Rudy, Rome and abortion stories collide

rudyWhile Rudy Giuliani is heading toward a possible clash with Rome over his support for legal abortion, a second story about the Democratic Party’s moderating abortion stance is getting a decent level of press coverage.

Soon, these two stories could collide.

The tricky thing for reporters covering this story is trying to figure out how to cover a candidate in which Catholics may end up knocking Giuliani on abortion while the Democrats take the same position. Of course during primary season there are more than enough Republicans who are more than willing to tell reporters how their position represents what they believe is the base of the GOP, but what happens if Giuliani wins the party’s nomination?

What would the media do (WWMD?) if both sides of the 2008 presidential contest are pro-abortion rights? I’ve heard a thing or two about a third-party run, but wait, Mayor Bloomberg is also pro-abortion rights.

Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times has the Giuliani story but neglects to note the fact that pro-life Democrats are an emerging presence:

But church leaders say they are frustrated by prominent Catholic politicians like Mr. Giuliani who argue that while they are personally opposed to abortion, they do not want to impose their beliefs on others.

One American bishop, Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., recently wrote a caustic column for his Catholic newspaper calling Mr. Giuliani’s position “pathetic,” “confusing” and “hypocritical.” Other bishops said that they would not criticize a candidate by name but would not hesitate to declare Mr. Giuliani’s stance contrary to Catholic teaching.

Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark said: “I think he’s being illogical, as are all of those who take the stand that ‘I’m personally opposed to abortion but this is my public responsibility to permit it.’ To violate human life is always and everywhere wrong. In fact, we don’t think it’s a matter of church teaching, but a matter of the way God made the world, and it applies to everyone.”

In a Times op-ed, author Melinda Henneberger tells us why this could potentially be a groundbreaking story:

Even in the real world, a pro-choice Republican nominee would be a gift to the Democrats, because the Republican Party wins over so many swing voters on abortion alone. Which is why Fred Thompson, who is against abortion rights, is getting so much grateful attention from his party now. And why, despite wide opposition to the war in Iraq, Democrats must still win back such voters to take the White House next year.

Recent reports in both MSNBC and U.S. News & World Report also failed to make this connection. Both write about the shift within the Democratic Party on abortion, but why no mention of the potential massive shift in the Republican Party? While MSNBC even manages to cover the subject without mentioning the Catholic Church, at least U.S. News nails that angle:

Indeed, having witnessed both George W. Bush’s victory among Catholics in 2004 and the Catholic vote’s dramatic rejection of Republicans last year, Democrats are now waging a multifront offensive to shore up what was once a bedrock constituency. The Democratic National Committee has hired its first director of Catholic outreach. The DNC is also slated to soon unveil an organizing hub for Catholics on its website, and it’s planning to supply state parties with Catholic voter lists before the 2008 election. Catholic Democrats in Congress are introducing legislation to reduce demand for abortion, a top issue for the Roman Catholic Church. And some Democratic presidential candidates are already devising Catholic outreach plans. “You know things have gotten off track when a Roman Catholic candidate has to do outreach to people within his own church,” says Senator Casey, discussing his own 2006 outreach effort. “But we’re getting it back on track now.” With Catholics accounting for 1 in 5 American voters, the mobilization could determine whether Democrats win the White House and keep control of Congress in 2008.

The primaries are of course still months away and Giuliani has lost his once-dominant position in the polls. But regardless of the results, the widely accepted pro-choice Republican candidate and the softening of Democrats on abortion make for a compelling narrative that reporters should watch closely.

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  • Peggy

    DPulliam:

    Do you have some typos in the first and last sentences of your post? You appear to be calling Guiliani a pro-life candidate. I don’t think he is. Is Guiliani claiming to be pro-life? He’s said he doesn’t like abortion, but he funds it. His stated views at both debates so far have been murky at best. I would hardly call him pro-life.

    Thanks,

    Peggy

  • http://www.mindonfire.com Miko

    You know, as most of my family is Republican & Catholic, it’s interesting to see this debated in the media. One sister told me that a real Catholic should be anti-war and so could never vote Republican (she’s a…Constitution Party? I forget). Others seem to always look for a Republican who is prolife but never consider other candidates who may be prolife, even if that’s the only position they share. Personally, I think more Catholics ought to vote Democratic—more emphasis on Works Of Mercy (or, politically, Social Works). I think the media in general either have or assume that their readers/viewers have a poor understanding of what Catholics believer (other than “whatever the pope tells them”). It will be interesting to see how this plays out leading up to the primaries &, eventually, the election.

  • http://dpulliam.com dpulliam

    Peggy,

    Thank you for catching my error. Maybe this is an example of the troubles reporter will face in covering the abortion issue in the 2008 election? Hopefully they won’t be as careless as I was with the basic facts.

  • rick the texan

    “Which is why Fred Thompson, who is against abortion rights…”

    Melinda’s bias is howing on that one. Wouldn’t pro-life be a simpler construction?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    RICK:

    No. “Pro-life,” like “pro-choice” is a label that leans toward one side of the argument or the other.

    Most newspapers are now using anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights as the descriptive phrases.

    So Melinda’s wording is perfectly normal.

  • Stephen A.

    So Melinda’s wording is perfectly normal.

    Perfectly normal, but simply wrong. The “pro-abortion rights” moniker would suit a pro-abort side just fine, and is in fact their own self-description. But the pro-life side describes itself as pro-life. I’m sure we’ve “gone there” before on these issues of labels, but I’m sorry, but “it’s normal” isn’t acceptable, because what’s normal is biased.

    As for the substance of the story, bear in mind the media would LOVE to have a pro-baby killer candidate from both parties, so they could then focus on electing the most “compassionate” “change agent”, i.e. the Democrat.

    (Yeah, I know my descriptor was *kinda* biased, too. But I’m not writing a news story here trying to influence millions of people into thinking their “rights” are somehow being protected or taken away.)

  • Martha

    “The Democratic National Committee has hired its first director of Catholic outreach.”

    Did they hire from Pandagon?

    I imagine that if both parties are pro-abortion (sorry, not going to call it a “right”), then those Catholics who are concerned to find a candidate they can in conscience vote for will either go for a third-party or maybe even abstain.

    What strikes me though is that the Republican Party may have more than worrying over abortion on its plate; quite aside from the war in Iraq, your Vice-President has now apparently declared ‘L’etat, c’est moi’ by putting himself out of the Executive Branch? This kind of arrogance and contempt for the very framework of government is not going to win over (or back) voters, I should imagine.

  • Jerry

    Since we’re taking another ride on the abortion roller coaster, I suspect that the evolving democratic position is one that meets the opinion of the vast majority of Americans if the majority of the polls summarized at http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm is accurate. And that position is the one Hillary Clinton espoused at the recent candidates religion event – offering policies that will reduce the number of abortions while keeping it legal – the middle road between the two poles. Those polls look a bit confused but it looks like most Americans are in favor of such a stance.

    From this report, it looks like the republicans are at least currently polarized between the statist make it illegal and the libertarian poles.

  • Dennis Colby

    A lot of the press coverage on this issue will depend on the religious beliefs of the candidates. There was a great deal of focus on Kerry’s stance on abortion because Kerry is a Catholic. None of the high-profile Democrats right now (Obama, Clinton, Edwards) are Catholic; obviously, if one of them wins the nomination, the bishops aren’t going to have to worry about whether the candidate should receive Communion.

    Realistically, the only Catholic with a shot at a major party nomination is Giuliani. It’s absurdly early in the process, of course, but if he becomes the nominee, I expect most of the abortion coverage to focus on him.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Pro-life, like pro-choice, is a biased term.

    You use it in quotes, when a movement describes itself.

    I also use it, from time to time, with descriptive language when I am describing people who are consistently pro-life on a host of issues.

    But we are talking ordinary AP Stylebook usage here.

    The norm used to be anti-abortion and pro-choice. That was even worse, but that started changing in the wake of the famous David Shaw Los Angeles Times series on bias in abortion coverage.

  • Brian

    How about pro-legal-abortion, and anti-abortion? The term “rights” is incredibly loaded.

    Jerry: The reaction over the PBA ban (or whatever you wish to call it) shows the Democrat position pretty clearly: Any abortionist should be able to perform any abortion on any female at any stage of her pregnancy using whatever method he chooses. Oh, but we’ll try to cut down on the number of them. Not because it’s morally wrong, though. Just because of some other reason. Please don’t ask us why.

  • kyle

    Since we’re taking another ride on the abortion roller coaster, I suspect that the evolving democratic position is one that meets the opinion of the vast majority of Americans if the majority of the polls summarized at http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm is accurate. And that position is the one Hillary Clinton espoused at the recent candidates religion event – offering policies that will reduce the number of abortions while keeping it legal – the middle road between the two poles. Those polls look a bit confused but it looks like most Americans are in favor of such a stance.

    Jerry, Jerry, Jerry. Back again to spin the polls?

    Actually, the popular opinion would be efforts to reduce abortions and many additional restrictions, leaving it legal in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother. Which is a far, far, far cry from Sen. Clinton’s bold support for legalized partial-birth abortion. George W. Bush would have a better claim that Clinton.

  • Peggy

    DPulliam,

    Thanks for making the corrections. It makes much more sense. Glad to help out.

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com mattk

    I still don’t understand why people call Rudy a Roman Catholic. Isn’t he excommunicated because of his divorce? If one is not in communion how is one Catholic?

  • Dennis Colby

    MattK,

    Catholics don’t get excommunicated over divorce. The problem comes when they get remarried without an anullment, which Giuliani has done. In that case, they can’t receive Communion, but they’re still welcome in church:

    http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0504311.htm

  • http://blackphi.blog-city.com/ BlackPhi

    Brian, the problem with a term like “pro-legal-abortion” is that it suggests that the person is actually in favour of abortion itself. The usually stated position of those who describe themselves as “pro-choice” is that they are in favour of pregnant women having the right to an abortion if they so choose. That is not at all the same.

    I guess you could have terms like “pro-pregnant-womens’-rights” and “pro-unborn-babies’-rights”, but I can’t see them catching on (not least because of the difficulty of working out where the apostrophes go – I suspect I’ve got at least one wrong).


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