Following Jeb Bush campaign surrogate Lindsey Graham attacking Ted Cruz as too uncompromisingly pro-life, Chris Christie is trying the same attack on Marco Rubio. It’s likely to be similarly ineffective against the target, because both Cruz and Rubio tend to make the extremism of the other side the focus of their discussion rather than emphasizing their opposition to abortion in rape and incest cases, but a number of factors make this a move Christie may come to regret…
“He’s made it very clear that — on the issue of pro-life, Marco Rubio is not for an exception for rape, incest or life of the mother,” Mr. Christie said. “Now, you know, I think that’s the kind of position that New Hampshire voters would be really concerned about.”
In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, Mr. Christie added, “I am pro-life, but I believe that rape, incest and life of the mother, as Ronald Reagan did, should be exceptions to that rule.”
First, Christie doubled down on that stand in Saturday night’s debate, rightfully provoking pro-lifers’ anger with the offensive comparison to aborting an innocent, defenseless baby conceived in rape with self-defense. Bush’s remarks on the issue have been bad enough, but haven’t gone further than arguing his position is more politically expedient. Christie is actually arguing for the merits of letting these children be killed, thereby lending credence to the abortion lobby’s smears against the pro-life movement.
Second, Christie’s attack contained one outright falsehood against his competitor—while Rubio does oppose rape and incest exceptions for abortion, he’s never grouped a life-of-the-mother exception along with them, and in fact said last week that “I think there needs to be an exception for the life of the mother.” By misstating Rubio’s record after making a big deal out of Rubio’s own attacks on Christie’s abortion record allegedly being a case of “talk[ing] so much that nobody can ever keep up with what you’re saying is accurate or not,” Christie has blunted the impact of whatever indignation he’ll bring to bear against future challenges to his pro-life credentials.
(Christie also misstates Ronald Reagan’s position. Reagan said in 1988 that “where the unborn child threatens the life of the mother” was the “one exception” to his opposition to abortion, and in a 1984 debate, then-Vice President George HW Bush said, “”The president [Reagan] and I do favor a human rights amendment. I favor one that would have an exception for incest and rape, and he doesn’t.”)
Third, Christie is already on some fairly thin ice with pro-lifers, after word came out that he may have lied about donating to Planned Parenthood in 1994 and he definitely lied about supporting pro-abortion Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2009, and not ordering an investigation despite talking tough about Planned Parenthood’s fetal organ harvesting crimes. When people are already doubting your commitment to their cause, going out of your way to argue that others should weaken their pro-life views only exacerbates their fears (Bush’s pro-life record is not without warts, either, but he does have his stand in the Terri Schiavo case to point to as an example of going the extra mile for pro-lifers… and again, isn’t raising the question on the merits anyway).
For the reasons we discussed on Thursday, it is entirely possible to survive a general election with a no-exceptions pro-life position, so long as the pro-lifer keeps the focus on the pro-abortion side’s extremes and speaks with empathy whenever the subject of rape does come up. But no pro-life candidate should go out of their way to complicate their allies’ pro-life message by granting legitimacy to pro-aborts’ premise that they shouldn’t stand for all lives.
This is a point that Susan B. Anthony President Marjorie Dannenfelser is forcefully making in a letter to all the candidates:
An attack on this aspect of these candidates’ pro-life positions is an attack on the pro-life movement as a whole […] I urge you and your campaigns to reject Planned Parenthood’s talking points and instead keep the pro-life movement on offense by focusing on exposing the extreme position held by the other side: Abortion on-demand, up until the moment of birth, for any reason, paid for by the taxpayer.