To say the least, the subject of partial-birth abortion does not inspire the courage of conviction in Democrats. As readers listen to the strident condemnations of this week’s Supreme Court ruling from the likes of Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, keep in mind that these pro-choice lawmakers could begin trying to repeal the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003 tomorrow if they were serious. They control Congress, and the Supreme Court has just deferred to Congress on the issue. But solid majorities of Americans rightly regard partial-birth abortion as barbaric. So, these Democrats, wedged between public revulsion and the hard-left abortion lobby, instead point fingers at the Supreme Court.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the most egregious offender. Along with 15 other Senate Democrats, he actually voted for the bipartisan ban, which passed by a 64-34 margin. But he now presumes to disapprove of this week’s ruling. “I would only say that this is the only decision a lot of us wish that [Justice Samuel] Alito weren’t there and O’Connor were there,” he said. Let us hope Mr. Reid is simply making this up to please EMILY’s List or some other abortion-rights group. Otherwise, it would mean that three-and-a-half years ago, he voted for a law whose constitutionality he doubted. Or, maybe the “wish” is simply that Justice Alito hadn’t put him in such an awkward position. Either way, “Profiles in Courage” this is not.
Sen. Joseph Biden, Delaware Democrat, is not so hypocritical on the subject. Instead, he’s simply hiding. He voted for the ban, too, but is now ducking the phone calls of reporters seeking comment. He looks highly conspicuous. On the other hand, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, also voted for the ban, but with a 100-percent pro-choice 2006 rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, he can be all things to all people this week or simply remain quiet. (He’s chosen the latter.) Don’t forget former Sen. John Edwards, who was one of two absent for the 2003 vote (the other was Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican).
Finally, we return to Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, who deserve some credit for being sufficiently hard-left on partial-birth abortion. Their only additional discredit is their wish that the courts hadn’t returned this issue to the Senate’s doorstep (although Mr. Obama had not yet joined the Senate in 2003).
Republicans are subject to their own political calculations on this issue, but for the most part, hypocrisy is not much involved. Nearly the entire party opposes the gruesomeness of partial-birth abortion, as does the public, and it has acted accordingly. The notable, welcome hypocrite is presidential aspirant and one-time stridently pro-choice Rudy Giuliani, who has been tacking to the right on abortion for months now. He did not disappoint this week when he said that the court “reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial-birth abortion.” If not pretty, it is nevertheless a welcome transformation.
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