Data indicate people who cared most about the abortion issue were more likely to vote pro-life
With the generally pro-life Republican party expected to make huge gains because of the Clinton scandal, the results of the U.S. election Nov. 3 were generally seen to be disappointing.
Earlier this year, out-going Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was predicting a pick-up of three to five Senate seats and 20 to 30 seats in the House of Representatives. In September, the Senate was three votes shy of over-riding President Clinton’s veto on a ban on partial-birth abortion (PBA). Against these expectations, the slight loss was a huge disappointment; but generally, pro-lifers held their own.
Carol Tobias of the National Right to Life Committee told The Interimthe election was a disappointment because pro-lifers expected to pick up a few seats and hoped to be able to over-ride President Clinton’s PBA ban veto. By the NRTLC count, they are now only two short as generally pro-abortion Arkansas Democrat, Blanche Lambert Lincoln, a former Representative who voted to ban PBAs, replaced pro-abortion Democrat Dale Bumpers.
Two pro-life Republican senators, Al D’Amato of New York and Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina, lost to pro-abortion Democratic challengers. But in Illinois, pro-life Republican Peter Fitzgerald defeated incumbent pro-abortion Democrat Carol Moseley-Braun. During a campaign debate, Fitzgerald said he would co-sponsor a Human Life Amendment to recognize “the unborn child as a human being.” As an Illinois state senator he sponsored legislation that banned same-sex marriage; he said as a U.S. senator he would screen homosexuals out of the military. Moseley-Braun opposed the PBA and parental notification laws; she supports homosexuals in the military.
Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, a pro-life Republican beat Scotty Baesler, a Democrat with a mixed record on abortion issues, to the Kentucky senate seat vacated by retiring pro-abortion Democrat Wendell Ford.
Media orthodoxy says being pro-life hurt GOP candidates. CNN polling data, however, indicated that where abortion was an issue, being pro-life was a modest asset. In New York, although pro-life Senator Al D’Amato lost, he benefited 58 to 42 per cent over pro-abortion Charles Schumer with people for whom abortion was the decisive issue.
In Wisconsin, the solidly pro-life Mark Neumann, who made partial-birth abortion an issue, lost a close race to pro-abortion incumbent Russ Feingold. One of every five Wisconsin voters said abortion was the most important issue, and of those voters, Neumann received 80 per cent of the vote. That means 16.5 per cent of Wisconsin voters voted for Neumann because he was pro-life.
In the House of Representatives, neither side made any real headway. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a pro-abortion political action committee, said the new House includes 207 pro-life, 144 pro-abortion, and 84 mixed-record representatives. The previous Congress had 213 pro-life, 135 pro-abortion, and 87 mixed-record representatives.
In a statement on Nov. 4, the American Life League said neither side could claim victory in the election. ALL argued that if pro-life voters had held their congressmen accountable to their platforms, the pro-life agenda would have been advanced.
There were several noteworthy races in the House, however. New Jersey Republican and pro-life stalwart Chris Smith easily defeated Democrat Larry Schneider, who said Smith used his position in Congress to go on personal anti-abortion crusades at the expense of properly representing his constituents. Smith won 62 to 35 per cent.
In California, feisty pro-life fighter Robert Dornan failed to recapture the seat he lost to pro-abortion Democrat Loretta Sanchez in 1996. In Wisconsin, Democrat Tammy Baldwin became the first openly lesbian woman elected to Congress.
At the state level, there was a net gain of one pro-life governor, although several “Christian Right” incumbents lost in Alabama and South Carolina, and a potential pro-life GOP presidential candidate was defeated. In California, conservative, Catholic, pro-life Republican Dan Lungren lost to Gray Davis, who favours taxpayer-funded abortion on demand and opposes a ban on partial-birth abortion. Davis replaces pro-abortion Republican Pete Wilson. In Iowa, pro-life Republican Jim Ross Lightfoot, who made abortion a prominent part of his campaign, lost to pro-abortion Ross Vilsack. The McCaughey family, including the septuplets, joined Lightfoot on the last weekend of the campaign.
Pro-life pickups were made in lllinois, Idaho, Colorado and Florida, all by Republicans. In Florida, Jeb Bush won a very significant victory, replacing pro-abortion Governor Lawton Chiles. The Orlando Sentinel noted that in recent years 18 abortion-related bills were introduced in the Florida legislature and only two made it to the governor’s desk. Chiles vetoed both of them. He even vetoed a pro-life Florida license plate.
Pro-life Republican John Engler in Michigan beat Jack Kevorkian’s former lawyer, Democrat Geoffrey Fieger 62 to 38 per cent. Fieger tried to turn his pro-euthanasia crusade into a crusade to protect personal rights and liberties. Voters didn’t buy it. ABC’s This Week co-host Cokie Roberts said people voted against Fieger because “he was for death.”
Gary Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families and president of the Family Research Council (FRC), said that many social conservatives stayed home, costing the Republicans their anticipated pick-up, because the party’s leadership was timid in advancing a solid social agenda based on traditional family values and the sanctity of human life.
In a press conference the day after the election, Bauer said, “Republican candidates (are) getting very bad advice from consultants and pollsters …. (They) seemed to cave in on social issues and values issues and the sanctity of human life.” He said he would personally “rededicate myself today to try to provide leadership in the Republican Party…” It’s rumoured Bauer will step down from the FRC this month to begin raising money for a possible presidential run in 2000.