How do you resolve an unresolvable conflict? You agree to disagree and move on. For the Republican Party, that needs to be done now with the issue of abortion.
For the past 25 years, a debate has raged over how to treat the issue within the party's platform. Even as platforms have devolved into statements rarely followed by the party's candidates, the debate has sparked near-firestorms in the ranks.
A proposed 2000 platform was to be voted on Thursday by the California Republican Party's platform committee. There is a ground swell for the platform -- to be decided on Sunday by the state central committee in San Francisco -- to be a statement of party principles, as opposed to a long and detailed policy statement. Some believe that the platform should include only concepts that people universally identify as the party's stances. It should not include planks solely there because those backing them showed up at the meeting or obtained a majority vote of a selected group of representatives. That is why elections and legislatures exist.
There is clearly not universal agreement in the Republican Party on the broad issue of abortion. Yet agreement does exist on three subissues of abortion that can be identified as unifying concepts.
--Government funding. Clearly, if you want government out of the issue, then government should not pay for the procedure. This position clearly contrasts with the Democrats, who want government out of the decision-making process. Yet instead of funding the procedures themselves through charitable contributions, Democrats still want the federal coffers to pay for them.
--Having government determine the right to an abortion for a minor. It is rare that any government branch can intercede in medical issues of a minor, so why abortion? Government intervention between a minor and her parents on this issue is destructive to parental authority. The intervention counters a core principle of the Republican Party of strengthening families.
--Late-term abortions. Even strong advocates of choice have disdain for these procedures. Few believe that the procedure is to save the life of the mother except in rare cases. Most Americans do not accept the procedure as being reasonable. If the Democrats wish to support this cause, they will be the ones who are seen as inflexible.
That being said, these three subissues should not be a matter for the platform. These are issues for candidates to decide on as a matter of policy and conscience. The voters should then have an opportunity to decide which candidate best represents them on a broad array of issues that will confront any officeholder.
Republicans who defend choice on abortion believe that it is a core principle of the party. Having government intercede to determine a woman's rights certainly contradicts the principle of smaller government. It also contradicts the principle that it is better for people to make decisions on their own -- with counsel from family, clergy and community groups -- than it is for a faraway bureaucrat to do so.
Republicans who favor choice endorse the rights of anti-abortion people to work to eliminate abortion through moral suasion and community activism. They support a debate about the issue, but believe that government strong-arming of individuals is as inappropriate on this matter as it is on a multitude of other matters.
Republicans should make it clear that they are the party of choice. A person can choose to accept abortion or be against it and still be a Republican. That is certainly more than the Democrats can say.
(Bialosky is a member of the California Republican Party's platform committee.)
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