In Pennsylvania, Who's More Pro-Life?

Pro-life Americans should want both major political parties—and all the minor ones—to commit themselves firmly to the culture of life, and particularly to the protection of unborn children.

We should have in this country what we used to have: A pro-life consensus in which it is unthinkable that anyone would favor the killing of the innocent because they were inconvenient or incapacitated. So, for example, Democrats for Life works within the major American party currently dedicated to abortion-on-demand. And there are some fine pro-life Democrats around, such as Rep. Bart Stupack (Mich.).

So when a pro-life Democrat runs against a pro-life Republican, does it matter for the cause of life which one wins?  Here are some considerations:

  • A Democrat will vote to put pro-death politicos such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) in the House and Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.) in the Senate into leadership positions. Generally, the Democrats who will take over committee chairmanships are pro-death as well. Therefore, voting for a pro-life Democrat increases the odds that the forces of death will control Congress.
  • Someone with a little political knowledge might reply, “But Sen. Harry Reid would become majority leader of the Senate if the Democrats took over, and he’s against abortion just like current Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist is.”  It’s true that Frist says he’s pro-life but is no great pro-lifer, but pro-life Democrats usually go with their party when the chips are down—and Frist goes with the pro-life majority. Reid voted against Supreme Court justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito, who are near-certain votes to overturn Roe v. Wade. Just this summer, Reid used a procedural maneuver to deep-six the Child Custody Protection Act, which would prevent people other than parents from taking minor girls across state lines for abortions.
  • How often do pro-life Democrats in Congress take the lead on life issues?  Not very. Republicans do the heavy lifting. As long as the Democratic Party is officially pro-death and persecutes its pro-life members, I expect this will not change.

Yet a strong and courageous pro-life Democrat can make a powerful difference, one that could be worth voting for. The late Bob Casey, governor of Pennsylvania, was a stellar example. The national Democratic Party shunned him to considerable degree, but he did not waver.

Now his son, Bob Casey Jr., is running for Senate in Pennsylvania against incumbent pro-life Sen. Rick Santorum (R.). The younger Casey says he is against abortion, too. Some Pennsylvanians were furious at Santorum when he campaigned for pro-abortion Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) in his tough primary fight with pro-life Rep. Pat Toomey, who lost by 1%. Some pro-life activists in the state told me they would not work to re-elect Santorum or vote for his re-election. Santorum told me that Specter, who after all was his fellow incumbent Republican, would make a fine Judiciary Committee chairman—which he has.

Yet, the fact is, Santorum prevented a pro-lifer from dislodging Specter. So how should pro-lifers view the two current candidates, Santorum and Casey?

Casey says that he is against abortion but favors the morning-after pill (MAP), which sometimes prevents a conceived child from implanting in his mother’s womb. Santorum opposes both surgical abortion and MAP.

Santorum has been a leading advocate in the Senate for pro-life and pro-family causes, not just a passive voter in favor. He was one of the driving forces behind the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and the Born Alive Infants Protection Law.

Santorum has been a leading proponent of preserving marriage and also opposes same-sex civil unions imitating marriage. Casey favors same-sex civil unions almost identical to marriage and even spoke before the anti-marriage, pro-gay rights group Human Rights Campaign.

Today, I looked at the campaign websites of the two men. Casey’s “Issues” section included nothing on life or marriage. So far as I could tell, there was nothing on his site to indicate that he was pro-life at all. In contrast, Santorum’s website has a “Family” section touting his pro-life and pro-family stances. “He believes in a culture of life; every human life is sacred and must be guarded by the law, science, and society. . .,” says the site. “A leader on the issue of traditional marriage, Rick supports a constitutional amendment protecting marriage as that of a union between a man and woman.”

This is not to say that voting for Santorum is certainly what a Pennsylvanian should do. One could calculate that a pro-life Democrat would do more good than another pro-life Republican in the Senate, even a limp-noodle pro-lifer such as Casey. One could believe that this would be worth the risk of putting men such as Reid and Durbin, who is especially vicious in his anti-Catholicism as well as his anti-life fanaticism, in charge of the U.S. Senate. One would have to judge how much positive difference a pro-life Democrat could make.

And, of course, there are concerns other than the standard life issues to vote upon, such as the Iraq war.

The latest polls show Santorum trailing Casey by 7 or by 19 points, depending on which one you believe. The first, and Santorum faces an uphill race. The second, and he’s dead. Maybe enough of those pro-lifers that Santorum alienated during the Specter-Toomey race will return to the fold to put Santorum over the top.

We do not intend to endorse either candidate or party. We merely encourage pro-life voters to think hard.