Commentary Magazine


Will Late-Term Abortion Fight Go National?

If you relied on the fawning media coverage of Texas legislator Wendy Davis and her filibuster of a bill restricting abortion in Texas, you’d never know what it was Davis was actually taking a stand against. The Texas legislature proposed a bill that would have forced abortion clinics to upgrade their facilities to further protect the health and safety of the women who use them, and it would have tailored the state’s abortion laws according to public opinion.

That helps explain why Davis resolutely refused to say what she was doing. In interviews she would avoid uttering the word “abortion” and was sometimes helped in this Orwellian quest by the rather embarrassing journalists from major networks who mostly asked her about her shoes. But then a funny thing happened: pollsters went out to take the temperature of the public on the issue, and the results revealed the vast canyon between the elite media and the American public on abortion–a divide which is stark on many issues, but perhaps none more so than this one.

And it’s throwing a wrench in the Democrats’ plans to “turn Texas blue,” reports Politico. Democrats were hoping to enlist Texas Hispanics in the effort, but there is an obstacle:

On the surface, at least, the polls don’t look promising for a party that’s basking in the national spotlight because of a fight over abortion rights. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 53 percent of Hispanic Catholics say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. That’s a lower percentage than white evangelical Protestants and Mormons, but it’s higher than all other religious voting groups, including white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, black Protestants, and Jews.

And Steve Munisteri, the chairman of the Texas Republican Party, cited a poll by the Wilson Perkins Allen research firm that found a 2-1 “pro-life” margin among the state’s Hispanic voters. The poll, conducted for the state GOP, showed that 62 percent of Texas Hispanics who voted in the 2012 election described themselves as pro-life while just 32 percent called themselves pro-choice, according to Chris Perkins, the pollster who worked on the survey.

It turns out that Texans don’t vote based on the color and style of Wendy Davis’s sneakers. The Politico story quotes liberal activists saying that they kind of knew that already and preferred to conduct their Hispanic outreach without emphasizing the national Democratic Party’s uncontained enthusiasm for abortion. The Democrats’ position on abortion conflicts with Hispanics’ religious belief, and it also conflicts with basic biology. Hispanics in Texas are more pro-life and pro-science than most Democrats, but, Politico adds, “The fight was forced upon them, they say, when Gov. Rick Perry added the anti-abortion bill to last month’s special session and revived it in a second special session that started July 1.”

No one is actually forced to defend unsafe, unlimited and unregulated abortion; Texas Democrats are merely following the national party’s lead. As for the religious aspect, it could not have helped Democrats that their supporters showed up to chant “hail Satan” in Austin. But the Politico story includes this revealing bit of strategy from the left: “Some Democratic strategists say the key to winning over Latinos is to avoid focusing too much on any one issue — especially abortion.” Democrats seem to understand that if voters ever figure out the true aims of American liberalism, they’ll run in the other direction.

The mainstream media obviously didn’t get that memo. Journalists seem eager to nationalize this debate, and they may get their wish. Marco Rubio is reportedly on the cusp of sponsoring a Senate bill that would limit late-term abortion:

Anti-abortion groups have asked Rubio to take the lead, and while his office says no final decision has been made, the senator is expected to sign on this week after returning from a family vacation.

The bill, which has zero chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, would make exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother — but not for cases when a mother’s health is deemed in danger.

The most common reason to propose legislation that won’t pass is to get everyone on record about it. Congressional Republicans will keep proposing bills to repeal ObamaCare to make a point about the bill’s continued unpopularity. If Rubio wants the Senate to vote on a bill restricting late-term abortion, it’s because he thinks he’s on the side of the public–and Democrats aren’t.

The other possibility is that Rubio is trying to get back in the good graces of conservative primary voters after incurring their wrath by backing comprehensive immigration reform. This may give him something of an edge over his rivals by being the public face of the pro-life movement, but it won’t make too much of a difference. Rick Santorum will still be more associated with opposition to abortion than any newcomers, and the other prospective 2016 GOP candidates in the Senate will vote for the bill anyway.

In all likelihood, Rubio is reading the national polls and thinks Democrats have more to lose from a vote on abortion than Republicans. But Rubio better be prepared for the waves of hostility from the media if he takes up this fight. If you’re on the side of life, you don’t get asked about your shoes.

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