Yet Another Stab at Abortion Policy

Dr. Malcolm Cross

Last week former President Trump announced that he would support the right of each state to determine its own policy on abortion rather than push for any federally imposed limits on abortion.  His now preferred policy is legally sound, but it’s unlikely to sufficiently ease the Republicans’ weak public opinion standing on the issue.  Trump should supplement his “states’ rights” position on abortion with federal “pro-life-plus measures as well which, one hopes, will help defuse abortion policy as a national obsession and let us make more progress in meeting other dangerous challenges to the United States and the world.

Trump’s newly-announced states’ rights approach to abortion is consistent with the writings of the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and current Associate Justice Samuel Alito:  Both have argued that since the U. S. Constitution makes no mention of abortion, the federal government has no authority to dictate abortion policy to the states, and that each state has the right to develop any abortion policy it chooses.  

But this policy, whatever its virtues, keeps the Republican Party in a politically weak position.  After all, it has something to offend almost everyone:  Former Vice President Mike Pence, a Christian conservative, has said the policy is a “slap in the face” of committed pro-lifers, who want a federally imposed abortion ban, while pro-choice Democrats want the federal government to prevent any ban at all on abortion.  A policy which allows some states to ban abortion under almost any circumstance while allowing others to allow abortion under most, if not all, circumstances pleases nobody.

Abortion is one of the few issues in which the Democratic position is more popular than the Republican position:  Americans overwhelmingly oppose any ban on abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy. It’ll be only natural for Democrats to emphasize abortion in the presidential campaign.  Indeed, to refuse to do so would be political malpractice.

Likewise, it would be political malpractice for Trump and the GOP to fail to exploit public dissatisfaction with President Biden’s policies on the economy, inflation, crime, immigration and border security.  Successful exploitation may mitigate, to at least some degree, the Democratic advantage on abortion.

But to further blunt the Democratic abortion advantage, the Republicans should promote a pro-life-plus policy agenda, to be implemented at all levels of government: Federal, state, and local.  As I’ve written before, Trump and the GOP should support the research, development, implementation, and financing of more effective birth control and sex education policies, and prenatal, neonatal, and family-friendly child care policies as well.  Doing so will help answer the Democrats’ (not altogether unjustified) jibe that the GOP is pro-life for only the first nine months of a child’s existence.  Moreover, truly effective sex education and birth control polices may produce a sharp drop in unwanted pregnancies to be ended in abortion.  Should abortion rates fall, the sound and the fury over abortion may diminish as well—to the overall benefit of the American political system.

In addition to the abortion issue, America faces numerous other dangerous challenges as well:  The ascendancy and growing aggressiveness of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran; the out-of-control national debt produced by bipartisan fiscal irresponsibility; and the seemingly intractable and ongoing conflicts over race, ethnicity, and gender, to name just a few.  Whatever even partially defuses abortion policy as a national obsession may produce more time, energy, and effort to meet the ongoing challenges we face.  

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

1 Comment

  1. Pro-abortion and anti-abortion critics of the Trump and GOP position miss the point — the Constitution as currently written is silent on abortion as a Federal responsibility.
    If you want to make abortion the law of the land then you should work with like-minded citizens and change the Constitution under provisions of Article 5.
    If you want to prohibit abortion all across the country then you should work with like-minded citizens and change the Constitution under provisions of Article 5.
    Both sides are demanding that the President act unilaterally in an unconstitutional manner and if we believe in self government then we have to work together and use Article 5 to make the Constitution read the way we want it to.

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