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October 15th, 2008
02:55 PM ET

Pro-life and pro-Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/15/art.mccain.obama.split.jpg]Melinda Henneberger
Slate

Marlene Turnbach is a pro-life Democrat from Hazelton, Pa., who twice voted for George W. Bush over abortion. As she told me a couple of years ago when I interviewed her for a book on women voters, "Bush won because all my friends who are Democrats voted for him and put abortion over everything else."

Though only about 13 percent of those likely to turn out at the polls are true single-issue pro-life voters, I met a surprising number of women, most of them Catholic, who said that they did not expect the Democratic Party to switch its basic position on Roe v. Wade but nonetheless felt increasingly marginalized and unwelcome in the party as dissenters from party orthodoxy on that one issue.

And now? Not so much. With the economy in freefall, abortion opponents afraid even to peek at their third-quarter 401(k) statements suddenly see their way around this obstacle on their road home to the Democrats. In Turnbach's state, where one-third of all voters are Catholic (and six in 10 Catholics describe themselves as pro-life), pro-choice Barack Obama is nonetheless ahead of John McCain, who opposes abortion rights, by 12 points in one poll and 14 in another.

At a rally in Johnstown, Pa., on Saturday, Sarah Palin all but pleaded with pro-life voters to give her party one more chance to deliver on 35 years of pro-life promises: "In times like these with wars and financial crisis, I know that it may be easy to forget even as deep and abiding a concern as the right to life, and it seems that our opponent kind of hopes you will forget that." Yet when I checked back in with Turnbach and others, it was clear that for them social issues are off the table, at least for now.

It isn't that Turnbach's stand on abortion has shifted any, she says. But her view of the Republican Party's commitment to seeing Roe overturned has: "Even if McCain does get in, he's not going to do anything" that would lead to a reversal of Roe. The legality of abortion "is not going to change," she's concluded, "and I really don't think it should be an issue" in this presidential race.

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soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Amy - California

    Okay I have a question, regarding this Pro-life thing. I have always wondered what exactly does someone mean when they say they are pro-life and only vote Republican? It seems like a strange thing to me. For example I am personally pro-life thus I hate wars because it kills human life, I do not support the death penalty, and I do not like violence or guns because it can quickly take life. Can someone please help me understand further what a pro-life stance means to you, and why you vote for Republican party? The last 8 years many innocent lives have been killed in Iraq – this seems a bit contradictory to a pro-life movement., we also have the hightest rate of deaths by gun even children. So I ask this question again, what does pro-life mean to those individuals who vote on pro-life issues by voting only with a Republican? Thanks

    October 15, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  2. peggy

    I am pro-life and pro-choice. The life of any living organism is precious, and the life of a human being is sacred. The problems I have with pro-lifers, are that there are (1)usually "outs" so that an abortion is ok under certain circumstances, (2)the question of when life begins, and (3)who gets to choose which option applies. Abortion is the biggest decision that a woman could ever have to make and it should not be made by anyone but the preganat woman. All options should bemade available, so that the woman's choice is an informed choice. If "we" make the choice for her who is "we" and what if "we" decide that if we can make that life and death choice for women maybe we can make a life and death choice for the elderly, disabled, or chronically ill. Those are God's Choices. Abortion is a faith based personal issue and should not be a political issue.

    October 15, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  3. Lisa in Florida

    Right To Life really has no business on the campagn. This is a non issue. This was decided many years ago and I agree with some of the comments that it will not stop abortions. Hence people have a CHOICE in what they believe is right. I doI believe it will punish the young and poor the most. People with money will go other places or pay someone for an abortion. When a candidate runs on a platform of stopping abortion, it is a big flag for me. It is like they have nothing else to say . I voted for Clinton in the primary and was unsure of Obama. I was open to McCain waiting to decide until he chose a running mate. When he picked Sarah Palin and learned what she is about, I made up my mind and am not going back. I believe this pick is an insult to women. He must really think 40 something white women are that stupid and shallow to think we will vote for him because of her. A more middle of the road choice, I may have gone for him. ALSO, my 87 year old grandmother was not going to vote this year because she did not want to vote for an African-American, after McCain picked Palin she has changed her mind and will vote for OBAMA.

    October 15, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  4. Sandra

    I'm a pro choice Republican. I think Abortion is pretty much a non issue. Nobody is going to take away our right to choose. The issue should be trying to cut down on the number of abortions. Abortion should not be used as birth control!!

    October 15, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  5. James in Nebraska

    Christine, Democrats AND Republicans got us into this economic mess. Along with some home owners, credit card owners, automobile owners, corrption, you name it. On taxes, Obama has already stated that he will raise taxes on those making OVER $250k per year, not everyone's. Although Bush SR said 'no new taxes' and...

    As for abortion. This will always be a touchy subject with no end in sight. In my opinion it is a case by case issue. If it's used for birth control, that's pretty bad. If it is needed to save the wife of the mother, I don't disagree with it. Again, just my opinion.

    October 15, 2008 at 4:52 pm |
  6. Bob from Dallas, Texas

    Let the States decide!
    This election will be about the economy now that the DOW is under 9000 again.
    We need a proven leader in John McCain NOT a wannabe with only 143 DAYS in the Senate.

    October 15, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  7. Sharon

    As for the raising taxes, what planet are some people on. This Administration and those that want to stay in Iraq are digging us deeper into higher debit. It is time that penalties are given to corporations that are shipping jobs overseas, stopping illegal immigration that take from the health system and educational districts and let them go back and reapply like my parents did. It is time to take religion OUT OF POLITICS like the founding fathers intended.

    No matter who gets elected this is a mess, thanks Bush-Cheney and friends.

    October 15, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
  8. shelz

    I'm a Marlene (pro-life and voted Bush last time I'm ashamed to say) – never again!

    And its not reasonable to simply malign pro-lifer's for bad activities when both sides have negative behavior. Name callers usually reflect something about themselves.

    October 15, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
  9. Julie San Diego, CA

    I'd like to do an interesting experiment:

    In the event that Roe vs. Wade is overturned, what do you think about the idea of jailing the sperm donor (I hesistate to use the term "father") for the 9 months the woman has to carry the baby?

    I bet the unwanted pregnancy rate would drop to zero.

    It's idiotic that we're still discussing this issue. You don't need a medical degree to know that men inpregnate women and they control the impregnation process.

    I can guarantee that the minute we start making abortion a "man's issue" with consequences, we'll start to see movement towards a solution.

    October 15, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  10. Christine from Florida

    Obama voted against the Infants Born ALive bill in Illinois.This means if a baby is actually born alive from a botched abortion that they KILL the baby. The baby is a person and Obama voted against protecting the youngest most innocent member of the human race. Now that's radical!

    Pro Choice = killing the baby
    Pro Life = saving the baby

    You choose.

    October 15, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  11. Larry

    I think this is a topic that will always be with us regardless of political-speak. I suppose that we may one day get to the Chinese law of '79 of 1 kid per family.

    October 15, 2008 at 4:31 pm |
  12. Mary

    Great point Papasan in AZ.

    October 15, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  13. Mary

    When are these pro-life maniacs going to just give it up. No one is forced to get an abortion and if a woman chooses to, shouldn't it be safe?

    Bush has been in the White House 8 years, pro-lifers, listen Repulicans are not going to change Roe vs. Wade. He had his time and I'm glad he didn't.

    As far as the Catholic Churchs stand, when they start paying taxes, then they can try to tell the Catholics who to vote for. Not giving Communion becasue you are for Obama or pro-choice is just out of line.

    October 15, 2008 at 4:21 pm |
  14. Cam, Connecticut

    Pro-life in name is not necessarily pro-life in action. As it is generally viewed, it is anti-abortion. A more encompassing pro-life definition would have more of the position holders caring about all of the children who are born with more than an "it's up to the parents" or "your on your own" set of actions. Even beyond that, there are many adults who fall through the cracks everyday. While there are many who do hold the more emcompassing definition as their own, many others do not. Arguments on morality issues lose their impact if preached by those less committed to the full measure of the subject.

    October 15, 2008 at 4:16 pm |
  15. Janet

    I'm not convinced that there would be fewer abortions if RvWade were overturned, but I'm absolutely certain that there would be far more deaths from illegal abortions. Abortions were not uncommon when I attended a very conservative university in 1968, but they were certainly illegal.

    I find it interesting that the church chooses to actively campaign against abortion but ignores the anti-life activity that we call the death penalty, especially since we have so much evidence that many death row inmates are, in fact, innocent. Of course, it is easier to defend a fetus than it is to defend a defendant that may look and act like a thug, and may have committed heinous crimes.

    October 15, 2008 at 4:13 pm |
  16. Christine

    what I don't understand, is how anyone could vote FOR Obama when it's the Democrats who will raise your taxes! They won't help us in this financial situation, because they were the ones who got us into it! People need to open their eyes, and see a jackass when it kicks them in the butt!

    October 15, 2008 at 4:07 pm |
  17. Papasan in Arizona

    Pro Lifers: They bomb clinics, intimidate Women, Murder Doctors, deny Human Rights. No wonder they support a Racist Bigot like Palin...

    The last resort of all Failing Republican Campaigns is to energize the base, Ignorant Right Wing Looneys! Republicans are waking up from a long peaceful Bush slumber [Ouch!], to find two pathetic morons [McCain/Palin], publicly displaying a comical megalomaniac love affair with themselves, out of touch with our Nations true issues [it's the ECONOMY!], and engaging in a revolting "McCain First" campaign! That's a tough wake up call, "MY FRIENDS"!
    The McCain inept solution is a Slang Talking Power Hungry Junk Yard Dog [Awaiting Criminal Indictment] scampering around the Nation drumming up Racist Bigotry [Wink Wink]. The obvious erratic incompetence of the McCain/Palin campaign provides us evidence enough that they are unfit for any public office. As Americans face the hardest financial disaster in the History of the USA, this is McCain Policy of Change/Solutions/Answers! John McCain / Sarah Palin have no idea what Americans trying to survive face. 401K plans gutted, Unemployment, Foreclosures, Wall Street in the Tank, and the Global Economy in disarray...
    McCain/Palin are a disgusting self serving disgrace. Clearly proving they are not up to the complex task of keeping the Nation together in hard times.

    P.S. McCain's colossal arrogance will cost him Arizona in this Election!

    October 15, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  18. Marianne

    Obama is bringing 143 days of government experience to the white house, and an anti-semitic , anti-white agenda. No wisdom, no morals. just bs

    October 15, 2008 at 3:48 pm |
  19. Chad, Indiana

    No one can overturn Roe vrs Wade. It's history, it's in the past, and even McCain supports abortion rights for rape, incest cases. No one wakes up one day and says lets get pregnant so I can have an abortion. Even those who are raped some, maybe most still keep the baby. It's sad that we will abort a child because of rape, but not castrate the raper. We will send druggies to jail for 30+ years for non violent crimes, but we let rapers and murders go after 5 to 15 years. It's BS, it needs to change, and Obama is going to change this.

    October 15, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  20. Linda Haworth

    I am more concerned about babies than I am about the economy, I am against mid-term abortion which Mr Obama is for. How can we terminate a baby? I agree that war is terrible but people that are pro life are not having babies to send off to war as Ms Harris states. Babies are terminated due to our selfishness. Pro life organizations are continually educating and reaching out to women who are in a situation that they find impossible. Our hearts go out to all women that feel they had no other decision but to abort and also to the women who decide to keep their children

    October 15, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  21. T

    "If the Right to Life movement wants to really win the abortion battle, it needs to spend less time on overturning Roe v. Wade and more time on education and outreach to prevent people from considering abortions in the first place."

    I am pro-choice and pro-life and I totally agree. I am not for taking away a woman's right to chose but I think if people pushed more love for life and alternatives to an abortion a lot more scared women would chose the alternative. Instead of shouting at a pregnant person who is on the fence try helping them to understand that having a choice means chosing adoption or getting help to support themselves and the child once the baby is here.

    October 15, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  22. Annie Kate

    About the most a sitting President can do to influence Roe vs. Wade is to appoint supreme court justices that would be likely to vote either for or against Roe vs. Wade when and if a case is brought before them which uses Roe vs. Wade as precedence on their case. At that point the justices can address the abortion decision; they can't just decide one day to blow the dust off Roe v. Wade and give it another look. So it can take time to get the right mix of judges and the right case to come along to be able to do something – at least that is my understanding of it; Toobin can explain it a lot better I'm sure. In Toobin's book "The Nine" Jeffrey points out how important it is to consider the potential impact a President by virtue of his choice of future judges will make on our constitutional law. Bush's appointments to the court may one day play a pivotal role in the changing of some current law that we have – long after Bush has left office. If McCain wins and has the opportunity to appoint Supremes then the majority of the judges would have been selected by conservative Presidents and may one day deliver on what the GOP has promised for years. You never know.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    October 15, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  23. Brenda Harris

    The truth of the matter is that the republicans that claim they are pro-lifers are LYIN they want to save babies so that when they grow up they can send them off to Die in misguided WAR efforts.
    DEAD IS DEAD babies or young adults. Bring these Babies Home NOW!

    October 15, 2008 at 3:21 pm |
  24. Big Mike

    My main complaint with the overturn Roe v. Wade argument is that it won't magically make abortion go away. Think of all the years we've been targeting illegal drugs, and we haven't been able to make that go away. Arguably the issues with illegal drugs are far more significant than with abortion, and by making those drugs illegal hasn't wished the problem away. People will just go to states where you can get an abortion or will go out of the country for them.

    If the Right to Life movement wants to really win the abortion battle, it needs to spend less time on overturning Roe v. Wade and more time on education and outreach to prevent people from considering abortions in the first place.

    October 15, 2008 at 3:20 pm |
  25. Larry

    Only time I heard Roe v Wade in this election was a blog from a professor of Obama's from Harvard saying that McCain would do that. Yet to hear from that prof. since.

    October 15, 2008 at 3:08 pm |
  26. Daph D.

    I have to agree. I am not really pro-life or pro-choice, every situation is different in my opinion, but the Republicans have been playing the abortion hand for too long. They won't do anything about it and in fact they can't anymore, its become part of society. In fact in the past 4 years gay marriage has gained the most ground it has ever gained. Democrats need to go back to their party and make changes there instead of jumping from team to team.

    October 15, 2008 at 3:03 pm |