Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Politics of Abortion

The media loves to portray the abortion issue as hurting Republicans. Exit polling though rarely shows the issue as breaking against the GOP. Nonetheless, the belief persists among many that the GOP's pro-life position hurts the party.

As a candidate for the Indiana House in 2000, I learned a lesson I'll never forget regarding the politics of the abortion. I was running for a northwest Indianapolis district against a Democrat incumbent, Jeb Bardon. It was a district that had been Republican when it was originally drawn but had trended heavily Democrat when Bardon first won the district in 1998. In 2000, we tried to win the district back for the Republicans.

The first round was the primary. I was facing the son of the state treasurer, Joyce Brinkman, who had also previously represented the district. Even though I was the endorsed candidate, many people thought I couldn't win against the Brinkman name in the mostly Pike Township district. I went about proving them wrong.

I literally knocked on tens of thousands of doors leading to the primary. In the primary round we, of course, targeted Republican voters. As I would introduce myself and hand the voter literature, I would often get asked questions about an issue or two that was particularly important to that voter. After telling the voter my view, the voter would inevitably respond with his or her take on that issue.

During the Republican Primary round, the question I was asked most often was my opinion on abortion. Now, I certainly consider myself pro-life, a view which originated during a college term paper I wrote on pre-natal life. My research left me with the inescapable conclusion that a fetus is distinctly and unquestionably human life. When I hear people say abortion is just about a blob of cells or one person's right to make a decision about her body, I find their words to be intellectually dishonest. If I believed their premise, I'd support the pro-choice position 100%. But modern science says otherwise. Abortion involves the lives of not one, but two human beings. There is a need to weigh the very real interests involved, to reach a compromise. But unfortunately with the terribly reasoned Roe v. Wade, the Court short-circuited the political process by which we reach compromises in this country.

But I digress. This post is about impact of the abortion issue on candidates running for office. During the primary round, Republican voters asked about the issue of abortion far more than any other issue. Believe it or not, every last Republican who asked me about my view on abortion was pro-life.

As I went into the general election round, concentrating my efforts competely on Independents and weakly-affiliated Democrats, I expected people's approach to the abortion issue to change dramatically from my experience with Republican voters. Once again though the number one question was abortion. And you know what? Every last Independent and weak Democrat who asked me about my position on abortion was pro-life. Unbelievable. And this was not a rural district in Southern Indiana. It was an urban Indianapolis district.

So when people try to say that the abortion issue is really hurting Republicans, I remember that my experience of 2000 tells me otherwise.

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