The Gospel Coalition

With political convention season in full swing, I took some time recently to skim through the party platforms since 1976 (using this helpful site which provides the platforms for the past 150 years). They tend to be long and repetitive, and they don't make for scintillating reading.

It is interesting, however, to see what changes and what stays the same. Democrats have been calling for some version of nationalized health care for decades. Republicans have opposed to it for just as long. The Democratic platforms were hawkish on the deficit back when Reagan was president. The Republican platform had a bigger role for government under George W. Bush. The platforms almost always lead with economics or foreign policy (and not with social concerns). I was surprised to see that the Republicans have for most years included a plank about combating pornography. I was also surprised to see that the 1988 Democratic platform was so short and with a much different style than the others (structured as a series of "We believe" articles). There must be political junkies out there writing dissertations on the history and progression of party platforms. I'm not sure I can stomach a dissertation, but I'd read a good essay on the subject.

While perusing the platforms I got curious about their stances on abortion through the years. It's no secret that Republicans are usually pro-life and Democrats are usually pro-choice. So I'm not unveiling any political secrets or trying to send any subversive political messages with this post. But as a bit of history, the ebb and flow of the party platforms since Roe v. Wade (1973) reveals a few interesting trends.

I've pasted below the relevant portions from the Republican platforms since 1976. Tomorrow I'll give the Democratic side. Before each I'll offer a few summary bullet points.

First, on the Republicans:

1976 (Ford v. Carter)
The question of abortion is one of the most difficult and controversial of our time. It is undoubtedly a moral and personal issue but it also involves complex questions relating to medical science and criminal justice. There are those in our Party who favor complete support for the Supreme Court decision which permits abortion on demand. There are others who share sincere convictions that the Supreme Court's decision must be changed by a constitutional amendment prohibiting all abortions. Others have yet to take a position, or they have assumed a stance somewhere in between polar positions.

We protest the Supreme Court's intrusion into the family structure through its denial of the parents' obligation and right to guide their minor children. The Republican Party favors a continuance of the public dialogue on abortion and supports the efforts of those who seek enactment of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.

1980 (Reagan v. Carter)
There can be no doubt that the question of abortion, despite the complex nature of its various issues, is ultimately concerned with equality of rights under the law. While we recognize differing views on this question among Americans in general---and in our own Party---we affirm our support of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children. We also support the Congressional efforts to restrict the use of taxpayers' dollars for abortion.

1988 (Bush v. Dukakis)
That the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We therefore reaffirm our support for a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. We oppose the use of public revenues for abortion and will eliminate funding for organizations which advocate or support abortion. We commend the efforts of those individuals and religious and private organizations that are providing positive alternatives to abortion by meeting the physical, emotional, and financial needs of pregnant women and offering adoption services where needed.

We applaud President Reagan's fine record of judicial appointments, and we reaffirm our support for the appointment of judges at all levels of the judiciary who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

1992 (Bush v. Clinton)
We believe the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We therefore reaffirm our support for a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We commend those who provide alternatives to abortion by meeting the needs of mothers and offering adoption services. We reaffirm our support for appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

1996 (Dole v. Clinton)
The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. Our purpose is to have legislative and judicial protection of that right against those who perform abortions. We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

Our goal is to ensure that women with problem pregnancies have the kind of support, material and otherwise, they need for themselves and for their babies, not to be punitive towards those for whose difficult situation we have only compassion. We oppose abortion, but our pro-life agenda does not include punitive action against women who have an abortion. We salute those who provide alternatives to abortion and offer adoption services. Republicans in Congress took the lead in expanding assistance both for the costs of adoption and for the continuing care of adoptive children with special needs. Bill Clinton vetoed our adoption tax credit the first time around - and opposed our efforts to remove racial barriers to adoption - before joining in this long overdue measure of support for adoptive families.

Worse than that, he vetoed the ban on partial-birth abortions, a procedure denounced by a committee of the American Medical Association and rightly branded as four-fifths infanticide. We applaud Bob Dole's commitment to revoke the Clinton executive orders concerning abortion and to sign into law an end to partial-birth abortions.

2000 (Bush v. Gore)
The Supreme Court's recent decision, prohibiting states from banning partial-birth abortions --- a procedure denounced by a committee of the American Medical Association and rightly branded as four-fifths infanticide --- shocks the conscience of the nation. As a country, we must keep our pledge to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence. That is why we say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. Our purpose is to have legislative and judicial protection of that right against those who perform abortions. We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

Our goal is to ensure that women with problem pregnancies have the kind of support, material and otherwise, they need for themselves and for their babies, not to be punitive towards those for whose difficult situation we have only compassion. We oppose abortion, but our pro-life agenda does not include punitive action against women who have an abortion. We salute those who provide alternatives to abortion and offer adoption services, and we commend congressional Republicans for expanding assistance to adopting families and for removing racial barriers to adoption. The impact of those measures and of our Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 has been spectacular. Adoptions out of foster care have jumped forty percent and the incidence of child abuse and neglect has actually declined. We second Governor Bush's call to make permanent the adoption tax credit and expand it to $7,500.

2004 (Bush v. Kerry)
As a country, we must keep our pledge to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence. That is why we say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation to make it clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. Our purpose is to have legislative and judicial protection of that right against those who perform abortions. We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

Our goal is to ensure that women with problem pregnancies have the kind of support, material and otherwise, they need for themselves and for their babies, not to be punitive towards those for whose difficult situation we have only compassion. We oppose abortion, but our pro-life agenda does not include punitive action against women who have an abortion. We salute those who provide alternatives to abortion and offer adoption services, and we commend Congressional Republicans for expanding assistance to adopting families and for removing racial barriers to adoption. We join the President in supporting crisis pregnancy programs and parental notification laws. And we applaud President Bush for allowing states to extend health care coverage to unborn children.

We praise the President for his bold leadership in defense of life. We praise him for signing the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. This important legislation ensures that every infant born alive - including an infant who survives an abortion procedure - is considered a person under federal law.

We praise Republicans in Congress for passing, with strong bipartisan support, a ban on the inhumane procedure known as partial birth abortion. And we applaud President Bush for signing legislation outlawing partial birth abortion and for vigorously defending it in the courts.

In signing the partial birth abortion ban, President Bush reminded us that "the most basic duty of government is to defend the life of the innocent. Every person, however frail or vulnerable, has a place and a purpose in this world." We affirm the inherent dignity and worth of all people. We oppose the non-consensual withholding of care or treatment because of disability, age, or infirmity, just as we oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, which especially endanger the poor and those on the margins of society. We support President Bush's decision to restore the Drug Enforcement Administration's policy that controlled substances shall not be used for assisted suicide. We applaud Congressional Republicans for their leadership against those abuses and their pioneering legislation to focus research and treatment resources on the alleviation of pain and the care of terminally ill patients.

2008 (McCain v. Obama)
Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life.

We have made progress. The Supreme Court has upheld prohibitions against the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion. States are now permitted to extend health-care coverage to children before birth. And the Born Alive Infants Protection Act has become law; this law ensures that infants who are born alive during an abortion receive all treatment and care that is provided to all newborn infants and are not neglected and left to die. We must protect girls from exploitation and statutory rape through a parental notification requirement. We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. At its core, abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life. Women deserve better than abortion. Every effort should be made to work with women considering abortion to enable and empower them to choose life. We salute those who provide them alternatives, including pregnancy care centers, and we take pride in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.

Respect for life requires efforts to include persons with disabilities in education, employment, the justice system, and civic participation. In keeping with that commitment, we oppose the nonconsensual withholding of care or treatment from people with disabilities, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, which endanger especially those on the margins of society. Because government should set a positive standard in hiring and contracting for the services of persons with disabilities, we need to update the statutory authority for the AbilityOne program, the main avenue by which those productive members of our society can offer high quality services at the best possible value.

2012 (Romney v. Obama)
Faithful to the "self-evident" truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the nonconsensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion and permitted States to extend health care coverage to children before birth. We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by enacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties on healthcare providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery where the death of the infant is intended. We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions---gender discrimination in its most lethal form---and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain; and we applaud U.S. House Republicans for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia. We call for a ban on the use of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

We also salute the many States that have passed laws for informed consent, mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation. We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy. We salute those who provide them with counseling and adoption alternatives and empower them to choose life, and we take comfort in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.


Comments:

[...] Republican Platforms on Abortion ~ by Kevin DeYoung at the Gospel Coalition. [...]

[...] DeYoung reprints the respective parties’ platforms—Republicans and Democrats—for the past 36 years (after Roe v. [...]

Chris Roberts

September 5, 2012 at 08:55 AM

Chris,

Government does have a reason for existing and one of those reasons is the protection of people living in that nation. For the US, that means in part enforcing the Bill of Rights for all who have not given up their rights through criminal activity. Unborn humans are entitled to these same rights and ought to be protected. Roe v. Wade ended up telling us that some people can lose their rights without engaging in any criminal activity whatsoever. Roe v. Wade took away the unborn person's right to life. Those who challenge abortion are challenging the elimination of some of our most basic rights.

chris

September 4, 2012 at 12:53 PM

Because I don't know motivations, I can't tell if the purpose of the blog the last few posts has been to further explore issues aroused during the election season or to persuade Christian democrats/moderates/undecided to cast a vote for a presidential candidate whose potential office is not legislative in its fundamental nature.

This is not cynicism, this is reality. There have been several Republican presidents since Roe v Wade, all "pro-life". Yes, they have made headway against related issues like late-term abortion---but still that was a legislative victory.

Conservatives want small government except when they don't. The rationale in the Roe v Wade decision was not to legitimize abortion, but to say the government should not mandate that personal decision----which is a conservative ideal. A government that can overturn Roe v Wade could also take away other "freedoms".

mel

September 4, 2012 at 10:29 AM

A life is a life regardless of how it got there and of no fault of it's own. Exceptions to that shows that it is not really valued as a life but just political posturing.

Chris Roberts

September 4, 2012 at 10:12 AM

What bothers me about Romney's pro-life stance is his unequivocal statement upholding an abortion exception in the case of rape. It represents a rather significant weakness in his pro-life philosophy. His stance is still light years better than Obama's, but pro-lifer's need to be clear that Romney is not where he needs to be.

Michael B.

September 4, 2012 at 07:45 AM

It's called "file cabinet orthodoxy". Republicans have on their platform as being anti-abortion, but do almost nothing about it. You'll find the same in a lot of churches that have a very conservative statements of faith and beliefs on the books.

donsands

September 4, 2012 at 07:05 PM

"The rationale in the Roe v Wade decision was not to legitimize abortion, but to say the government should not mandate that personal decision—-which is a conservative ideal."

How about if the government says we shouldn't kill someone we don't like? It's my right to kill a baby in the womb is that what you are saying? And Roe vs Wade is a good thing?