Political Hay

Planned Politics

The privileged position pro-abortion groups enjoyed in the Democratic Party after scalping Robert Bork has eroded considerably.

By 8.12.05

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Under the pressure of shifting popular opinion, cracks between pro-abortion groups and the Democratic Party are widening. The cracks became visible after John Kerry lost "values voters" to George Bush, prompting prominent Democrats to begin their crawl away from organizations like NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Kerry and Hillary Clinton, among others, distanced themselves from the party's customary and straightforward enthusiasm for abortion on demand. Hillary Clinton was so bewildered by Kerry's defeat on moral issues that she even started speaking of a rapprochement with pro-lifers.

This drew gasps and head shaking from a group of pro-abortion activists who listened to her shortly after the election instruct them that "We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic, choice to many, many women." Abortion is a tragedy? This was not what the crowd wanted to hear. After the speech, Martha Stahl, director of public relations and marketing for Northern Adirondack Planned Parenthood, disputed the description of abortion as a tragedy, telling the New York Times that "we see women express relief more than anything else that they have the freedom to choose."

Now the cracks are spreading more as the nomination of John Roberts puts additional strain on skittish Democrats whose pollsters are telling them that NARAL and Planned Parenthood make them look like the evil party. NARAL's decision to go for Roberts' jugular in an ad depicting him as a cheerleader for abortion clinic bombings has Democrats who used to pander to the group suddenly willing to criticize it. Almost treating the group like the left-wing equivalent of Operation Rescue, Democrats this week let it be known that NARAL is "intemperate."

"As a pro-choice person, I don't like being placed on the defensive by my leaders. NARAL should pull [the ad] and move on," said Frances Kissling, president of the sham group Catholics for a Free Choice. Kissling was speaking to the New York Times, which, sensing like the Democrats that popular opinion is cutting against cultural liberalism, has taken upon itself the task of policing the unseemly excesses of social liberals. NARAL's ad attacking Roberts had caused, sniffed the Times, "considerable uneasiness" within "the larger liberal coalition of which NARAL is a part."

The privileged position NARAL and other pro-abortion groups enjoyed after scalping Robert Bork has eroded considerably. The Democrats have long been leery of the impolitic antics of these groups but they didn't object during the Bork confirmation because their propaganda stunts were polling well.

In an interview last year, NARAL's former president Kate Michelman said that she "brought a pollster aboard in 1987 when Robert Bork was nominated to the Supreme Court and the larger civil rights and progressive community was a little worried about the abortion issue becoming a divisive one in the campaign to defeat him. I had to effectively demonstrate that you can talk about the right to choose in a way that brings people together -- you could demonstrate the threat that a Robert Bork poses to fundamental rights by mobilizing around the right to privacy and the right to choose as values. I had to prove that and I did."

NARAL can't make this case anymore. It is no coincidence that DLC-style Democrats were openly critical of NARAL's agitprop this week just days after one of their favorite pollsters, Stanley Greenberg, informed them that the party is alienating swing voters on moral issues to the point that any advantage Democrats enjoy over Republicans on economic issues is nullified. Greenberg (and fellow pollster Karl Agne) had to tell the Democrats that the poor, uneducated voters they once took for granted are on to them. "Most referred to Democrats as 'liberal' on issues of morality, but some even go so far as to label them 'immoral,' 'morally bankrupt,' or even 'anti-religious,'" according to Greenberg's analysis quoted in the Washington Post.

The controversy NARAL is trying to whip up would take the Democrats deeper into the culture war Greenberg tells them that they are losing. "As powerful as the concern over these issues is," say Greenberg and Agne in a patronizing nod to the true believers of the party, "the introduction of cultural themes -- specifically gay marriage, abortion, the importance of the traditional family unit and the role of religion in public life -- quickly renders them almost irrelevant in terms of electoral politics at the national level."

If the Bork nomination cemented pro-abortion power in the Democratic Party, the Roberts nomination is hastening its crack-up.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.