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Jewish World Review Feb. 22, 2000 /16 Adar I, 5760

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Alan Keyes is right --
HE MAY SOUND to some like a scold, but Alan Keyes is absolutely correct to point out that neither John McCain nor George W. Bush has an adequate grasp of the abortion issue. Both candidates are defensive and cagey about the question, clearly believing that in taking a pro-life stand they have a serpent by the tail, and they are constantly expecting it to turn and bite them.

Honorable men can disagree about whether it is proper to frame questions to candidates by referring to their families. In 1988, Gov. Michael Dukakis, an opponent of capital punishment, was asked how he would respond if his wife Kitty were raped and murdered. Dukakis stuck to his principles, and wound up sounding cold and unfeeling.

In this election cycle, candidates who oppose abortion are being asked how they would respond if their teen-age daughters got pregnant. McCain's initial answer was that his 15-year-old would make the "final decision." But upon more thought, he said it would be a "family decision." But this response reveals, as Keyes observed, that even someone with a 20-year pro-life voting record may not really embrace the position he propounds.

A truly pro-life candidate would respond as follows: "If, G-d forbid, my daughter were to become pregnant, we would let her know that we were disappointed in her (unless, of course, the pregnancy were the result of rape). We would also tell her that we will protect, love and support her throughout her pregnancy, and would expect that when the child is born, we will, as a family, make an adoption plan for the baby."

That answer would have had added power if it had come from John McCain, the adoptive father of a child saved by one of Mother Teresa's homes in Bangladesh. Since McCain doesn't hesitate to remind us of his service and sacrifice in Vietnam, why doesn't he mention his adopted daughter when the subject of abortion arises? (Mrs. McCain does mention adoption whenever possible.)

Bush, too, is guarded when he speaks of abortion. His stock phrases sound too pat: "Every child, born and unborn, protected in law and welcomed into life." No sooner are these magic words out of his mouth then Bush scurries to say that others are free to disagree. He doesn't add that demurral to his views on taxes, education or campaign finance reform.

What a lost opportunity! This is not the moment for Republicans to lose their nerve on abortion, but instead to take the issue to the Democrats, who are weak and growing weaker.

Their infirmity is revealed when they rely on lies. Just last week, for example, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., appeared on C-SPAN and delivered the following answer to a question about partial-birth abortion: "Well, that's a procedure that's very rarely used, and it's only used to save the life of the mother ... when a fetus is incompatible with life, would surely die."

Every single assertion in that sentence is false. According to the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, there are between 3,000 and 5,000 partial birth abortions performed annually. That is not "very rare." Most are performed on perfectly normal fetuses or for minor fetal deformities such as "cleft palate." Only about a quarter of partial birth abortions performed by Dr. Martin Haskell, the procedure's originator, are for "maternal health." The most common maternal problem? Depression. The bills outlawing partial birth abortion contained exceptions for the life of the mother, but they needn't have. Sometimes pregnancies do threaten the mother's life. But a Cesarean section can separate mother and child without killing the baby. It is never necessary to deliver a dead fetus to save his mother's life or health.

The American Medical Association has endorsed legislation to outlaw the procedure, agreeing with conservative members of Congress that this is "not good medicine."

Maloney further noted that she would support women who make "this very difficult decision." But if partial birth abortion is used only to save the life of the mother, and only when the fetus would certainly die anyway, as she had just asserted, why is the decision difficult?

Only Keyes understands and can articulate all this. He puts the others to shame.

JWR contributor Mona Charen reads all of her mail. Let her know what you think by clicking here. Please bear in mind, though, that while all letters are read, due to the heavy amount of traffic, not all letters can be answered.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate