Rhetoric and abortion

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Barack Obama received the endorsement of NARAL Pro-Choice America last week. Both the likely Democratic nominee, Mr. Obama, and the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, are flip-side versions of one another on the abortion issue: Each man’s rhetoric (or lack thereof, in some cases) does not match his record.

Mr. Obama’s record on abortion is radical and extreme — even by the standards of his own party. He voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion and criticized the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ban; he voted against prohibitions on taking a minor across state lines for an abortion; and most appalling of all, he voted against providing legal protection for babies who survive an abortion. Mr. Obama’s inability to recognize the inhumanity of his position staggers pro-lifers: Partial-birth abortion is infanticide because the baby’s brains are extracted during birthing. Mr. Obama does not even support providing legal protection for babies who survive an abortion. For his unbending pro-choice stance, the Illinois senator received a 100 percent score from NARAL in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

However, Mr. Obama has shrewdly anticipated his vulnerability in a general election on this issue and has taken measures to appear more moderate. He has repeatedly stated that he seeks common ground with pro-lifers — especially in finding ways to reduce the number of abortions. He thus supports sex education that includes a curriculum on abstinence. He formed a National Catholic Advisory Council, that consists of prominent Democratic pro-lifers, in order to signal more tolerance in his party. He also cosponsored an abortion-prevention bill in January 2005. He even has a Pro Life Obama group on his Web site consisting of pro-life supporters; they applaud his commitment to reducing the number of abortions. Hence, Mr. Obama has put a silver glove on a barbaric voting record.

Mr. McCain, on the other hand, has been just as shrewd but in the completely opposite sense. He has a stalwart pro-life voting record; this includes deleting family planning grants from spending bills, opposing Medicaid funds for abortions in cases of rape or incest and favoring abstinence-only sex education. It is no wonder that Planned Parenthood has given him a zero lifetime rating.

Yet Mr. McCain has done his pro-life work quietly — and at times has sought to deliberately camouflage his record. He was quoted in The Washington Post saying that “it’s not social issues I care about.” Many pro-lifers wonder whether his heart is in their cause. We do, too. Mr. McCain would be wise to align his rhetoric with his deeds.

Nonetheless, voters have a stark choice in contrasting rhetoric with reality on the abortion question: Mr. Obama speaks loudly but leaves the helpless to die; Mr. McCain says little but extends a merciful hand.

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