Thursday, January 1, 2015

Who’s More Pro Life: Republicans or Democrats?

        The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people he didn’t exist.
                                                                    - The Usual Suspects

Contrary to what Kevin Spacey’s character claims in the movie The Usual Suspects, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was not convincing people he didn’t exist. It was convincing Pro-Life Christians that Republicans were actually pro-life. The truth is, when we look at everything from wars to genocide, as well as abortion, murder, infant mortality, death penalty, and suicide rates, and in which states people live the longest, it turns out that Republicans seem to be almost anything but
When did Republicans start calling themselves “Pro Life”?
The Pro-Life moniker became attached to the Republican Party in 1976 when it was introduced as a plank in the Republican Party platform by Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). The only reason no serious challenge was brought within the party against its move to Pro-Life was because, at the time, the Republican Party was divided about the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, “which was already under siege from prominent party members like Phyllis Shafly.”[i] If the Republican Party had not been so busy attacking the ERA - with such dubious claims as, it would "deny a woman's right to be supported by her husband" and "result in women being drafted into combat" -  it may never have become Pro-Life in the first place. 

When are Abortion Rates Lower?
Have you ever wondered if more abortions are performed, on average, during Republican or Democratic presidencies? In response to this question, some have argued that abortions are lower when the president is Republican[ii],[iii]  while others argue it’s lower when the president is a Democrat.[iv] The truth, however, is that, according to the numbers, it’s pretty much even. The average is about the same number of abortions per year regardless of which party is sitting in the oval office.[v]

Considering the fact that Republicans were Pro-Choice until 1976, we see that, while abortions dropped under the Clinton administration, the slightly higher average number of abortions per year since 1976 for the Democrats is, for the most part, statistically insignificant. As one commentator explained, “In rough terms, there is about a 97% likelihood that any differences between the groups are completely due to chance.”[vi]
This difference can hardly be said to be the basis for one political party being more pro-life than another, especially when we look at other areas of data that concern protecting the value of human life.

Who Starts More Wars?
Since becoming the “pro-life party” in 1976, Republican Presidents have started more wars than Democratic presidents. The first war to be waged after the Republican Party changed its Pro-Choice position was started by Ronald Reagan in Grenada in 1983. The next White House incumbent, H.W. Bush, followed this up with an invasion of Panama and a war in the Persian Gulf. After that, the Democratic President Bill Clinton took office and, over the course of his two terms, started wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. And finally, following in his father’s footsteps, President G.W. Bush started wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Looking at the score card, since becoming Pro-Life, Republican Presidents have started 5 of the last 8 wars to date. It is impossible, therefore, to see how the Republican Party is more Pro Life than Democrats when it comes to war.

What about Genocide?
 Five years after committing itself to being a “pro-life” party, Republican President Ronald Reagan directly contributed to acts of genocide in Guatemala from 1981 to 1986.

“As reported by the journalist Robert Parry, working from a document he discovered in the Reagan Library,” in 1981, Reagan’s national security team sought to supply military aid to the right-wing regime in Guatemala in order to “exterminate not only “Marxist guerrillas” but also their “civilian support mechanisms” – which means, effectively, genocide.”[vii] To accomplish this, Reagan sent "nonlethal" equipment to that countries dictator, "including Bell helicopters that were immediately armed and sent on their missions of death and destruction."

Once in office, Reagan continued to supply munitions and training to the Guatemalan army, despite a ban on military aid imposed by the Carter administration. In fact, economic aid increased from $11 million in 1980 to $104 million in 1986," with nearly all of it going to the rural western highlands, where the Mayan victims of the genocide lived."[viii]

This aid helped the Guatemalan military implement a key part of its counter-insurgency campaign: following the massacres, soldiers herded survivors into “model villages,” detention camps really, where they used food and other material supplied by the U.S. Agency for International Development to establish control.[ix]

On Dec. 5, 1982, Reagan hid his contributions to the genocide using Orwellian double speak when he met with Guatemalan president Rios Montt (1982-1983) in Honduras. He did this by claiming that Montt was “a man of great integrity'' and "totally dedicated to democracy.” The day after Reagan finished bestowing these accolades on Montt, Guatemalan soldiers arrived at a village called Dos Erres and started killing. The slaughter went on for three days and by the time it was over at least 162 people, including many children, were dead.[x]

What about the Death Penalty?
Since becoming Pro Life, Republicans have also become greater supporters of the Death Penalty. 

Views of the death penalty for convicted murderers over twenty years show a drop in support among Democrats from 75% in 1994, to 49% (47% according to some statistics)in 2014. At the same time, views of the death penalty among Republicans have gone from 85% support for the death penalty in 1994 to 76% support for it in 2014. Likewise by political ideologies, 74% of Conservatives supported the death penalty from 2001 to 2004, while only 54% of Liberals supported it during that same time. 

Furthermore, “thirty-two states have the death penalty on their legal code,” while “Republican-dominated states have performed an enormous majority of U.S. prisoner executions since 1976. Of the 1,359 executions since that date -- the number reported by the Death Penalty Information Center as of Dec. 18, 2013 -- 1,110 occurred in Republican-dominated Southern states. About one-third of those sentences were in Texas, where 508 death row inmates have been put to death in the past 37 years.[xi]

What about Murder Rates?
The top three states with the highest murder rates all voted Republican in the last four presidential elections, and include Louisiana at 10.8 out of 100k, Alabama at 7.2, and Mississippi at 6.5.  And of the top ten states with the highest murder rates, seven voted Republican in those same elections.[xii]

How about Suicide Rates?
Like the murder rates, states that voted Republican in the last four presidential elections also have greater suicide rates,[xiii] with the first four of the top five including Wyoming at 23.2 out of 100k, Alaska at 23.1, Montana at 22.9, and Nevada at 20.3. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the lowest suicide rates were all found in states that voted Democrat in the last four presidential elections, including California at 9.8, Hawaii at 9.7, Maryland at 9, Rhode Island at 8.7, Illinois at 8.5, Massachusetts at 7.6, Connecticut at 7.4, New York at 7, New Jersey at 6.7, and Washington D.C. with the lowest of 5.8.[xiv]

Even in those states where Republicans have the highest economic growth rates, like Wyoming, New Mexico, and Nevada, we find some of the nation’s highest suicide rates. [xv]

What about living longer?
6 of the top 7 states where people live longest in America voted Democrat in the last four presidential elections.[xvi]
Infant Mortality Rates?  
Even infant mortality rates are higher in states that voted Republican in the last four presidential elections, with Mississippi at 10, Alabama at 9.2, and North Carolina and Tennessee at 8.2. The lowest rates of infant mortality, on the other hand, belongs to states that voted Democrat[xvii]

At a glance, it does not appear that the Republican Party can legitimately claim to be anything but "Pro-Life" in name only. The numbers suggest instead that the Republican Party became Pro Life in order to co-opt Christianity into a political culture of death. In many ways, this unholy alliance between Conservatives and Christians appears to have been orchestrated for the sole purpose of turning a religion that originally condemned 'money changers' as a “den of thieves” into one that championed those same money changers for their financial thrift. This role reversal eventually helped to produce a child of contradiction known as Tea Party Republicans. Yet these Tea Party Republicans are more Barabbian than Christian, and if ever they were asked to choose between America and God, they would feel it their Christian duty to oppose government by freeing Barabbas and defend their religion by demanding that Christ be crucified. 

Indeed, given the overwhelming opposition to gun control and universal healthcare espoused by some Conservatives today, it seems the only "life" such Republicans are in favor of is their own. 

[i] Bob Dole, who was trying to win support from conservatives in his bid to become Ford’s running mate, realized that a strong antiabortion platform plank could conciliate Reagan delegates and gain approval from Catholics and social conservatives. With memories of his own successful pro-life reelection strategy fresh in his mind, Dole met with representatives of Ellen McCormack’s Democratic presidential campaign in order to find out what they would accept in a platform plank on abortion, and he then worked with a sponsor of a “human life amendment,” to draft a platform plank that opposed abortion in much more strident language than the president had originally desired. Helms, who considered abortion to be “murder,” was one of the earliest conservative Republican converts to the pro-life cause; by 1976, he had already written an antiabortion article for Human Events and had been a featured speaker at national pro-life rallies, so he was well versed in the language of the right-to-life movement. He was also a staunch Reagan supporter. By enlisting Helms’s support in drafting the antiabortion platform plank, Dole helped to mollify conservative Republicans, Reagan delegates, and pro-life activists, all of whom had been reluctant to support the president.
Twenty-eight female delegates that year did sign a “minority report urging the Republican Party not to take a position on abortion,” Williams notes. But they were talked out of pursuing any serious opposition on the issue, out of fear that it could derail the Republican party’s support for the Equal Rights Amendment, already under siege from prominent party members like Phyllis Schafly.

[ii](According to this author, abortion rates are lower under Republican Administrations)
[iii] (According to this author, abortion rates are lower under Democratic Administrations)
There is a reason abortions went up under Reagan, up under Bush I, saw their largest decline since Roe under Clinton, and then leveled out again under Bush II (abortion data isn’t available yet for Obama’s first term).  Democratic policies reduce abortions, and Republican policies tend to result in more. (Read more:
[v] The averages provided are slightly skewed. The Republican Party did not adopt a Pro Life platform until 1976, which means the first two years of Ford’s presidency should not be included in the calculations. When those years are left out of the averaging, the Republican per year average rises slightly from 1326447.08 to 1359178.63, compared to the per year average by Democratic presidents of 1396619.17. Hence the differences between the two parties are smaller than suggested. Also, in 2000, in Stenberg v Carhart, SCOTUS struck down a ban on partial birth abortions in Nebraska, which invalidated similar laws in 30 other states. Abortions from 2000 to 2007 did not rise, however, but instead continued to decline. (In 2003, President Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion Act that banned the procedure but it was not passed until SCOTUS affirmed the PBA Act in Gonzales v Carhart in 2007) If PP v Casey (1992) supposedly resulted in fewer abortions due to greater state regulations, as this author suggests, then by such reasoning the 2000 Carhart case, which invalidated some such regulations, would be expected to have resulted in an increase in abortions from 2000 to 2007. Yet the opposite happened as abortions continued to decline during that time, and even until today. This does not mean that Democrats are better or Republicans are worse, necessarily. It just means that such suggestions can lead us to interpret the numbers in ways more favorable to the political party we may prefer. As Mark Twain put it, there are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

[vi] Jennie on October 25, 2012 at 7:39 am said: If I made a simplistic interpretation of this based solely on the data, I would be likely to conclude that as a pro-lifer, it doesn’t matter at all whether you vote for Romney or Obama in terms of abortion rates. But clearly there must be some other reason(s) for the decrease in abortions over time. I would guess that changing attitudes over time might have an influence. I think it is premature to wager that Planned Parenthood v. Casey was responsible for the decrease in abortions—you could very easily suggest that changing attitudes in the population/legislators against abortion caused the PP v. Casey ruling, and also caused the decrease in abortions.
[ix] Id.
[x] Id.
[xv] Id.

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