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Debate exposes continued GOP moral bankruptcy on abortion
In their first 2024 presidential debate, Republican candidates uniformly argued against the God-given, unalienable nature of the right to life, by saying the lives of unborn children should be left to democratic majorities, arbitrary deadlines, consensus politics, and state “choice.”
The candidates were clearly influenced by Dobbs v. Jackson (2022), and by former president Donald Trump, who in January blamed Republican midterm losses on the lack of abortion exceptions. “It wasn’t my fault that the Republicans didn’t live up to expectations in the MidTerms,” he posted online. “It was the ‘abortion issue,’ poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions.” Trump said trying to save too many babies “lost large numbers of Voters.”
Trump’s unprincipled advice, coupled with the mystifying “democratic process” encouraged in Dobbs, laid the groundwork for the new crop of Republicans to shrug off their constitutional duty to secure the right to life.
In the debate, candidate Nikki Haley took the lead in doing nothing. While claiming the ever-nebulous moniker “pro-life,” Haley advocated not for life but state choice.
Saying abortion is “personal for every woman and man,” Haley appealed to consensus and said she wanted the question of killing little children left “in the hands of the people”—as though the Fourteenth Amendment did not exist.
The Constitution prohibits the federal government and states from denying equal protection to any person. According to the Fourteenth Amendment, the right to life must be secured within the jurisdiction of every state. By the preamble, Article II, and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, the law of the land is clear, and so is the especial duty of the U.S. president to act to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” (Article II, Section 3)
Haley implied that she would ignore these provisions and fail to do the president’s duty to execute the laws to protect life.
Her rejection of law and justice was further displayed when Haley hoped out loud that mothers would never be penalized for killing their unborn children: “Can’t we all agree that we are not going to put a woman in jail or give her the death penalty if she gets an abortion? Let’s treat this like a respectful issue that it is and humanize the situation and stop demonizing the situation.”
Haley apparently considers mothers “dehumanized” and “demonized” if they meet the just consequence of their actions and are lawfully penalized for dehumanizing and murdering their babies.
Ron DeSantis, who signed an insufficient 6-week bill in Florida, went out of his way to avoid any specific promise on abortion, with a nod to state choice: “I understand Wisconsin is going to do it different than Texas. I understand Iowa and New Hampshire are going to do it different, but I will support the cause of life as Governor and as President.”
Mike Pence shook his head at DeSantis, and started to say the right thing: “It’s not a states-only issue. It’s a moral issue.”
But then Pence went against equal protection for every child in the womb, and endorsed false standards of pain and timing: “Can’t we have a minimum standard in every state in the nation that says when a baby is capable of feeling pain, an abortion cannot be allowed? A 15-week ban is an idea whose time has come.”
A 15-week ban—or any other arbitrary timer imposed on the right to life—undermines the argument that children in the womb are persons, and only encourages mothers to more hastily kill their children.
Haley answered Pence with a strange appeal to pro-abortion voters: “Don’t make women feel like they have to decide on this issue when you know we don’t have 60 Senate votes.”
Tim Scott echoed Pence: “We have to have a 15-week agreement.”
Doug Burgum made the most emphatic statement of the night against equal protection: “We should not have a federal abortion ban. We should not.” He said abortion is a “freedom and liberty” issue, and he concluded states should never be restricted on abortion: “Because the feds are stepping into people’s lives. They’re stepping into people’s businesses over and over.”
Asa Hutchinson tried to take both sides: “It is most likely going to be addressed in the states, but it’s certainly fine for it to be addressed at the national level as well.” But he seemed to favor state choice: “Every state can determine a different outcome here.”
In the debate, Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy were not asked about abortion. But, back in June, Christie told CNN he might “take a look at doing something” federally after “all 50 states do it.” Interviewed by CNN in May, Ramaswamy said that “if” abortion is “a form of murder,” then “it is an issue for the states.” “I don’t believe a federal abortion ban makes any sense,” he said.
Trump—facing 91 state and federal felony indictments, along with questions about his constitutional eligibility—skipped the debate on the eve of his arrest for election interference in Georgia.
The former president first entered the arena of presidential politics in 1999, when, as a pro-abortion candidate, he flirted briefly with the Reform Party nomination. At that time, he said, “I am pro-choice in every respect,” even for partial birth abortion. (Meet the Press, October 24, 1999)
Trump then jumped between Democrat, unaffiliated, and Republican identities. By 2011, as his name was floated for 2012, he started calling himself “pro-life,” yet admitted later that “it’s never been my big issue.” (Howard Stern Show, February 6, 2013)
Trump has refused to call abortion “murder.” Even while using the “pro-life” label, he has advocated for exceptions and state choice, and even hinted that women should be able to kill in the earlier terms:
MARK HALPERIN: “Abortion—even in early pregnancy—is murder, do you [agree]?”
DONALD TRUMP: “No. What I’m saying is with caveats. Life of the mother, incest, rape. That’s where I stand. So I’m ‘pro-life’ with the caveats.”
HALPERIN: “So, say a woman is pregnant, and it’s not in any of those exception categories, and she chooses to have an abortion, should she—”
TRUMP: “It depends when. It depends when. It depends when.”
(Donald Trump to Mark Halperin of Bloomberg, January 24, 2015)
A year later, Trump backed out of another chance to call abortion murder, and said, “I have my opinions on that, but I would rather not say.” (Face the Nation, April 1, 2016)
Seeking the nomination in 2016, Trump indicated he had no agenda to protect life as president: “the laws are set on abortion, and I think we have to leave it that way.”
He punted, saying: “I would have preferred states’ rights. I think it would have been better if it were up to the states.”
The Constitution does not leave the question of whether to protect innocent life up to the states. It demands that all the states give posterity the “equal protection of the laws.”
After more than half a century of nonfeasance, the U.S. president must take the lead—with exquisite clarity—to defend unborn human life, without exception, and use the power of his office to compel state governments to fulfill the Constitution’s demand for equal protection.
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