I must admit to getting caught
up in the current speculation
over who Senator Obama and Senator McCain will select as their vice
presidential running mate.
From the moment both presumptive nominees were identified, the press
and political junkies have been making lists of potential vice presidents
and checking them twice for strengths and weaknesses. Choice has
long been held as a litmus test issue for candidates of both major political
parties and the same may hold true this year. Many supporters
of Senator Clinton are looking to see whether she will be Senator Obama’s
choice or, if not, whether the person who is selected will be as strongly
pro-choice as she is. Obama must also maintain the support of
the traditionally pro-choice Democratic base while also attracting independent
and moderate Republicans who may not be solidly pro-choice to his side.
Senator McCain, meanwhile, must balance the expectations of the socially conservative
Republican Party base with his need to attract independent voters.
McCain supporters hope that his vice presidential selection will balance
the Republican ticket with youthful regional appeal and add a depth
of economic policy experience without alienating anti-choicers.
The wild card for McCain is whether the anti-choice base will be a stronger
voting force than the many pro-choice Republican and Independent voters a June 2008 NARAL
Pro-Choice America poll
identified as pulling away from McCain because of his anti-choice positions.
The decision is now in the
hands of the presumptive nominees and their vice presidential selection
committees, but pro-choice voters will benefit from an exploration of
the women and men who would be vice president and their records on choice.
Let’s start our review from
the left. Senator Obama, having secured the endorsement of both Planned
Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, would seem to have an easier
pro-choice path but his newness to the political scene has some pro-choice
voters looking toward the vice presidential selection process as Obama’s
choice courage test. Obama’s short list seems to be fluid but
a few names have maintained a presence for several weeks. Senator
Hillary Clinton of New York, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, Senator
Evan Bayh of Indiana, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, Governor Kathleen
Sebelius of Kansas and recently Representative Chet Edwards of Texas
are each garnering a lot of speculation in the press. Recent news
that Senator Clinton’s
supporters may make a run at the Democratic Convention has renewed speculation over what
her role will be if she is not selected for the bottom half of the Democratic
ticket. Despite the joint statement of unity issued by Senator
Obama and Senator Clinton in response, a leaked video clip that appears
to show Senator Clinton encouraging her supporters to take their fight
to the convention floor has stirred up concerns about party unity and
re-energized talk that the clearest path to unity is an Obama-Clinton
record on choice is well known to voters,
but some of the other people on Obama’s short list boast records more
familiar to regional supporters than to a national political audience.
Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, once a presidential candidate himself,
accepts the view of the Catholic Church that life begins at conception.
Biden has stated his opposition to public funding for
abortion and his
support of a partial-birth abortion ban but that he supports Roe v.
Wade. Biden was rated 60% by NARAL
and rated 100%
by Planned Parenthood
(2006). Project Vote Smart has a listing of Senator
Biden’s voting record on abortion.
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When Governor Tim Kaine of
Virginia ran for office he stated his intent to promote abstinence
and ban partial-birth abortion.
He has promised to reduce abortion rates in Virginia by enforcing current
state restrictions, passing a ban on partial-birth abortion while ensuring
women’s access to health care, including legal contraception.
Kaine, a practicing Catholic, has a faith-based opposition to abortion.
Yet in 2007 Kaine moved to cut off state funding
for abstinence-only sex education programs,
citing recent studies finding that teenagers should also be taught about
birth control and condoms to protect against pregnancy and sexually
Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana
has voted against defining a fetus as eligible for SCHIP, prohibiting
minors from crossing state lines for abortion services, barring HHS
grants to organizations that perform abortions and against maintaining
an abortion ban on military bases. Bayh has voted for expanding
research to more embryonic stem cell lines, notifying parents of minors
who get out-of-state abortions, $100M to reduce teen pregnancy through
education and contraceptives and in support of banning partial birth
abortions except for maternal life. Senator Bayh was rated 100% by NARAL (2007) and rated 92% by Planned
Project Vote Smart a listing of Senator
Bayh’s voting record on abortion.
Governor Kathleen Sebelius
of Kansas was endorsed by Planned Parenthood for years as pro-choice
and columnist Robert Novak branded
her a pro-choicer’s dream V.P.
choice. Sebelius describes herself as personally pro-life, but
she is opposed to efforts to eliminate or reduce abortions primarily
by criminalizing abortion procedures. Sebelius vetoed anti-choice
legislation in Kansas in 2003, 2005, 2006, and again in 2008 when she vetoed
the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act
on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.
Representative Chet Edwards
of Texas is a newcomer to the Democratic potential running mate list.
Edwards has voted against making it a crime to harm a fetus during another
crime, banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother’s life,
funding for health providers who don’t provide abortion information
and against banning family planning funding in United States foreign
aid. Representative Edwards has been rated 100% by NARAL and rated 82% by Planned
To the right are Senator McCain’s
potential running mates. Recently former Pennsylvania Governor
and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, who is on Senator McCain’s
short list and who has been the subject of much speculation in the press, re-confirmed his
pro-choice position during an appearing on ABC News’ "This Week
with George Stephanopoulos.
Ridge also said that he did not think Senator McCain would make choice
a litmus test for potential vice presidential candidates. Since
the economy has emerged as the top issue of concern to voters this election
year it would seem logical that McCain would select a running mate with
that in mind since his economic credentials have been an issue.
But Ridge’s comments raise the question of whether McCain, who has
a history of alienating social conservatives within the Republican Party,
can afford to overlook a vice presidential prospects pro-choice record
in favor of a person with an impressive economic policy resume.
On McCain’s short list are Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia,
Representative Rob Portman of Ohio, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana,
Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and former Massachusetts Governor
Representative Eric Cantor
of Virginia voted for restricting interstate transport of minors seeking
abortion services and making it a crime to harm a fetus during another
crime. Cantor has voted in favor of banning partial-birth abortion except
to save a mother’s life, funding for health providers who do not provide
abortion information, banning family planning funding in United States
foreign aid and in support of making it a federal crime to harm fetus
while committing other crimes. Representative Cantor was rated 0% by NARAL and 0% by Planned Parenthood. Project Vote Smart
has listed Representative Cantor’s voting record.
Governor Mitt Romney was pro-choice then
switched position shortly before running as a candidate for the 2008
Republican Presidential nomination.
In 2002 Romney said he supported the substance of the Supreme Court
decision in Roe versus Wade and funding of abortion services through
Medicaid in answers to a questionnaire submitted by Planned Parenthood.
By 2007 Romney had received the Political Leadership award from Massachusetts
Citizens for Life at a Mothers’ Day dinner. Romney describes himself
as a "convert" to the anti-choice cause in the tradition of
Representative Rob Portman
of Ohio is an American lawyer and politician who has served in two cabinet
positions and as a member of Congress. Most recently, Portman was Director
of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). While in office
Portman voted in favor of banning partial-birth abortion except to save
a mother’s life, funding for health providers who do not provide abortion
info, banning family planning funding in United States foreign aid and
in support of making it a federal crime to harm a fetus while committing
a crime. It comes as not surprise that Portman was rated 0% by
NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Tim Pawlenty of
Minnesota is said to be solidly anti-choice
but not in public.
As Andy Birkey detailed in his article Gov. Pawlenty and
the Evangelicals: Where He Stands on Hot-Button Issues, Pawlenty’s evangelicalism has elevated
him to top of the running mate wish list for social conservatives despite
his lack of public statements on his religious beliefs.
Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana
is also solidly pro-life. Jindal is the darling of the Republican
Party right now, having demonstrated the ability to campaign on a socially
conservative platform with charisma and cross party appeal.
While serving in Congress. Jindal voted against allowing human embryonic
stem cell research and he voted in favor of restricting interstate transport
of minors to seeking abortion services. Jindal has been rated 0%
by NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood.
Clearly the battle lines on
choice extend to the potential vice presidential candidates because
both major parties need their base supporters and are unwilling to risk
those guaranteed votes for the possibility of new voters. Both
vice presidential selection committees must now vet candidates for their
ability to balance out their party’s presumptive nominee’s weak
points while also considering the candidates regional appeal and their
ability to energize the base. With future retirements on the Supreme
Court looming in the next few years, the cost to reproductive justice
could be high.