News Articles

FIRST-PERSON: ‘Mainstream’ is defined at the ballot box

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (BP)–There’s a Rolling Stone-style irony about what liberal groups are demanding of Judge Samuel Alito. While they may not get what they want –- they will get what we need.

What do they purport to want? “Mainstream.” The coalition of groups against Alito objects to him on the grounds that America needs a “mainstream nominee.” What they are of course really asking for –- among other things -– is someone who will uphold Roe v. Wade and keep abortion law as is -– no restrictions whatsoever. Senate Judiciary Democrats have already made it clear that supporting Roe is a “mainstream” must-have. Sen. Richard Durbin (Ill.) says Alito’s abortion track record “raises troubling questions.” Sen. Edward Kennedy (Mass.) is “genuinely troubled” over it.

Clearly, with Judge Alito, they are not getting what they want.

Despite the intensity of demands from feminists like NOW’s “Enraged and Engaged” Coalition, in Alito, we are likely to get for America what it needs and what it asked for in the 2004 election. The Susan B. Anthony List saw this as particularly true for women in our electoral successes and mobilization efforts. So, if what these Anti-Alito feminist groups want is mainstream rulings on abortion law, then America will be well served if Alito is confirmed.

Why? We know so far that Alito will not pledge to uphold Roe, just as he won’t predict exactly how he’ll rule on future cases. If there is any chance that the will of mainstream America, which is trending pro-life, will find its way into abortion law, then the genuine mainstream will be served by having Alito on the high court. Rolling Stones aside, the real and laughable irony here is that the anti-Alito crowd insists on a mainstream nominee with the hope that mainstream reasonable restrictions on abortion will never become law.

But again, reasonable restrictions are what America asked for on Election Day 2004. The American political landscape has been and is increasingly trending in a pro-life direction. This is also true of American women. The ballot box reflects the mainstream better than any other instrument in our democracy, and it has spoken. The numbers from Election Day 2004 say this: Pro-life voters outvoted pro-abortion voters, and pro-life women outvoted pro-abortion women.

This is clear in the Senate results. Of the nine new senators elected, seven are pro-life. It could not have been made clearer in the election that the Senate would be the decision center for the direction of the nation’s courts on abortion law. And in the House –- the chamber most responsive to public opinion because of its short election cycle, 20 of the 38 new representatives elected in 2004 are pro-life. One reason pro-life candidates may have fared so well in the last election has to do with the fact that voters see their votes overturned time and again on abortion.

In 2003, Congress passed and President Bush signed a mainstream initiative — the partial birth abortion ban. The ban was supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans –- and according to a July 2005 Quinnipiac poll, 77 percent of American women support such a ban. But is this mainstream law now being enforced? No, like a host of other reasonable restrictions on abortion, it has swum downstream with Roe and is headed for a second Supreme Court review. The Supreme Court struck down state partial birth abortion bans in 2000 and now is slated to review the federal law passed in 2003. The question is –- will mainstream electoral and legislative opinion on the matter be allowed to prevail or will the courts again block the will of the people?

Senator Dianne Feinstein, D.-Calif., does American women no favors in presuming to speak for us on the abortion issue. Women are more pro-life than pro-abortion. The evidence? Take for example the Susan B. Anthony List’s polling in eight targeted presidential battleground states with tight Senate races. It showed that abortion moved inconsistent women voters more than any other issue. Women mobilized to vote on that issue voted for Bush over Kerry in six of those eight states. And in the Florida, Louisiana and Missouri targeted Senate races, women supported the pro-life candidate over the pro-abortion candidate.

In that same 2004 election, 77 percent of candidates supported by the Susan B. Anthony List because of their pro-life position won their races. Compare that to our far wealthier nemesis, EMILY’s List, whose win record was a mere 33 percent. (Susan B. Anthony List’s goal is to increase the percentage of pro-life women in Congress. EMILY’s List does the same for pro-abortion women.)

Opinion polls consistently bear out this trend among Americans, among women and young women in particular. Seventy percent of high school senior girls polled in a January 2005 Hamilton College/Zogby poll said they “would not consider abortion if they became pregnant.” Mainstream opinion is not in sync with Roe v Wade, which allows for any abortion at any time during pregnancy for any reason.

What women and all Americans need is to be allowed the uniquely democratic privilege of enacting authentic mainstream legislation on an issue that touches millions of women and most families intimately at one point or another. It must be said that in 2006 America, the following statement is true: All Americans, including American women, are not getting any satisfaction out of the democratic process when it comes to our nation’s abortion laws. Time to get what we want and need.
Marjorie Dannenfelser is the president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. The organization is named for the famous suffragist, who was pro-life.

    About the Author

  • Marjorie Dannenfelser