Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Conservatives Split on Abortion Stance

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Conservatives Split on Abortion Stance

Article excerpt

The faxes, letters, challenges to debate and charges of political and moral heresy are flying among factions of what some believed was a unified coalition of conservatives determined to re-establish a nation in which virtue would be more than a book.

On one side are James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, and Paul Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation. On the other side are former Education Secretary William Bennett and Christian Coalition President Ralph Reed. The split appears to be over the possible presidential candidacy of Colin Powell and the stand and tactics of Powell and Bennett over the incendiary issue of abortion.

But the fissure goes much deeper. As Weyrich put it in a letter to Bennett, the real debate is about the establishment, made up of members of both parties, which is responsible for co-creating the welfare state and big government, and the anti-establishment, which wants to tear it down and build something different.

The essence of Bennett's abortion argument is that the GOP platform plank that favors a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion cannot be achieved (and that it allows insincere candidates to mouth the pro-life position and, when elected, do nothing about it). Bennett thinks it would be better to jettison the plank and work to limit the number of abortions through education and social pressure.

Bennett makes two points that deserve a response.

First, he asks whether pro-lifers would criminalize abortion and what penalty they would impose on the doctor who performs them and the women who have them. Second, he asks how uncompromising pro-lifers could support declared Republican pro-choicers like Sen. Paul Coverdell of Georgia and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas?

The answer to the first question is that it begins with the wrong premise. Like the O.J. Simpson trial, which focused more on the defendant than on the victims, the baby is the first victim. Awareness of what happens in an abortion must be increased so that criminal laws will be supported.

Still, laws preceded changes of heart in race relations and the law can serve as a powerful persuader to do what is right if the public has a heart for such things. …

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