Silence of the pro-lifers

Nobody's talking about abortion, but the National Right to Life Committee says Bush-appointed judges will strike down Roe vs. Wade.

By Jake Tapper
Published August 2, 2000 9:47PM (EDT)

There are few issues in American politics as divisive as abortion. Gov. George W. Bush is against abortion rights, but this convention is markedly free of any mention of even that word. Darla St. Martin is associate executive director of the National Right to Life Committee; Salon interviewed her on Wednesday.

During the Republican primaries, Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes all challenged Gov. Bush on abortion, questioning his commitment to the issue since he refused to promise that he would only appoint pro-life judges or Supreme Court justices, or select a pro-life running mate. What did you think of their criticisms?

They were all pro-life candidates. All four of them are good pro-lifers, including Gov. Bush. Gov. Bush was the front-runner, so obviously other candidates would be criticizing him.

But if one thinks that abortion is the taking of a life, how could you not commit to naming only pro-life judges? Gov. Bush has refused to make that commitment.

Well, you see what happened with the running mate, right? He picked a pro-life running mate. So draw your own conclusions from that. We are confident that he is a pro-life candidate.

What about the question of naming only pro-life Supreme Court justices? As you know, three justices will probably retire in the next four years, thus possibly changing the makeup of the court to one more inclined to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Gov. Bush has said that he would appoint only "strict constructionists" to the Supreme Court. Since abortion is obviously not in the Constitution, anyone who is a strict constructionist could not find something in the Constitution that's not in the Constitution.

So you're confident that he'll pick only pro-life justices.

I'll stick with my last statement.

It almost sounds like you're afraid of saying that Gov. Bush will only appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices.

I told you anyone who is a strict constructionist, anyone who only interprets the Constitution strictly, would not find a right to abortion in it.

Are you afraid of making a quote that Al Gore will use against the governor to win swing voters?

The polls quite clearly show that swing voters are pro-life, not pro-abortion. I just want to put this in my words, not your words.

But wasn't Bush's father, President Bush, regarded as pro-life? And didn't he appoint to the Supreme Court one of the pro-life community's biggest disappointments, Justice David Souter?

President Bush certainly was pro-life. And at the time David Souter was appointed, NOW [the pro-choice National Organization for Women] attacked him. Many pro-life leaders in Congress proudly said he was pro-life. He was thought to be pro-life at the time.

During the primaries, I remember hearing some pro-life opponents of Bush complain that Gov. Bush named a street in Texas after a physician who used to perform abortions.

I think that's a real stretch to say he's not pro-life because sometime during the time he was governor, he signed documents -- the governor signed hundreds and hundreds of documents. That he signed one document on some doctor that didn't agree with him on that subject, I think that's a stretch, frankly. I think somebody is stretching to find something negative to say.

Are we going to go the entire convention without hearing one speaker utter the word "abortion"?

Look at the platform. It's quite clearly the same platform we had four years ago. It's a very pro-life platform.

But as you know, the convention itself will be viewed by far more people than those who will read the platform.

Certainly people know the governor's position. He has been very outspoken on it. He has been very clear on it. What more does he have to do to convince people like you of the truth of what he is saying?

Oh, I believe that he's pro-life. That's not my question. I feel like he hides it. He doesn't mention it in speeches. He talks about it only if he's asked about it.

I don't think that's true. There have been a number of occasions in which he's spoken out in speeches on the subject when he wasn't asked.


I've heard them and I remember them. I wouldn't be able to give you the date and time. There have been so many speeches. Also, you have to remember that not all of the people who vote pro-life or do pro-life things give long speeches about it. They nevertheless are good pro-lifers.

Like who?

Members of Congress. I'm not going to single them out. You've got your Henry Hydes and your Chris Smiths out there who are outspoken, but many members of Congress don't speak out on the subject, though they vote that way. Nonetheless, we value them and they are good pro-lifers.

It just seems to me that if you think abortion is the taking of a life, you would argue that point out loud, and vociferously defend that argument

Different people are pro-life in different ways. And they're all valuable.

Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

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Abortion George W. Bush