Is Rep. Harold Ford, the Democratic nominee for the open U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee, pro-life?
Certainly, over the past month he has repeatedly claimed the pro-life label. For example, on Tucker Carlson’s program on MSNBC on October 30, Ford said, "I’m pro-life, I’m pro-life, Tucker, so I mean, I don’t run from that …" Although Carlson expressed some skepticism about the claim, it has been accepted at face value and repeated as fact by many other journalists, and even by some conservative commentators.
Journalists do their readers and viewers a disservice when they accept and repeat such claims without careful review of the record. I have served as the congressional affairs director for National Right to Life for the entire period of Ford’s service in the House, and I can tell you that Ford’s claim is a sham. His claim cannot survive 10 minutes study of his actual voting record on abortion-related issues in the House of Representatives.
During his 10-year tenure, Ford has voted against the pro-life side 87% of the time. On several major pro-life issues, including federal funding of abortion on demand, Ford has voted against every other member of the Tennessee congressional delegation, both Democrat and Republican.
Whether one favors pro-life laws or opposes them, I hope you will agree that the voters have a right to know how a candidate has actually voted or would vote on issues of such gravity. Ford is misleading the electorate by adopting the label of the pro-life side, while attempting to deflect attention away from a voting record that puts him firmly in the other camp.
Ford’s Republican opponent, Bob Corker, is running on a strong pro-life platform. The voters of Tennessee deserve to hear a more candid discussion of the difference between the candidates on this issue than they have yet received.
Here are a few facts about Ford’s record in Congress:
Although Mr. Ford now says he wants to "eliminate" abortion, for 10 years he has voted, every time the issue came up, to repeal any limitations on federal funding of elective abortions. This, despite a great deal of empirical evidence that restricting such funding has resulted in many fewer abortions (a fact that pro-abortion advocacy groups acknowledge, and lament).
In 1997, he voted to repeal the Hyde Amendment. That attempt failed — but if successful, it would have resulted in federal funding of from 325,000 to 675,000 elective abortions per year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Ford was the ONLY House member from Tennessee, from either party, to vote to repeal the Hyde Amendment.
Since then, Ford has consistently voted for federal funding of abortion without limitation in other programs as well — for example, for federal funding of abortion for elective abortions for federal employees, and even for incarcerated federal felons.
Mr. Ford’s campaign says that these votes on funding of abortion were merely to implement "the law of the land." But the "law of the land" IS the Hyde Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Hyde Amendment, ruling that there is no constitutional obligation for the government to fund abortions, and that the government can favor childbirth over abortion.
Moreover, Mr. Ford was also the ONLY member of the Tennessee House delegation to vote against the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act in 2002 — a law that merely protects health care providers who do not wish to participate in providing abortions.
In 2003, Mr. Ford and Rep. Jim Cooper were the ONLY Tennessee members of Congress, House or Senate, to oppose "Laci and Conner’s Law," which recognizes an unborn child injured or killed in a violent federal crime as a bona fide crime victim. (This bill did not even apply to abortion, but it was opposed by the pro-abortion advocacy groups, and so Ford opposed it, too. Ford gets high ratings from such groups. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported on October 21, "According to Planned Parenthood, Rep. Ford has voted for abortion rights 88 percent of the time.")
Mr. Ford voted to allow the FDA to market the RU-486 abortion pill (on June 24, 1998, roll call number 260, and again on June 8, 1999, roll call nuimber 173), and the FDA did so (in 2000). In 2005, he voted to allow anybody designated as "clergy" to take a minor across state lines for a secret abortion, without parental notification. (Jackson-Lee Amendment, April 27, 2005, House Roll Call Number 142.) For additional information about Ford’s voting record on the RU-486 abortion pill and on access to abortion for minors, click here.
Mr. Ford now likes to talk about his support for the ban on partial-birth abortions. He actually voted against that bill until 2000. Then he switched. But right up to the time that the bill was finally enacted in 2003, he continued to vote for unsuccessful killer amendments. That is the also the pattern on the other small number of issues on which Ford has tossed a vote to the pro-life side — he first votes for gutting amendments, and only after those amendments fail does he cast a vote in favor of final passage.
Additional documentation on Mr. Ford’s actual voting record on abortion-related issues examined at the National Right to Life PAC website at NRLPAC.org.