Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not really on our side

With all of the Planned Parenthood/Lila Rose/vote to defund news having died down somewhat as we wait to see whether the defunding will actually proceed or die in the Senate, I thought this article was a timely reminder of why some of us don't really trust the Republicans on issues dealing with abortion and contraception:
Trends within politics rarely occur in a vacuum. Instead, they develop within a broader ideological and historical context, which accounts for individual elected officials’ political motivations to this very day. Planned Parenthood, for instance, has always enjoyed the support of a notable component of the Republican Party, especially its moderate or Rockefeller wing, comprised of influential Establishment elitists, internationalists, and environmentalists.

The seven Republicans who voted in favor of retaining federal funding for Planned Parenthood, in addition to Senators Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe, all hail from this tradition. Beyond their obvious support for pro-choice causes, these individuals are also characterized by a commitment to centrist policies and fiscal largesse — all indicative of their opposition to the principles of traditional, constitutional government.

Ever since its earliest days, Planned Parenthood has counted among its supporters prominent members of the Republican Party. As early as 1942, Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush (picture, above)[picture at link: E.M.], grandfather of President George W. Bush, was a supporter of Margaret Sanger’s American Birth Control League, and in 1947, served as the treasurer for the first national campaign for Planned Parenthood. The political repercussions hit hard. Prescott Bush was knocked out of an expected victory for a Senate seat in Connecticut in 1950 after syndicated columnist Drew Pearson declared that it "has been made known" that Bush was a leader in the "Birth Control Society" (the original name of Planned Parenthood was the Birth Control Federation of America). Prescott Bush won a Senate seat two years later, and his son George and daughter-in-law Barbara continued to support Planned Parenthood even after George's election to Congress from Texas. In fact, he was such an advocate for family planning that some House colleagues nicknamed him "Rubbers."

In addition, Prescott’s son George H.W. also supported family planning efforts while serving as a Texas congressman. President George H.W. Bush was best known for his opposition to Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economics, rooted in the free-market ideas of Hayek and Friedman, deriding the conservative Reagan as a proponent of “voodoo economics.” He wrote a constituent in 1970: “I introduced legislation earlier this year which would provide federal funds for research in family planning devices and increased services to people who need them but cannot afford them. We must help our young people become aware of the fact that families can be planned and that there are benefits economically and socially to be derived from small families.” ("George Bush to Mrs. Jim Hunter, Jr., Oct. 23, 1970" [Virginia B. Whitehill Papers, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University].)

The author spends some time talking about Barry Goldwater's support for abortion and his wife's involvement with Planned Parenthood, before continuing with present-day Republicans:

Romney has flip-flopped egregiously on the question of abortion. In 2002, he announced that he supported a “woman’s right to choose,” and in 1994, said he supported Roe v. Wade. Later that year, according to the Boston Herald, he "came down more firmly in the abortion rights camp,” declaring his support for the "morning after" pill and a federal bill protecting visitors to health clinics from anti-abortion violence. In a debate later that year against Ted Kennedy, Romney said that he had supported abortion rights consistently since 1970 when his mother Lenore ran as a pro-abortion rights candidate for the U.S. Senate in Michigan. He linked his support for abortion rights to the death "many years ago" of a "dear, close family relative" following a botched illegal abortion. "You will not see me wavering on that," he added.

Later in 2002, Romney claimed he would "preserve and protect" abortion rights in Massachusetts, and told activists from NARAL Pro Choice America that “you need someone like me in Washington," according to notes taken by a member of NARAL. NARAL officials interpreted this as a reference to his national political ambitions. In addition, he answered "yes" in a questionnaire from Planned Parenthood in 2002 on whether he would support "efforts to increase access to emergency contraception."

Read the whole article here.

There's a reason why some Catholics are starting to realize that neither party is really all that committed to protecting and preserving human life from conception until natural death. True, there are pro-life Republicans who are also opposed to IVF, ESCR, and similar evils--but almost nobody opposes governmental funding and distribution of contraception. It is taken for granted that it is an unqualified good to keep certain segments of the population from reproducing, even if they have to have free pills, shots, or condoms to decrease their reproduction to socially acceptable levels.

We may, at times, form alliances with Republicans to achieve some of our pro-life goals--and that's fine. That's politics. But we're being stunningly naive if we believe that the vast majority of Republicans share our committment to the protection of unborn human life, or will work with us on issues like ESCR--or even to end the funding of Planned Parenthood. Plenty of Republicans think birth control is morally good, and that it's especially good when being used to keep the American underclasses from becoming too numerous.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

My mother is a life-long Republican, although there aren't many left in the party she can hold her nose long enough to vote for, and for many years a Planned Parenthood volunteer, long before Roe v. Wade. I wouldn't call her a Rockefeller Republican, she's too unique an individual to categorize that way, and with her mother working to support three girls after their father died of a heart attack, she wouldn't have gone to college if she hadn't won a scholarship (in those days, based on scores on a qualifying exam).

The reason Mitt Romney pandered to Planned Parenthood while running for governor of Massachusetts is the same reason Al Gore professed to be pro-life when running for congress from Tennessee. It was the way to get elected, by the voters each was appealing to. A weak foundation for reliable progress from any point of view? Most certainly. Both of them shifted gears when running for president? Yeah, they had to appeal to different crowds in order to win.

But what seems to escape the author is, there is not, and never has been a solid majority of citizens and voters prepared to support an across-the-board pro-life legislative program. This isn't about an out-of-touch elite frustrating the Will of the People. This is about a variety of out-of-touch elites who have their own agendas, and a voting population that isn't strongly moved to fully endorse any of them.

Those seven Republicans obviously feel that their vote to continue funding Planned Parenthood will stand them in good stead with the voters they rely on to re-elect them. They may well be right. Remember what happened when a Republican legislative majority in South Dakota passed a law that posed a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade? The same electorate that put those legislators in office voted, 55% to45%, to repeal the law.

Those who consider themselves to be "pro-life" might as well recognize that, for all the power of lobbying organizations, particularly in crafting the fine print, without an enduring pro-life majority in the electorate, the pro-life program is not going anywhere on the statute books. That is, in my seldom humble opinion, a good thing.

The Cottage Child said...

Dear Siarlys, you wrote:

"This is about a variety of out-of-touch elites who have their own agendas, and a voting population that isn't strongly moved to fully endorse any of them."

I know we don't agree on much, but this statement is beyond argument.
Even those of us who identify as Catholic cannot agree on who is the least-not-pro-life in any given election. It's really sad.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Maybe elections aren't the best way to resolve who is or isn't pro life, or how to be pro life. Remember the idea of limited government was that some things just aren't made better by government intervention. I know the argument "Do you want to legalize post-partum murder as well?" I know this is not one of the things we agree on. But there is a pretty overwhelming consensus on post-partum murder, and there isn't on abortion.

One benefit is that nobody's heartfelt principles would be riding on finding a political candidate, or party, or platform, to carry the day.