harbors more abortion extremism than the Republican Party does.

By Dr. David Ayers

In the land of the mainstream media, conservative and Republican positions on so-called “culture war” issues are always “extreme,” while they rarely raise such concerns about liberal and Democrat positions. They then “helpfully” suggest ways that Republicans could attract more voters by modifying their stances to, well, something pretty similar to Nancy Pelosi’s.

That kind of biased coverage has been on full display since the Dobbs ruling overturning Roe and Casey. And all that even though the Republicans, at least at the level of the U.S. House and Senate, have exhibited far more viewpoint diversity on abortion. By a long shot.

This patronizing approach was abundantly evident in a July 30 Washington Post piece by Hannah Knowles. The lead says it all: “Following the end of Roe v. Wade, many in the GOP have embraced uncompromising positions and loaded rhetoric out of step with mainstream public opinion.” Not surprisingly, the article features quotes from moderate Republicans playing along, such as Christine Matthews, “a moderate Virginia Republican and longtime strategist for GOP candidates.” Says Matthews, “Republicans have taken things too far.”

Really? Let’s review a few facts.

First, abortions permitted for any reason at all, and literally up to birth, is about as extreme a position as one can get. That position places the Democratic Party alongside regimes like China and North Korea, and squarely against significant abortion restrictions in progressive wonderlands like Germany, France, and Sweden. One wonders if Prince Harry bothered checking the abortion laws in England, Wales, and Scotland before he took an obvious swipe at Dobbs in a speech to the U.N. last month? Almost no abortions allowed after 24 weeks, and only if two physicians sign off on them? Harry’s homeland is certainly more liberal on abortion than I would prefer, but even that is a lot stricter than Pelosi and company would accept.

Second, prestigious surveys keep showing that many Democrats and Independents reject the “anytime, anywhere, at any age, for any reason” abortion approach of today’s Democratic Party. In the General Social Survey (GSS), for example, three out of 10 self-identified Democrats clearly indicated that women should not be legally allowed to have abortion for any reason whatsoever. They wanted some restrictions, not pure unlimited “choice.” Also, 49% of Independents embraced the same view. In fact, more than a quarter of Democrats, and 45% of Independents, did not think that married women should be legally allowed to have abortions just because they didn’t want more children. These are abortion extremists?

Third, Dobbs did not illegalize abortions at all. It simply returned the matter to the states. How many people really think that in red states, where politicians wanting more abortion restrictions get elected or re-elected, are taking positions that the majority of their voters find unacceptably extreme? There is an easy way to settle that dispute, better than polling: We call it “free and fair elections.” If voters don’t like red state Republicans passing state-level restrictions on abortion, voters are free to throw them out.

I am old enough to remember the first Democratic candidate for president following Roe v Wade, Jimmy Carter, who called abortion “wrong.” Later, his Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Joseph Califano, was outspokenly pro-life. In the Fall of 1976, the Hyde Amendment outlawing federal funding of abortions was passed in the Democrat-controlled House by a lopsided majority of 392 to 93. As a senator and later vice president, Joe Biden supported Hyde; in fact, he did so well into his presidential campaign, before dropping that position halfway through 2019 as he faced withering criticisms from the other Democratic Party primary candidates, especially from Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

Moving into the 1990s, President Bill Clinton would say that abortion must be “safe, legal, and rare,” a viewpoint even his wife Hillary adopted in her 2008 presidential campaign. Yet now even that statement is considered “extreme” by mainstream Democrats, as Tulsi Gabbard discovered during her 2020 White House run. We are now in a place where a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy could get herself photographed outside the Supreme Court with the words “Not Yet a Human” written across her bare baby bump, and no Democrat politicians could find time to disown it. Among so many of them, abortion must be celebrated, not just regretfully allowed. We have gone from “safe, legal, and rare” to “shout your abortion.”

It is pretty clear that right now, nationally and on the world stage, the Democratic Party harbors more abortion extremism than the Republican Party does. The funny thing is, Democrats might do much better electorally accepting more abortion restrictions than they appear willing to do. Even Jimmy Carter thinks so. And yet, any Democratic candidates who might try that approach would not be backed by their party. That is what I call an extreme abortion position.

Dr. David J. Ayers is the Fellow for Marriage and Family with the Institute for Faith & Freedom. His latest book is “Christian Marriage: A Comprehensive Introduction.”

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