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In The 2012 Elections, Abortion Remains A Divisive, But Peripheral Issue

by Peter Barbour, published

Abuses of power and the establishment of tyranny against the 13 United colonies of America by the King of England were vast, and those abuses were documented in The Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. In part, it stated "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

This brings me to the abortion issue. Some on the pro life side of the issue have tried to make their case by alluding to the Declaration's excerpt of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness." For instance former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said when he ran for president in 2008 “When our founding fathers put their signatures on the Declaration of Independence, those 56 brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen, they said that we have certain inalienable rights given to us by our creator, and among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, life being one of them. I still believe that.”

I do not believe the expression Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness had anything to do with abortion. Many grievances were listed against the King in the Declaration of Independence, but none of them either directly or indirectly mentioned abortion. Also, Huckabee's assertion that most of the signers were clergymen is wrong. The Heritage Foundation points out that only one of the 56 signers was an active clergyman (John Witherspoon, Presbyterian minister and president of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University) while two were former clergy.

Today, with limited exceptions, the abortion issue is primarily divided among party lines with most Democrats  pro choice and most Republicans pro life. For instance last year the House passed the Protect Life Act (HR 358) by a vote of 251-170; the bill would amend the health care law to bar federal funding for health plans that provide abortion services. During the debate last year before voting on the bill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) argued that if it passed, "women can die on the floor and health care providers do not have to intervene." House member Barbara Lee (D-CA) added, "Instead of focusing on jobs, Republicans are continuing to wage their war on women."

Republicans countered with HR 358 co-sponsor Jeff Flake (R-AZ) saying, "It's been the practice of this House for decades to ensure that federal funds are not used for abortion except in rare cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. This is typically done by attaching language to appropriation bills that go through this House."

The fact is abortion is legal and many women are exercising their freedom to choose abortion. A recent analysis earlier this year from the National Right to Life Committee’s (NCLC) education department estimated that since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, there have been over 54.5 million abortions in the United States. The pro-life organization based its estimate upon data both from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), a research institute founded by Planned Parenthood.

So what does this all mean in relation to the 2012 elections? Probably not too much. It is doubtful that President Obama or Governor Romney will spend much time at all on abortion. Abortion is one of those 3rd rail issues, which most political candidates avoid like the plague. And it's not surprising that most politicians avoid it; once you take a position on this issue, inevitably enemies will be created. It is interesting to note that a recent Gallup poll shows 50% of respondents identified themselves as Pro-Life and 41% as Pro-Choice. While most Democrats in the poll labeled themselves as Pro-Choice (by a 58-34 percent margin), most Republicans (72%-22%) and Independents (47%-41%) said they were Pro-Life. As for me, I put myself on the Pro-life side. Texas congressman and GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul said it best when he said on his website "The strength of love for liberty in our society can be judged by how we treat the most innocent among us."

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