John McCain Faces Criticism Over His Call for Abortion Truce

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 27, 2012   |   2:56PM   |   Washington, DC

Senator John McCain, the former presidential candidate, is facing criticism from pro-life advocates over his call for a truce on abortion.

McCain is under the mistaken notion that the abortion issue cost Republicans the 2012 presidential election and that pro-life advocates should state their views and then be quiet.

“As far as young women are concerned, absolutely, I don’t think anybody like me — I can state my position on abortion but, other than that, leave the issue alone, when we are in the kind of economic situation and, frankly, national-security situation that we’re in,” he said over the weekend. “I would allow people to have those opinions and respect those opinions. I’m proud of my pro-life position and record. But if someone disagrees with me, I respect your views.”

Writing at National Review, Frank Cannon & Jeffrey Bell say McCain’s comments are at odds with how he pursues other issues, such as foreign policy.

For McCain, this represents a very different moral calculus from his criticisms of the Obama administration’s handling of the terrorist attack on U. S. personnel in Benghazi. With Benghazi the larger principle is that when U. S. personnel stationed abroad come under attack, the government must make every effort to come to their aid and protect them. Expressing sympathy with brave Americans under assault is not enough; we should have executed a plan to try to save their lives in a timely fashion.

On abortion, McCain apparently believes Republicans should maintain a broadly pro-life position. But when considering what to do to protect the unborn, whom pro-lifers by definition believe to be innocent human beings, no action plan should be adopted, much less executed. McCain implies that the very subject of protecting the unborn should be avoided. If it is brought up, we should admit to being pro-life, but emphasize how much we respect the opinions of those who believe unborn babies deserve no protection whatsoever.

We find it puzzling why McCain believes such a stance would improve Republican election chances or even enhance respect for Republicans among our opponents.

We would reveal to tens of millions of social-conservative voters that Republicans will never lift a finger on behalf of human life, even though we supposedly share their view of the issue. We would at the same time be telling them and everyone else that, whenever Republicans express a principle, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether we care enough to act on it.

It is utterly predictable that when Republicans lose still another presidential election, social issues will be singled out as a major cause of defeat — even when our nominee maintained near-silence on such issues. And opponents of social conservatism should be expected to come forward and explain why remaking the party into a pale social-issue copy of the Democrats will bring electoral nirvana by 2016.

Conservative attorney and author David Limbaugh agrees, saying he worries attempts by economic conservatives to play down pro-life issues will hurt the Republican Party.

In fairness, we are in extraordinary times, and it’s understandable that even some Reagan conservatives (those who subscribe to his three-legged stool of economic, foreign policy and social conservatism) became impatient with attempts to place social issues at the forefront. They were convinced that President Obama’s fiscal and economic nightmares alone would ensure a Republican victory and there was no need to make controversial social issues a drag on the ticket.

But that excuse will not mollify many social conservatives, who believe not only that social issues are the most important matters facing the nation today, but that at the root of our economic problems is an underlying disintegration of the nation’s moral fabric.

My purpose here, though, is not to debate the merits of the competing positions, but to point out that this growing intolerance for social issues by some in the GOP could result in a major schism, even a splintering of the party.

It is no small irony that those urging a remake of the GOP to bring it in line with changing demographics could unwittingly alienate Hispanics and other minority recruits who might be receptive to social conservatism.

It is also ironic and a testament to the wholesale ineffectiveness of the Republican Party that it is cowering from potentially winnable social issues: abortion, same-sex marriage, Obama’s assault on religious liberty and his phony war on women. Is there no issue on which the establishment will not cave in the end?

The Republican Party can choose to ostracize social conservatives and their issues, or try to purge them altogether from the party and its platform. But they better be careful what they wish for, because if they do, it will be the end of the party as we know it.

Ken Connor, a pro-life attorney who heads the Center for Just Society, says it is not fair to blame pro-lifers for Romney’s loss since Romney didn’t press pro-life issues as hard as he should have in the campaign.

“One thing is certain.  Neither Mr. Romney nor the Republican Party ever made the case for the sanctity of life or marriage in this election season,” he said. “Sure, they mouthed their opposition to abortion and their support for traditional marriage, but they never really made their case to the American people as to why these issues are so critical to the health and prosperity of our nation.  All we got when it came to social issues in Campaign 2012 were canned soundbytes from the Republican nominee.”

“Consequently, when candidates like Todd Aiken and Richard Mourdock fumbled the ball with their ham-handed responses in their own campaigns, their remarks took on national significance and were imputed to Romney as the GOP’s representative in the presidential contest.”

Connor added, “Two paragraphs are all it takes to make the case for life, yet the subject never got more than two sentences in any Romney stump speech.  As a result, his position on abortion was mischaracterized by the Obama machine as a “war on women.”  Had he been willing to devote a few moments of his time to develop the case for the sanctity of life he could have been seen as a protector and advocate for children and the elderly and the handicapped.  Sadly, he was unwilling to make the case, and so was the GOP.”