ARLINGTON, Va. -- For Republicans, Social Security has been the untouchable third rail, at least until President Bush promised reformation by transformation.
For Democrats, the third rail has been abortion -- no exceptions, no restrictions, no compromise. Now some Democrats sound as if they might be willing to alter their fundamentalist position on abortion in order to stop their electoral hemorrhaging and start winning elections again. Could they be serious?
In a Dec. 23 New York Times story headlined "Democrats Weigh De-emphasizing Abortion as an Issue," several prominent Democrats suggest their party should at least open its doors to abortion opponents and make abortion less central in future party campaigns.
Some party leaders said Democrats might embrace at least one restriction, such as parental notification before a minor girl can get an abortion. Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, said, "Even I have trouble explaining to my family that we are not about killing babies."
Maybe the reason she is having trouble is because that is precisely what is happening. More than 40 million children have been killed legally in America since the Supreme Court imposed Roe vs. Wade on the nation 32 years ago next month.
Democrats seem unconcerned that so many discarded members of the human family are not with us. These were 40 million taxpayers for new Democrat programs; at least 20 million women, some of whom might have become feminists and Democrat voters; 40 million people, one of whom might have discovered a cure for cancer or other dread diseases; 40 million once regarded as "inconvenient," but surely not if they would have been allowed to be born; 40 million branches of family trees who will, themselves, never bear fruit and whose lines have been cut off.
Comments by Democrats trying to get back into the "moral issues" game are revealing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Republicans had "been successful at painting the view of the pro-choice movement as abortion on demand -- and nothing can be farther from the truth." Perhaps the senator might wish to explain her voting record, which to a fair reader might prove abortion on demand is precisely what she favors.
Ms. Feinstein voted "No" on a criminal penalty for harming an unborn fetus during a crime (March 2004), voted "No" on banning partial-birth abortions except for risk to maternal life (March 2003, October 1999) and voted "No" on maintaining the ban on military abortions (June 2000). Ms. Feinstein was recommended by the liberal EMILY's List of pro-choice women (April 2001). She received a 100 percent rating by NARAL for her pro-choice voting record (December 2003).
If the public perceives that the Democratic Party favors abortion on demand, it is because of senators (and many other Democrats in Congress) like Ms. Feinstein who have not done anything to curtail abortion.
There is only one reason to restrict abortion, and that is because what is being killed is a human being. Any other "reason" seeks to invoke a moral standard one has just denied.
There is a way Democrats can do something about their image and still remain "pro-choice." They can back laws requiring women to receive full disclosure before receiving an abortion. We do this with automobiles, food and bank loans. Consumers benefit from laws designed to give them information so their choices will be educated. Why do so many pregnant women lack information about the procedure and alternatives?
Over the last 30 years, I have spoken to hundreds of post-abortive women. They say they would not have had abortions if they had known more about the procedure, such as sonograms and information about adoption and pregnancy help centers that care for the woman and baby before and after birth.
What would be wrong with laws that empower women through additional information, even while abortion remains legal?
If Democrats won't back empowerment by informing women seeking an abortion -- at least as much basic information as they receive at the Motor Vehicle Administration before the state issues a license to drive -- one can only conclude that the party's reported interest in changing its image is based not on convictions, but on political pragmatism. If that is their game, they will deservedly continue to lose elections.
Cal Thomas's syndicated column appears Wednesdays in The Sun.