Jilted suitors

National | Used up, they are dragged into the political abyss

Issue: "Money to burn," April 15, 2000

You've got to feel a little bit sorry for some of the abortion-defending candidates this year: It's a risky and treacherous tightrope they walk. Just put yourself in their shoes for a moment: You go against every inborn instinct of imagio dei (God's image) in you that says there's something unseemly about this dirty little business of abortion. You throw in your lot with bad science (rejecting the simple biology that a human sperm plus human egg produces human life) and bad Constitutional law (Roe vs. Wade discovering a right to abortion in a right to privacy)-and sometimes you get precious little thanks for it.

I'm scratching my head over the strange twists in a political contest in Pennsylvania, my own back yard. Two defenders of the abortion regime contended in the April 4 primary for the Democratic nomination for senator: Tom Foley, a former state labor secretary, and state senator Allyson Schwartz. The winner, however, was U.S. Rep. Ron Klink, the only candidate who described himself as pro-life.

Tom Foley lost in part because he agreed to go along with limited restrictions imposed by the state Abortion Control Act, and was thus not pro-choice enough. Allyson Schwartz's campaign staff painted her as the only "true" pro-choice candidate and him as insufficiently pure on the issue of women's rights. A Washington-based group called "EMILY's List" that raises campaign money for pro-abortion candidates threw its support to Ms. Schwartz. Mr. Foley won the endorsement of a large federation of state government workers, but as far as his pro-choice paramours go, he was left twisting in the wind.

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For the country, this suggests that as a crowded field of contenders chases a finite number of political prizes, simple math will win out. Democratic Party candidates will be tripping over themselves to be "more pro-choice than thou" to court the iron ladies of NOW et al. The litmus test for purity will become increasingly stringent, pushing everyone more to the left and turning formerly reasonable political aspirants into extremists. Do you think that 20 years ago even Bill Clinton would have imagined himself vetoing a bill whose only modest and humane request was that full-term babies not have their heads cracked open and their brains siphoned out? One doesn't arrive in a place like this by Augustinian logic or even Aristotelian logic-one is nudged there one slippery step at a time.

The pro-life strategy shift of recent years to concentrate on the most egregious and grotesque violations of human life was a good idea: Who could be for partial-birth abortion when it was explained properly? Yet the new strategy underestimated the sheer evil of evil. We suddenly realized that it's not reason we're dealing with here. The velvet glove was removed to expose the iron fist. We have entered the twilight zone of latter-days morality.

But, granted, none of this explained the even more bizarre case of presidential hopefuls Bill Bradley and Al Gore. Everybody knows by now that Mr. Bradley had a more pro-choice portfolio than Mr. Gore ever had (everybody but Mr. Gore, that is, who seems to be in a state of denial). But to whom does Kate Michelman of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Acts League (NARAL) give the wink? Mr. Gore! Which leaves Mr. Bradley (like Mr. Foley) with his mouth hanging open in a lengthening queue of jilted suitors of the feminist movement.

Mr. Bradley's sin, of course, was the very thing he thought he'd be commended for-that is, dredging up Al Gore's old record and parading, for all to see, the spectacle of one man's ignominious transformation from pro-lifer to pro-choicer. Mr. Bradley, too clever by half in this instance, and a naif compared to Ms. Michelman, failed to grasp what the lady grasped in a heartbeat: This exposure cannot be good for the pro-choice cause. It can only stir up the conscience. Mr. Bradley must be punished.

A parable for our times, then, on what happens to those who make Faustian bargains. When their usefulness is expired they will be likewise coolly dispensed with, sentenced by the Kafkaesque tribunal of feminism and dragged off into the political abyss kicking and screaming, "But I gave up everything for you-my morals, my integrity!"

The common denominator of Mr. Foley and Mr. Bradley? Follow the prophecies: Underneath political agendas, under the rhetoric and the banners, man is by nature a religious creature. And sin in its essence, beneath its manifold expressions, is the upward shaking fist that says: "Nobody tells me what to do!"

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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