There are undoubtedly Republicans who are pro-life. One of them is from my state, the incomparable Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who, while clinically insane, is certainly honest in her beliefs.
But I have long held a theory that most Republican politicians are not pro-life.
Oh, they’re not pro-choice; they’re perfectly happy to throw women’s rights under the bus as need be. But they’re not particularly pro-life either. Their anti-choice position is a posture, a game they play to keep the rubes lining up with checks and votes. Abortion can be legal or illegal for the hoi polloi, as long as their daughters can get one if they need one.
We’ve seen this playing out repeatedly among GOP presidential candidates this cycle, with Rudy Giuliani’s abortive attempt to stake out pro-life ground despite being consistently and vociferously pro-choice. And of course there’s Mitt Romney’s complete 180 on abortion rights, though frankly that’s just one of Mitt’s many 180s, so you can be forgiven for losing track.
And now, it’s about to play out with a candidate not even in the race yet, Fred Thompson, who lobbied for the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association in 1991.
Thompson is attempting to deny this, but unfortunately there’s a paper trail:
Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo adamantly denied that Thompson worked for the family planning group. “Fred Thompson did not lobby for this group, period,” he said in an e-mail.
In a telephone interview, he added: “There’s no documents to prove it, there’s no billing records, and Thompson says he has no recollection of it, says it didn’t happen.” In a separate interview, John H. Sununu, the White House official whom the family planning group wanted to contact, said he had no memory of the lobbying and doubted it took place.
But Judith DeSarno, who was president of the family planning association in 1991, said Thompson lobbied for the group for several months.
Minutes from the board’s meeting of Sept. 14, 1991 — a copy of which DeSarno gave to The Times — say: “Judy [DeSarno] reported that the association had hired Fred Thompson Esq. as counsel to aid us in discussions with the administration” on the abortion counseling rule.
Former Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.), a colleague at the lobbying and law firm where Thompson worked, said that DeSarno had asked him to recommend someone for the lobbying work and that he had suggested Thompson. He said it was “absolutely bizarre” for Thompson to deny that he lobbied against the abortion counseling rule.
“I talked to him while he was doing it, and I talked to [DeSarno] about the fact that she was very pleased with the work that he was doing for her organization,” said Barnes. “I have strong, total recollection of that. This is not something I dreamed up or she dreamed up. This is fact.”
Now, one can understand why Thompson is now trying to deny the truth, and frankly, given the events of the past six years, he may get away with it; the GOP is nothing if not credulous at this point.
As a staunch supporter of reproductive rights, I’m obviously thrilled that so many Republicans have a background as supporters of those rights, and I only wish that they’d actually come clean about those beliefs, so we as a nation could finally accept at long last that we are a pro-choice country. For the fact is that even many people who poll as pro-lifers aren’t really anti-choice; they think abortion is icky and wrong, unless they need one — but they also don’t want to see it outlawed. That many Republican candidates feel this way is frankly unsurprising.
Unfortunately for Thompson, Romney, and Giuliani, the rubes still have votes, and still have their checkbooks, and they expect their candidate to strictly regulate those harlots who would dare to have sex. Thompson has thus far succeeded as a candidate because he’s been a cipher, an empty vessel into which the right can pour its aspirations. But if it turns out he’s dared to ever have supported a woman’s right to choose, I’d say that he’ll be yet another Republican who’s not anti-woman enough for the base.