New Tapes Reveal President Richard Nixon’s Mixed Views Supporting Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 23, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Tapes Reveal President Richard Nixon’s Mixed Views Supporting Abortion

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 23
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — A new set of audiotapes dating back to the administration of President Richard Nixon reveal his largely unknown position on abortion. The infamous Roe v. Wade decision, which saw the Supreme Court allow virtually unlimited abortions, was handed down during his presidency.

The comments are part of a set of hundreds of hours of previously-unreleased tapes featuring conversations with top staff members during the early part of 1973.

Despite the ramifications of the landmark high court decision, Nixon did not release a public statement about the abortion ruling.

In today’s media-dominated age and an era in which abortion politics plays a central role in determining who becomes the president and shapes his agenda, that is something few observers of the abortion debate could imagine.

The new tapes reveal that, privately, Nixon was largely ambivalent about the historic ruling.

On one hand, the tapes, according to a New York Times report, show Nixon worried that overturning the abortion prohibitions in most states would lead to a “permissiveness,” resulting in significantly higher abortion numbers.

Nixon also worried that “it breaks the family" — a prelude to the strong pro-family movement that has seen groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council help spearhead the pro-life movement.

Yet, Nixon also said he saw the supposed need for abortion in some circumstances.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he counsel Charles Colson, who is now a top pro-life advocate. “Or a rape.”

About the ruling, Nixon says, “This in effect shows the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional state law. The result would be any teenager who “gets knocked up” could get an abortion for "five dollars."

A release from the Nixon library reads: "The President and Colson consider the problem of abortion, its justification, and the implications of the decision on families and sexual mores. They also briefly speculated on the identity of the two justices who dissented from the opinion."

After Nixon resigned in the face of the Watergate scandal, he was replaced by pro-abortion President Gerald Ford.

The first modern-day pro-life president didn’t come until the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, who wrote a book discussing and extending his pro-life views opposing abortion.

Related web sites:
Nixon abortion audio tape (poor quality) –

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