Essential pro-life questions for the next GOP debates

The most recent Republican presidential debate was highly illuminating only due to the candidates’ own interactions and pronouncements, not because the moderators’ questions were particularly insightful.

The problem isn’t just moderators with pro-abortion biases (which can actually be a good thing for forcing candidates to prove their mettle against the propaganda they’d be targeted with every day as president). No, it’s that even if they’re well meaning, moderators who aren’t pro-life lack familiarity with the deeper strategic options and distinctions that pro-lifers care about.

The obvious solution would be to have debates moderated by actual activists and experts representing the various causes GOP primary voters are weighing. But since the Republican National Committee is unlikely to make that happen anytime soon, at least we can give the debate moderators some pointers.

In the interest of a more productive primary process, I’ve prepared a series of questions that the remaining Republican candidates should have to answer, as well as a specific question for each candidate on a perceived or potential weakness in his pro-life stance:

  • Do you support the Life at Conception Act, which renders Roe v. Wade obsolete by formally recognizing that life begins at conception and seizing upon Roe’s admission that “of course” the 14th Amendment would protect preborn babies if the “suggestion of personhood is established”?
  • Do you support the Sanctity of Life Act, which uses Congress’s Article III, Section 2 authority to make “exceptions” and “regulations” to the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to take abortion cases out of their hands?
  • In addition to signing legislation defunding Planned Parenthood, will you pledge to veto any appropriations bill that contains funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers?
  • After eight years under President Obama, the partisan radicalization of the Department of Justice runs far deeper than replacing a single attorney general, and encompasses scores of personnel abusing their authority and neglecting their duties on an array of scandals. As president, what specific measures will you take to root out corruption and ideology, to ensure that your Justice Department will hold the abortion industry accountable for its crimes and protect the rights of pro-life Americans from abortion-lobby legal harassment?
  • One of the most sensitive issues in the abortion debate is how to address abortions sought for rape or incest. While 57% of the American people support banning elective abortions, only 25% of the public is willing to ban abortions for rape or incest. Yet pro-lifers also expect their candidates to recognize that children conceived in rape are just as alive and human as those conceived consensually. If you support rape and incest exceptions, why, and if you do not, how will you to persuade Americans to protect all babies without alienating them?

Jeb Bush: In November, you told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” that you would not ask prospective judicial nominees if they would overturn Roe v. Wade, but instead “I would ask deep questions about judicial philosophy, and then make sure that the person had a proven record.” Yet the late Justice Antonin Scalia had no problem publicly stating his belief that the Court should return abortion policy to the states. Would you still decline to get a commitment to overturn Roe from nominees, and if so, what other guarantees would you give pro-lifers that your nominees would overturn Roe v. Wade?

Ben Carson: You are pro-life without rape or incest exceptions, and have said life beings at conception. But in August, you suggested that so-called emergency contraception be administered to rape victims. However, there is scientific evidence that emergency contraception can kill a living embryo by preventing him or her from implanting in the uterus. Do you stand by emergency contraception?

Ted Cruz: You have proposed constitutional amendments to overturn some of the Supreme Court’s most egregious decisions, and to institute judicial retention elections to make justices more accountable to the people. However, as you know, amending the Constitution is a difficult process in which the president has no official role. How will you assure pro-lifers these are serious possibilities you could actually influence as president, rather than simply tough talk for the campaign trail?

John Kasich: In August, you said of Roe v. Wade, “it’s the law of the land now and we live with the law of the land.” In responding to follow-up requests, your campaign spokesman Chris Schrimpf told the Weekly Standard that your judicial nominees would practice “judicial restraint,” but did not clarify whether you would seek judges committed to overturning Roe. Would a potential Kasich nominee voting to uphold Roe be consistent with your conception of judicial restraint?

Marco Rubio: You have spoken eloquently of the need to defund Planned Parenthood, and voted for bills to defund the organization. However, you did not actively support the strategy to withhold Planned Parenthood’s funding through the appropriations process—you did not support Senator Cruz’s effort to attach defunding to the must-pass highway appropriations bill, and you skipped both the cloture and final votes on the continuing resolution to fund the government including Planned Parenthood. What do you say to pro-lifers concerned that this shows you will not fight as hard for them as other candidates will?

Donald Trump: In the February debate, you asserted that Planned Parenthood “does do wonderful things but not as it relates to abortion,” despite the fact that the organization’s non-abortion services have been steadily declining, and suggested one of your Supreme Court nominees might be Judge Diane Sykes, who in 2012 wrote an opinion striking down Indiana’s attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. Why should these not concern pro-lifers that a Trump Administration might be less than fully committed to completely defunding Planned Parenthood?

We already know these guys can talk boldly about abortion and Planned Parenthood. We know what they’ve said and done about the easy questions. Now we need some real depth and detail. What say you, major media? How about it, Chairman Priebus?

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