NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade didn’t pass without nearly every presidential candidate stating either their opposition to or support of the controversial ruling and, by extension, underscoring the significance of this year’s race.
Every major candidate with the exception of Republican Rudy Giuliani — whose pro-choice position is unpopular within his party — released statements Jan. 22 that broke along party lines. The two leading Democrats, in fact, seemed to be battling to see who could be more pro-choice.
In her statement Democrat Hillary Clinton said she was “reaffirming” her commitment to legal abortion.
“When I’m President,” she said, “I will appoint judges to our courts who understand that Roe v. Wade isn’t just binding legal precedent, it is the touchstone of our reproductive freedom, the embodiment of our most fundamental rights, and no one — no judge, no governor, no Senator, no President — has the right to take it away.”
Democrat Barack Obama has made unity a major theme of his campaign, although his statement on Roe left little room for pro-lifers. His statement referred to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act that was upheld by the Supreme Court, although he avoided using the term “partial-birth” and instead called the law the “Federal Abortion Ban.”
“Thirty-five years after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, it’s never been more important to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Obama said. “Last year, the Supreme Court decided by a vote of 5-4 to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban, and in doing so undermined an important principle of Roe v. Wade: that we must always protect women’s health. With one more vacancy on the Supreme Court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a women’s fundamental right to choose for the first time since Roe v. Wade. The next president may be asked to nominate that Supreme Court justice. That is what is at stake in this election.
“Throughout my career,” Obama continued, “I’ve been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.”
John Edwards, running third in polls among Democrats, said the “hard right turn of the Supreme Court is a stark reminder of why Democrats cannot afford to lose the 2008 election. Too much is at stake — starting with a woman’s right to choose.”
This is the first presidential campaign since the court upheld a law that bars a specific late-term abortion procedure that involves aborting the baby while part of it is outside the birth canal. With partial-birth abortion, a baby is delivered feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor then pierces the base of the infant’s skull with surgical scissors, inserts a catheter into the opening and suctions out the brain, allowing a dead delivery. One nurse who witnessed such a procedure said she saw the baby’s fingers “clasping and unclasping” and feet “kicking” prior to the procedure being completed.
All total, between 45-50 million unborn babies have been killed since Roe was issued.
On the Republican side, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney all released statements saying they hope to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
McCain’s statement said he has been a “strong supporter of the right to life movement” since being elected to Congress in 1982. He noted he has adopted two children and said he believes Roe was a “tragic” decision and wrongly decided. U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, who has endorsed McCain, read the statement on behalf of McCain at the March for Life rally in Washington D.C.
“If I am fortunate enough to be elected as the next President of the United States, I pledge to you to be a loyal and unswerving friend of the right to life movement,” McCain’s statement read. “The pro-life movement appeals to the best instincts within each and every one of us. In that regard, our pro-life cause will ultimately be successful.”
Huckabee called Roe a “great American tragedy” that has led to the “loss of millions of innocent lives.” He also pledged to work for passage of a human life amendment to the Constitution if elected.
“My convictions regarding the sanctity of life have always been clear and consistent, without equivocation or wavering,” Huckabee said. “I believe that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. I applaud those who are marching in Washington and elsewhere to call attention yet again to this terrible injustice…. I will march with them next year if I am elected president. As president, I pledge that I will continue the fight so that every child can have his or her God-given right to life.”
Romney said he supports the work of those who are “creating a genuine culture of life.”
“After 35 years of Roe v. Wade, we are again reminded why this decision should be overturned,” Romney said. “We recognize the worth and dignity of every person, a fact that is ingrained in our hearts and etched in our national purpose. Unelected judges should not be the final arbiters on these important decisions which define who we are as a people.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is not running for president but whose position is on the line with all 435 representatives up for election, also released a statement supporting Roe.
“On this day in 1973, the Supreme Court recognized that a woman has the power and fundamental right to choose what happens to her body and, by extension, her future,” Pelosi said. “I will continue to fight for the right to choose, for safe and quality reproductive health care, comprehensive and medically sound reproductive education, and access to contraception in the United States and abroad.”
Of the nine Supreme Court justices, only two (Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia) are on record as opposing Roe. However, pro-lifers hope President Bush’s two appointees (Samuel Alito and John Roberts) would vote against Roe if given such a chance. The court’s two oldest justices (John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) support Roe.
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press.