Trump supporters overnumerous for mention promise, with prognostication and crystal-ball certainty, that a vote for Trump will help the pro-life cause of stopping abortion, and this matters above all. He will promote the right legislation, he will appoint the right justices. Right.
Now it so happens that facts matter in this discussion, and because facts matter, I went and checked how the individual justices voted in Roe v. Wade, and then checked out who appointed them.
The Court ruled 7-2 in favor of abortion rights.
- Harry Blackmun (appointed by Nixon, a Republican)
- Warren Burger (appointed by Nixon, a Republican)
- William O. Douglas (appointed by FDR)
- William J. Brennan (appointed by Eisenhower, a Republican)
- Potter Stewart (appointed by Eisenhower, a Republican)
- Thurgood Marshall (appointed by LBJ)
- Lewis Powell (appointed by Nixon, a Republican)
Five of the seven justices were Republican appointees. In the minority were William Rehnquist, a Nixon appointee, and Byron White, a Kennedy appointee. A Democratic appointee wrote the dissent in Roe v. Wade. Interesting.
Next, I checked how the vote went in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, when Roe was narrowly upheld by a 5-4 Court decision.
- Sandra Day O’Connor (appointed by Reagan)
- Anthony Kennedy (appointed by Reagan)
- David Souter (appointed by George H.W. Bush)
- John Paul Stevens (appointed by Gerald Ford)
- Harry Blackmun (appointed by Nixon)
All of the majority in Casey were Republican appointments. The single Democratic appointment on the court at the time, Byron White (appointed by JFK), voted to overturn Roe.
Now, I am perfectly aware—lest any should object with percussive objection at this point—that President Reagan’s original choice for the Supreme Court seat filled by Anthony Kennedy was Robert Bork, and that had the Senate confirmed him, the Court would have overturned Roe in 1992. And yet even Bork himself once admitted that it wouldn’t have mattered, because a later Court would have ended up restoring Roe anyway. (Bork said this in an interview in 1996 with Columbia University history professor Alan Brinkley, which took place at the 92nd Street Y.)
Bork was defeated because of a visceral campaign against him in the U.S. Senate, led by Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy, which is one indication that merely having a Republican in the White House matters little. There is a system of checks and balances in this country—did you know?—and the president does not simply dictate Court appointees. (Mr. Trump may imagine such a fiction, and not just on the issue of Court appointees; but no.) The stiff-necked Senate was able to back into a corner even as staunch as conservative and abortion foe as Ronald Reagan.
The other indication that the mere presence of a Republican in the White House matters little is that, even were Roe to be overturned, the question of abortion would simply default to the states, and the states are likely to retain whatever laws they currently have on the books. (Dream otherwise? Keep dreaming.)
The fact is this: that, in 1992, the Court consisted of eight Republican appointments, and a single Democratic appointment hostile to Roe, and it still could not overturn the sonofabitch. That is as strong a sign as I can think of that voting GOP does absolutely nothing, nothing, to accomplish the defeat of Roe. Nothing. (Dream otherwise? Keep dreaming?)
And yet the spectre of abortion is still trotted out in an attempt to shame and horrify anyone who says, in 2016, that Donald Trump is an unacceptable candidate. Here is one example of this, from a Mr. John Ryan, who writes with a superfluity of color:
Some of us have this hang up about the whole dismembering. Crushing, pulverizing, decapitating and/or otherwise killing of innocent human beings. Something PP’s own statistician Alan Guttmacher) freely admits they do to Black human beings at five times therate of right. Genocide is another of our hangups. We are also willing to take the word of Planned Barrenhood that Trump is the mortal enemy of the perpetrators of this holocaust. You guessed it, we have an aversion to holocausts as well. My suggestion, liik up on the internet what an abortionist does to a human being and tell me what you would say if YOU were the one trying to ward off the abortionist’s sopher clamp.
Problem is—this comment having been splashed on my Facebook wall—neither I nor any of my commenters believe, nor once has any of us said, that we like abortion and think it is a wonderful thing, nor even that we are complacent about abortion. Not one of us. So this is an offensive and pointless tactic that avoids rather than engages the discussion.
The second error is the delusion—for it is a delusion, a fairy tale people tell themselves—that voting GOP in general, and Trump in particular, will spell doom for abortion. (For Trump, we are told in the above blast of pique, is the abortionist’s “mortal enemy”).
Balderdash. That has not been proven, it has only been asserted, in classic pinky-swear fashion. (“Trump says so!” we are told. And of course, politicians never, never, never lie. There is never any experience of this, particularly from a Republican. You can read my lips.) But the story we keep hearing is that we must oppose Hillary, because Hillary means more abortion, and we must vote for anyone at all running against her—even someone as admittedly odious as Trump—or there will be abortion, and more abortion, and piles of babies in the streets. Pinky swear, Trump will mitigate this.
The history of Republican presidents much less odious than Trump (and even Nixon was less odious than Trump) does not bear this out. It is delusion. It is continuing to do the same thing over and over again, expecting that this time, surely this time, pinky swear this time, there will be different results, and abortion will magically disappear from the land when the fist of Trump falls down on Roe.***
I exaggerate, but only a little. Ask a Trump supporter how he thinks the man will curtail abortion. Why, you will be told, because the next president will be in charge of appointing justices to the Supreme Court! There will be vacancies on the next Supreme Court! The next president will nominate Scalia’s replacement, and in the next four years we will lose Kennedy, we will lose Ginsburg, we will lose Breyer. We don’t want to give Hillary four Court appointments!
Yes. And Republican appointments to the Supreme Court, in the past, have done so much to shake Roe to its knees. Right? Everything depends on Donald J. Trump!
If it sounds like I scoff at this, it is because I scoff at this.
And so we are told that a third party vote, or staying home, amounts to a vote for Hillary. Which is nonsense, because the (unproven) supposition behind it is that such an action takes a vote away from Trump. Why? Doesn’t it also take a vote away from Hillary?
I mean, if I absolutely had to choose between Trump and Hillary, with a gun to my head, I’d vote for Hillary. And I would do it to mitigate all this. (Take a look; it is long and scathing and fearsome—and documented. Mark Shea also cites this “bill of indictment” here.)
So my third-party vote, under this non-logic logic, takes a vote from Hillary and benefits Trump. Trump supporters should be happy with me.
I am also credibly informed—ahem—that to not vote for Trump is somehow a black mark against the genuineness of my Catholicism.
Are you a CATHOLIC? And do you LIVE your faith? If it is yes, then how in the H*** can you possibly justify voting for the H? Granted, Trump wasn’t my first choice either, but given the fact my candidate is not longer, TRUMP is the BEST we have as a Conservative, law abiding, Faith lived CATHOLIC!
Well, if Trump—who praises dictators, who vows his supporters will still support him if he murdered someone on Fifth Avenue, who uses pictures of Nazis in his campaign posters, who vows to curtail freedom of the press, who publicly shames his child’s mother, who mocks a disabled reporter, and on and on and on—is the last best hope for the Catholic Church in the United States, I can only fall down in stupefaction and befuddlement.
You want to fight abortion in this country? Great. I am for you. You want to try to get Roe v. Wade overturned? I don’t think it’s going to be, but I like your optimism.
But don’t play this game with yourself where you hitch all your hopes for this goal to one political party which simply makes promises to you about abortion every four years, and which you fall for, over and over and over again. When you do that, it’s not about abortion anymore, it’s about partei über alles. Even a candidate as odious as Trump is acceptable if you can convince yourself that it means something to stop abortion. Think this is not so? Then ask yourself: Who could the GOP nominate that I would never, never, never vote for? If you are willing to vote for someone like Trump—read the bill of indictment linked above; read it—then I have to suspect that the answer to that question is: No one. The GOP could nominate anyone, and as long as he pinky swears to do something about abortion, you’ll fall all over yourselves to vote for him.
But what if I told you that abortion could be fought and stopped no matter who is in the White House? It can. For it is a moral issue much more than it is a political and legal one. You do more when you change hearts than when you change laws.
The other part of the equation here is to be more pro-life, not less (as Mark Shea is wont to say). If people have the perception that you only care about getting the babies born, and then they (and their mothers) must fend for themselves once the baby is born, then your jeremiads against abortion will not change anyone’s mind.
We must address the reasons why a lot of women—poor women, minority women, women who have fears based on age and health—feel backed into a corner and that they must have abortion. We must provide practical assistance, medical assistance, and counseling, so that they have fewer reasons to want to abort their babies. And we must care about their lives, and their babies lives, not just their babies births.
Too often pro-life Catholics act as though the corrective to abortion is simply to change the laws, and magically abortion will end. It is not thus. If we do not change hearts, abortion could be illegal, but women will get illegal ones. If we do not assist women in crisis, abortion could be illegal, but women will get illegal ones.
And it is an especially egregious mistake to hitch the pro-life cause to a political party, for when that happens, you start to think you must swallow any candidate at all they nominate, you have to tell yourself that whatever his other odious qualities, it does not matter, because at least he’ll do the right thing on abortion.
I say this as simply as I can: If you say you are pro-life, and yet vote for someone who has all the negatives of Trump—read the bill of indictment—no one, whom you are trying to reach, will believe you. They will think that you are a puppet of a political party, not someone with serious moral convictions. If you really have serious moral convictions, don’t act as though every other moral consideration can go hang as long as the GOP candidate pinky swears that he will stop abortion.
When has voting GOP ever stopped abortion?