On just the third full day of his administration, Obama ordered that a $461 million federal program for international “population assistance” be used to finance abortions around the world.
This, of course, was old news even before it happened. The so-called “Mexico City policy” (which Obama’s order reversed) has been a political football since 1984. As with any football, the team on offense determines the policy’s direction. Obama’s action was thus a foregone conclusion from the moment Obama won election.
However, even given the utter predictability of this action, I was shocked by the lack of outrage from the right. Did Obama’s team outwit us with the age-old strategy of releasing controversial news on Friday evening? Were we too occupied crafting polemics against an economic stimulus bill to raise our voices on such a core issue to our movement? Or did we just stifle our objections because, well, “elections have consequences”?
Or have we simply started to believe it?
You know what I mean by “it.” You’ve heard it in the monotonous bleating of Beltway pundits discussing the future of the G.O.P. You’ve seen it in the smirk of reporters discussing Sarah Palin’s political prospects. It is the reason that David Frum created NewMajority.com, the reason Christine Whitman created the Republican Leadership Council, and the reason liberals created David Brooks. It is the underlying assumption of a thousand media reports, panel discussions, and strategy memos: “the extreme pro-life agenda is destroying the Republican Party.”
And it is a lie.
The truth is that Americans, according to a poll released by Gallup on Tuesday, oppose Obama’s order by the overwheming margin of 59% to 35%. For reasons of morality, fiscal prudence, or simple common sense, our citizens simply do not want to finance the extermination and disposal of human fetuses in foreign lands. In fact, ordering the funding of overseas abortions was by far the most unpopular action of Obama’s first two weeks – even more unpopular than closing a prison for terrorists.
Now, we need to be honest with ourselves: a large majority of the American “center” identifies itself as pro-choice in any reliable survey. However, we also need to remember that these same centrists have deep moral misgivings about abortion. They favor almost any restriction on abortions short of an outright ban. They clearly oppose using tax money for the practice.
In fact, most American moderates would be unabashed pro-lifers but for two things: (1) they are trained to belief the pro-life view is intolerant and unsophisticated, and (2) as immoral as they believe abortion is, they do not want their sons’ or daughters’ mistakes to be “punished with a baby.” While this is a sad statement about personal responsibility in today’s America, it also tells us we have largely won the public’s minds on this issue. We just haven’t won their hearts.
Tuesday’s poll needs to serve as a stark reminder: contrary to the tired conventional wisdom, we win votes whenever we speak out against Obama’s outright advocacy for abortion. Americans are not going to reject our party because we insist that foreign aid dollars be spent on programs that are less morally controversial. Vocal opposition to this policy – and repeated legislative attempts to reverse it – is both reasonable and popular. And it is the right thing to do.