Election 2000

by Conor Dugan | 11/2/99 6:00am

Within pro-life circles voters often face a supposed dilemma. They (the pro-life voters) can vote for a Republican candidate who might be 'right' on the issue of abortion but woefully wrong on other issues. In my interactions with fellow pro-lifers especially Catholic pro-lifers I have heard that Republicans are pro-life on abortion but anti-life on other issues; they hate the poor.

Democrats often provide the opposite extreme. They love the poor and provide the "right" programs for the downtrodden but are wrong on abortion. The pro-life voter then must weigh his issues and through some political calculus decide which candidate to vote for. More often than not it is pro-abortion Democrat. Naturally, I am brought to this theme after last week's town hall meetings. The 2000 Presidential election will again bring this dilemma to pro-life voters.

It is a dilemma that I would like to investigate more deeply. To begin let us assume that the supposed dilemma is legitimate. Let us grant liberal pro-lifers the argument that Republicans hate the poor. (I suggest doing this only for purposes of argument not because I agree with them.) How is the pro-lifer to vote in the 2000 election?

Last week the vehemently pro-abortion Bill Bradley spoke of offering 'big solutions to big problems.' If Bradley were to be elected, the history of politics and especially that of the Republican congress teaches us that those big solutions would likely soon become small or non-existent solutions. Paradoxically politics has the strange habit of staying the same even while the actors change. Now if a Republican were to be elected in 2000 his anti-poor schemes would likely find themselves stagnated in much the same manner. The change promised by either of the two parties is not likely to be that great. In fact the differences between the solutions offered by the parties might be so slight that they could be imperceptible.

But there is one great divide which should more clearly illuminate the side which the pro-lifer is inclined to take. Professor Richard Garnett of Notre Dame University Law School writes, "Not only will the next president appoint hundreds of federal trial and appellate judges, he or she will likely appoint the successors to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and Justice John Paul Stevens." This fact--that the next president will have an important hand in shaping the judiciary and thus the legal philosophy which rules the country--should hit the pro-life voter like a ton of bricks (and I suppose those on the other side in the same manner).

With a Democratic president there is not a snowball's chance in hell that judges who adhere to a strict view of the Constitution and believe that the American people can decide for themselves whether or not abortion should be legal will be nominated. Rather the judiciary will be packed with judges who agree with the 1994 Supreme Court Casey decision that "at the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." As Professor Garnet points out, "if the next president fills the Supreme Court vacancies with Casey-style philosopher-kings, and packs the lower federal courts with mystery-passage jurists, the courts will surely continue to stymie all meaningful efforts to limit and regulate abortion, including gruesome partial-birth abortions, and they could well create, new life-threatening rights, like the right to assisted suicide." At the present partial-birth abortion bans are being struck down right and left for their unconstitutionality. This trend will only quicken with a Democratic president. And a whole host of other legal fictions will begin to filter into our jurisprudence.

This is not to say that a Republican president will guarantee a better judiciary. Mistakes happen. George Bush's tenure and his nomination of New Hampshire son Justice David Souter make this painfully obvious. But a Republican president certainly gives the pro-life position a fighting chance. At least some or even most of a Republican president's appointments would read the Constitution and be able to find no right to abortion within its text; at least some of his appointments would be authentically pro-choice, that is they would agree that the American people within their states should be allowed to choose what limits they will place on abortion; at least some of his appointments would agree that theirs is not the power to make laws but to interpret laws. This cannot be said about a Democratic candidate.

I can anticipate one other typical pro-life objection to voting Republican. This is the objection that Republicans are pro-death penalty and thus not consistently pro-life. (Let us grant for the sake of argument that to be pro-life one must be against the death penalty; I myself believe the death penalty should be abolished though I disagree that it is intrinsically evil as abortion is.) This sort of argument makes great sense at the State level where questions of the death penalty are constantly brought to bear in legislatures. However, the federal death penalty is not a pressing issue in Congress. A Republican president who supports the death penalty would thus not be a likely block to pro-life death penalty legislation. The death penalty is simply not on the radar screen of federal issues.

The 2000 Elections are a pivotal election. They are not pivotal however because of their political implications but rather because of their implications for the judiciary. For pro-lifers and those who are authentically pro-choice the choice on election day is less tricky than they might think. By voting Democrat one will ensure that the people have no authentic choice in limiting and regulating one of the most common 'medical procedures'. By voting Republican one will greatly increase the chances that the heinous crime of partial-birth abortion is eliminated and will help to give millions of unborn children a chance at life.