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Monday, March 13, 2006

national Abortion strategy

George Allen, the current conservative darling for the 2008 Republican nomination, took a somewhat surprising position on Meet the Press this Sunday. He stated that he believes the abortion question should be decided on a state-by-state basis. When pressed as to whether, therefore, he believed it would be okay for a state to allow any abortion at any time during pregnancy, he essentially (with some hemming and hawing) agreed. Similarly, though he disagrees with South Dakota's lack of exceptions for rape/incest or life/health of the mother, he said they should be allowed to set that policy if they choose. So I have two questions:

1) How does he reconcile this position with a national ban on Partial Birth abortion? I think he probably just overstated his case, and really meant to maintain that a few things are so heinous they should be nationally banned, but that everything in the grey-area should be left to the states. Only a handful of conservatives have actually argued that the national government shouldn't be involved in the PBA debate. Does that make them faint-hearted federalists?

2) Does this represent a trend in national Republican abortion strategy? From Reagan to Bush, every Republican presidential nominee has endorsed a national ban on abortion, with some exceptions - enforced by Constitutional amendment, if necessary. This new position -- that it should be left to the states -- was not so surprising when endorsed by Mitt Romney, as a perceived liberal. But with a solid conservative taking the same tack, perhaps this means Republicans are retreating and realizing the efficacy of the middle-ground.

As a side-note, I happen to think that the Romney/Allen position is wise, for a number of reasons:

1) It makes the Democratic position, of abortion-on-demand everywhere, seem extreme and anti-democratic by comparison.

2) It mitigates the political problems of the abortion debate to the Republican party, particularly if the Court seems to be inching closer to overturning Roe. No matter how principled they may be, a lot of pro-choicers in blue-states will simply care less about this issue if they know that the Republican candidate is not trying to outlaw abortion in their back-yard.

3) It synergizes the Republican position with the actual effect of overturning Roe. A majority of the country opposes such a ruling, but this is largely because most people incorrectly believe that this would outlaw abortion everywhere. Even people who endorse significant restrictions on abortion frequently think overturning Roe would be too extreme.

For a great sense of american abortion schizophrenia, read through this summary of polling.

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