- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 2, 2007

Too often, modern political campaigns focus on a candidate’s ability to spin words into quick soundbites rather than any consistent and meaningful worldview. By relying on 30-second commercials, made-for-TV debates and well-orchestrated “town hall meetings,” candidates often can deliver highly polished packages intended to camouflage what they really believe.

An example of this phenomenon is on display in former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s effort to tap dance around the abortion issue. Historically, Mr. Giuliani has been an unabashed supporter of “abortion rights.” Realizing his position might be a liability in a Republican primary, Mr. Giuliani has engaged in political double-speak in an attempt to satisfy the party’s base. Mr. Giuliani’s explanation makes his position all the more inexplicable.

For example, America’s mayor is in the habit of explaining he “personally” thinks abortion is bad — he says he hates it and that it is “morally wrong.” Even though he personally opposes abortion, he does not think it should be legally restricted. Indeed, he thinks it’s a woman’s “right” to have an abortion.

What makes abortion hateful in Mr. Giuliani’s mind? Why is it morally wrong? If it is simply a medical procedure in which a “mass” is removed from a woman’s womb, what’s so bad about that? Mr. Giuliani is certainly suggesting, by saying he “hates” this procedure, that he thinks abortion is more than a typical medical procedure. The fact he says he is personally against it and feels it is morally wrong suggests he knows abortion ends a human life. Why else would he be against it? But, if Mr. Giuliani truly believes innocent life is destroyed by abortion, it is odd he feels there is nothing the government should do about it or that he would call such killing a “woman’s right.” A right to kill innocent life? Isn’t protecting innocent life a primary responsibility of the government?

These are difficult questions that Mr. Giuliani has rarely been forced to confront. At the recent Republican debate in South Carolina, however, Fox News reporter Wendell Goler tried. He asked the mayor: “You have said that you personally hate abortion but support a woman’s right to choose. Gov. Mike Huckabee say’s that’s like saying, ‘I hate slavery, but people can go ahead and practice it.’ Tell me why he’s wrong.” In response, Mr. Giuliani said, “Well, there is no circumstances under which I could possibly imagine anyone choosing slavery or supporting slavery. There are people, millions and millions of Americans, who are as of good conscience as we are, who make a different choice about abortion.”

The problem with Mr. Giuliani’s answer is obvious. There was once a time in America where millions of people found the choice of slavery not only imaginable but entirely acceptable. There was also a time in America when few people would have openly said it is a woman’s right to kill her unborn child. In recent years, however, positions have reversed. Everyone now agrees slavery is morally abhorrent, but there is plenty of disagreement over abortion. Clearly we should not judge what is right and wrong by shifting public opinion.

Mr. Giuliani missed Mr. Huckabee’s point. If slavery is morally wrong, it is always wrong no matter what public opinion polls say. Moral principle demands that we oppose slavery. Likewise, if abortion is wrong, moral principle requires that we oppose it. As Abraham Lincoln said, people do not “have a right to do wrong.” Gov. Huckabee was right; it makes little sense to say you hate slavery but then leave it up to personal opinion.

At the end of the day, Rudy Giuliani’s argument is that, while many voters in the Republican primaries will likely disagree with his views on abortion, they should look past these views and see how conservative he is in other areas. Republicans need to face an important question: Are there issues so central, so morally important, that one cannot in good conscience look past them? If Mr. Giuliani did believe that slavery should be left to personal opinion and that the government had no right poking into this area, would this moral lapse be enough to call into question his whole candidacy? And if he does believe thousands of human lives are systematically destroyed by the abortion industry but is unwilling to stop it, can that sort of moral equivocation be overlooked?

The Republican platform has, for the last 20 years, been clear about the fact that abortion is a violation of human dignity that should not be deemed acceptable in a free society. This strong stance in defense of human dignity has inclined a great many men and women to vote Republican, even when they might not otherwise. This election season, as primary voters consider a slate of presidential contenders that includes candidates either openly opposed to the Republican platform on this issue, or are inconsistent in their support for life, it is time to face the question: How devoted is the GOP to ending a procedure even Rudy Giuliani recognizes as morally wrong and hateful?

The Republican Party’s level of devotion to the right to life will become obvious this election year.


Chairman of the Center for a Just Society.

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