Giuliani's choice, and the GOP's

May 16, 2007|By CAL THOMAS

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Republican presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani picked the Friday before Mother's Day to tell students at Houston Baptist University that although he "hates" abortion and finds it "morally wrong," one must leave the ultimate decision to a pregnant woman.

Mr. Giuliani is betting his post-9/11 image and economic conservatism will be enough to win him the nomination in a party that has not nominated a pro-choice Republican since Gerald R. Ford in 1976. It doesn't help that Mr. Giuliani also embraces the gay rights political agenda and stronger gun control.

Imagine a Democrat telling his (or her) party what Mr. Giuliani said in his Houston speech: "If we don't find a way of uniting around broad principles that will appeal to a large segment of this country ... we are going to lose this election." Would the Democratic Party drop its zealous support of abortion on demand, or its religious zeal over global warming, or its commitment to higher taxes and bigger government? No way! Only Republicans are supposed to compromise their principles and ignore - as liberals do - 40 million-plus dead babies.

If Mr. Giuliani believes this, how does he explain Ronald Reagan's two terms and the presidency of once pro-choice but then pro-life George H.W. Bush? The consistently pro-life position of the current President Bush did not keep him from winning two terms.

There is only one reason to "hate" abortion and that is that it ends a human life after it has begun but before it has a chance to reach its potential. People who hated segregation did not sit back and, because of opposing views, do nothing to stop it.

If Mr. Giuliani really hates abortions, he will propose steps to reduce their number. If he wants to split the difference on this most contentious social issue - maintaining choice while reducing the number of abortions - he could favor "truth in labeling" legislation similar to a federal law that requires information on bottles, packages and cans.

Sophisticated ultrasound machines have been shown to contribute to a sharp reduction in abortions for abortion-minded women. Such a proposal would allow him a rarity in politics: to have it both ways.

Should Mr. Giuliani manage to win the nomination - still a dubious prospect given his social liberalism - and should he face New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the general election, social conservatives would be faced with a choice. Mr. Giuliani has promised to name "strict constructionist" judges to the Supreme Court, which is where this issue will ultimately be decided. Would social conservatives be satisfied with such a pledge; or would they stay home and not vote, allowing Mrs. Clinton to win?

One can be sure any judges Mrs. Clinton names would have to pass an abortion "litmus test." No Supreme Court justice nominated by a modern Democratic president has voted pro-life, but several justices named by Republicans have voted pro-choice.

It is no guarantee that electing a Republican president will produce pro-life justices, but it is a virtual certainty that no judge nominated by a Democratic president will disappoint the pro-choice lobby.

Here is the problem for social conservatives who view abortion as the ultimate issue. If they vote for Mr. Giuliani, can they ever "go back," or will their political virginity be forever compromised? If they vote for Mr. Giuliani and he makes good on his promise to name only strict constructionists, will they be closer to achieving their objective of stopping most abortions? Should they stay home, and a Democrat wins and names two or three liberal justices, their goal of halting - or at least sharply reducing - abortions may be pushed back for at least a generation.

Mr. Giuliani could offer a plan to substantially reduce the number of abortions, which might cut him some slack with pro-life voters.

But voters also have a choice among other GOP candidates, who are pro-life. If they're thinking about supporting Mr. Giuliani, they can wait until he tells them more.

Cal Thomas' syndicated column appears Wednesdays in The Sun. His e-mail is calthomas@tribune.com.

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