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The GOP Dilemma: “Pro-Life For Hire” Candidates?

They say it’s not nice to enjoy the misfortune of others…and while I generally support that notion…when it comes to politics, I’m willing to make some exceptions. I have to confess that a New York Times article discussing the predicament facing the Republican Party in the 2008 presidential election with regards to the issue of abortion makes me happy.

That is not to say that the issue of abortion should make anyone happy; rather it is to say that I’m pleased that GOP voters are having to confront the issue with a level of practicality that has been absent from their equation for many years. I find the potential for lessening the influence of absolutism a welcome change.

Six months before the Iowa caucuses, abortion opponents are trying to adjust to a strikingly different political landscape. For the first time in a generation, they face in Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, a front-runner for the Republican nomination who supports abortion rights.

Most of the Republican candidates are scrambling to demonstrate both their anti-abortio n credentials and their ability to win. Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative stalwart, said she sensed “concerns” at the grass roots about all the candidates at the front of the pack.

What many abortion opponents say they crave these days is certainty. Analysts say the Supreme Court could now be just a vote or two away from a major rollback of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision declaring a constitution al right to abortion. But the next president will be crucial.

Hadley Arkes, a professor at Amherst College and a leading social conservative legal thinker, said he had recently gotten “feelers” from some in the Giuliani camp. But Mr. Arkes, an opponent of abortion, said he could not fathom a way the party could nominate Mr. Giuliani and remain the same “pro-life” party it has been for 25 years.

“You change the constituency of the party,” Mr. Arkes said — either by showing that anti-abortio n voters are not necessary to win, or by showing that anti-abortio n voters are willing to subsume their cause to other issues.

Even so, Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, said recent poll analysis suggested that some anti-abortio n voters may be willing to consider that possibility.

For far too long the issue of abortion has been characterize d as an all or nothing construct…on e that ignores the realities of the human condition and that places an unwarranted emphasis on one narrow aspect of morality…whi ch often disregards numerous other concerns deserving of consideratio n and attention.

I understand the argument made by those opposed to virtually all abortions and I realize that their beliefs are not apt to allow for some degree of flexibility. Notwithstand ing, those beliefs do not comport with reality and if the 2008 election can force a meaningful dialogue that leads to the entertainmen t of some reconsiderat ion, then I’m all for it.

Those opposed to abortion are frequently opposed to contraceptio n, against comprehensiv e sex education, and in favor of abstinence pledges as a means to combat unwanted pregnancies… and the immorality they attach to sexuality. Portraying sex as wrong and immoral, in my opinion, contributes to the problem. Instead of giving young people a healthy perspective on sexuality, it promotes deceit and denial…both of which establish sex as a forbidden pleasure rather than as an expression of love.

If the 2008 election can serve as an impetus to change this antiquated construct and signal the beginning of the end to this virtual demonization of sex, perhaps we will have turned the corner on thirty years of the politics of regression and repression. I’m all for finding ways to reduce the number of abortions…bu t not by adopting the mentality of moral measurement and criminal consequence that has permeated the Republican Party.

If the current GOP candidates fall short of the ingrained standard, perhaps it will force fundamentali sts to consider the views of those they routinely discount as inadequate and intolerable. Unfortunatel y, I’m afraid many Christian conservative s are going to have to be led to this newly emerging reality kicking and screaming.

In the meantime, pardon me for taking pleasure in the contortions that will inevitably illuminate the intransigenc e that has dominated the issue. My sarcastic side wants to watch the GOP candidates prostitute themselves to a constituency that seems to abhor all things remotely sexual. Indeed, before it’s over, it should make for some rather strange bedfellows. Rather tawdry, don’t you think?

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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