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Religious Tolerance logo

Should a pro-life supporter vote Democrat or Republican?

2. Republican party's plans to reduce abortions

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Expected Republican party plans to reduce abortions:

The 2008 Republican party platform appears to call for a continuation of existing restrictions on abortion access.

It also calls for two new actions. Both will attempt to reduce the number of abortions by limiting women's access.

Pass a Constitutional amendment:

The GOP plans to introduce a human life amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Many of these have been proposed over the last 35 years. None of them have been implemented. However, if they had been:

  • Most would have defined human personhood as starting at conception. Depending on the wording of the amendment, this could treat all abortions as homicides and leave the woman, her doctor, and medical staff open to a charge of first degree murder.
  • Some would ban all abortions except those needed to save the life of the woman.
  • Some would simply transfer the regulation of abortion back to the individual states. This would restore state responsibility as it existed prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade..
    • Sixteen states, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia would probably continue to make abortions available.
    • Twenty Two states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin, would probably ban or severely restrict abortions.
    • The remaining 12 states could go either way. 1

It is unclear exactly what specific wording or topics the Republican Party would include in its amendment, if they regained control of the Congress. Initiating amendments to the U.S. Constitution is the sole responsibility of Congress; the president is not involved.

An amendment to the U.S. Constitution cannot be changed by the courts. Judges would be required to follow the new wording. 

Changing the philosophy of the Supreme Court justices:

The Republican platform supports "the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values" In legal terms, this apparently means that only justices will be selected who follow a strict constructionist philosophy (sometimes referred to as originalist or textualist). These three terms have slightly different meanings. However, they are sometimes used interchangeably. Senator John McCain promised that if he is elected, he will select justices for the U.S. Supreme Court who are follow this judicial philosophy. He has cited strict constructionist Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia as his models for nomination. 2

There are two basic methods of interpreting the U.S. Constitution and similar documents:

  • As an enduring document: Strict constructionist interpret a legal document as meaning "today not what current society (much less the Court) thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted." 3 Viewing the Bill of Rights and the rest of the U.S. Constitution as an enduring document means that the justices would consider both society's values and the authors' intent during the era in which the text was actually written. When the original U.S. Constitution was written:
    • Women were excluded from many professions.
    • Women were denied the right to vote or run for office.
    • Spousal abuse was very largely ignored
    • Marital rape was not recognized.
    • Human slavery was an established institution; slaves were considered property.
    • Many African Americans were not allowed to marry.
    • Inter-racial couples were not allowed to marry.
    • Blasphemy was a crime punishable by a fine and jail sentence.
    • Homosexuals were jailed and sometimes executed.
    • Some states banned Agnostics, Atheists, Deists, and non-Christians from office.
    • etc.
    One can imagine a Justice of the Supreme Court immersing himself in the culture, beliefs, hatreds, discrimination, and intolerance of the 18th century in order to decide what the Constitution means in the 21st century.
  • As living documents: The document's meaning is viewed as continually evolving to meet changing cultural beliefs, practices, and knowledge. This has been the position of most of the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. It is also the viewpoint used by the Supreme Court of Canada and similar high courts of many other western countries.

    In past decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has re-interpreted the First Amendment to:
    • Widen the definition of the separation of church and state to disallow government favoring of one religion over another, religion over a secular philosophy, or a secular philosophy over religion.
    • Imply the existence of the concept of personal privacy, even though the wording of the Constitution is silent on this matter. Court decisions that legalized the sale of contraceptives, legalized inter-racial marriage, decriminalized same-sex behavior by adults in private, and granting abortion access were all based on this concept.
The next president will have the opportunity to nominate from 1 to 3 justices. A Republican president is almost certain to appoint additional strict constructionists. That could be expected to generate a series of strict constructionist decisions. Gone would be any concept of personal privacy. There would be no limit on the permissible intrusion of the Government into people's lives. Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling by the court that theoretically made abortions legal in every state would almost certainly be reversed. It is even conceivable that the court might rule that human personhood begins at conception and that abortion is always or almost always a criminal act.
The platform also calls for judges who "respect the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life." This apparently means that no pro-choice judges would be appointed.

Effects of a Republican administration on the number of abortions:

The number of legal abortions in the U.S. would certainly diminish if the Republican platform were implemented.

Changing the balance of the U.S. Supreme Court would almost certainly overturn Roe v. Wade and make the access to abortion a matter for the state legislatures. Some states currently have laws on the books that ban abortions. These would suddenly lose their unconstitutional status and become the law of the land. There would be battles over new abortion access legislation in other states.

Eventually, a relatively stable arrangement would emerge in which abortions would be available in some states but banned in others. This would increase the cost of an abortion for those women in states that restricted abortion access. They would have to travel to another state or country to obtain an abortion.

  • In the western third of the country, in the Northeast states, and in the northern Midwest states, women would probably be able to obtain an abortion in their state and/or an adjacent state.
  • In the southern states, women would probably have to travel major distance to obtain an abortion.

The expense of transportation, a room to stay in, and perhaps a longer interval off work would have to be factored in to the total cost of the procedure. The average cost of an abortion could easily double to something in excess of $1,000, particularly for women in the southern states. This would price an abortion out of the financial reach of some women.

Some women who could not travel to another jurisdiction would seek an illegal abortion in their own state, thereby risking their health and sometimes their life.

A brisk black-market business in illegal abortifacient drugs (Methotrexate, Misoprostol, RU-486) would certainly materialize to fill the needs of women who are desperate to obtain an abortion through self-medication.

The increase in illegal abortion and abortion via self-medication would probably result in a rapid rise in the number of maternal deaths.  


The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Susan Page, " 'Roe v. Wade': The divided states of America,: USA Today, 2006-APR-17, at: http://www.usatoday.com/ This article includes a map of the U.S. showing the probable outcome of each state.
  2. John Gizzi, "McCain Promises No Compromise on Supreme Court, Will Visit ANWR," Human Events, 2008-OCT-17, at: http://www.humanevents.com/
  3.  Antonin Scalaia, "God's Justice and Ours," First Things 123, 2002-MAY, Page 17 to 21.

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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-OCT-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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