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Abortion access

Comparison of the Republican Party's
platform on abortion topics: 2004 & 2008

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Republican Party platform in 2004:

The party's slogan was "A safer world and a more hopeful America."

Promoting healthy choices, including abstinence:
"Each year more than three million American teenagers contract sexually transmitted diseases, causing emotional harm and serious health consequences, even death. We support efforts to educate teens and parents about the health risks associated with early sexual activity and provide the tools needed to help teens make healthy choices. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including sexually transmitted HIV/AIDS. Therefore, we support doubling abstinence education funding. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related services for contraception and abortion." 1

Promoting a Culture of Life

As a country, we must keep our pledge to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence. That is why we say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation to make it clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. Our purpose is to have legislative and judicial protection of that right against those who perform abortions. We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

Our goal is to ensure that women with problem pregnancies have the kind of support, material and otherwise, they need for themselves and for their babies, not to be punitive towards those for whose difficult situation we have only compassion. We oppose abortion, but our pro-life agenda does not include punitive action against women who have an abortion. We salute those who provide alternatives to abortion and offer adoption services, and we commend Congressional Republicans for expanding assistance to adopting families and for removing racial barriers to adoption. We join the President in supporting crisis pregnancy programs and parental notification laws. And we applaud President Bush for allowing states to extend health care coverage to unborn children.

We praise the President for his bold leadership in defense of life. We praise him for signing the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. This important legislation ensures that every infant born alive -- including an infant who survives an abortion procedure -- is considered a person under federal law.

We praise Republicans in Congress for passing, with strong bipartisan support, a ban on the inhumane procedure known as partial birth abortion. And we applaud President Bush for signing legislation outlawing partial birth abortion and for vigorously defending it in the courts.2 

Interpretation of the 2004 platform:

Perhaps the most important tool  "... needed to help teens make healthy choices" is information concerning the use of condoms and of contraceptive alternatives. This is forbidden under abstinence grants introduced by the Republican Party and funded by the federal government. 

The phrase "abstinence education funding" is deceptive. All sex-ed classes involve abstinence education. But the only funding supplied by the federal government is for abstinence only education: i.e. comprehensive sex education with contraception and disease prevention information removed. As a result, many students are deprived of the very information needed to maintain their health if they are sexually active or become so in the future.

Their discussion on the culture of life states that human life in the form of an ovum and spermatozoon becomes a human person at the time of conception. Thus, they imply that any abortion procedure or any device or medication that prevents a fertilized ovum from implanting itself in the wall of the uterus murders a human person who has rights equal to a newborn, child or adult. The use of Plan B contraceptive medication and IUDs would logically have to be outlawed. The implications of this belief system is that, once fertilization of an ovum happens, the woman is to be subjected to forced childbirth, even against her will. The only exception might be an abortion needed to save the life of the woman. This is the strictest of the many pro-life positions and is rejected by most Americans.

The Born Alive Infants Protection Act sounds good on paper. But in reality, it can require physicians to extend the suffering of a fetus in pain as long as possible, even though the fetus has no chance of living for more than a few hours.

In their praise for the criminalization of D&X abortions, they do not mention that the only legal alternative in cases when advanced pregnancies must be terminated to save the life or health of the woman, becomes a procedure that is more dangerous to her health.

Process to create the 2008 Republican Party platform:

The Republican Party created a website at: http://www.gopplatform2008.com to enable individual Republicans to provide input to the party platform. They state:

"Welcome to the most grassroots-driven platform development effort in the history of American politics!"

"The Republican Party is seeking your input as we develop the policies and principles upon which we should stand for the next four years. On this website, you can share your thoughts, participate in polls, and communicate directly with the policymakers who will be shaping the party's agenda. All comments and feedback will be reviewed and taken into full consideration as we prepare for our convention in Minneapolis-St.Paul."

"We hope that this process will guarantee the greatest amount of public input into any platform in American history!" 3

The final approved wording of the 2008 platform:

Maintaining The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life:

"Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life."

"We have made progress. The Supreme Court has upheld prohibitions against the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion. States are now permitted to extend health-care coverage to children before birth. And the Born Alive Infants Protection Act has become law; this law ensures that infants who are born alive during an abortion receive all treatment and care that is provided to all newborn infants and are not neglected and left to die. We must protect girls from exploitation and statutory rape through a parental notification requirement. We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. At its core, abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life. Women deserve better than abortion. Every effort should be made to work with women considering abortion to enable and empower them to choose life. We salute those who provide them alternatives, including pregnancy care centers, and we take pride in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives." 4

Interpretation of the 2008 platform:  

As for the Democratic Party platform, this wording is hopelessly ambiguous.

The first sentence refers to the "sanctity of all human life."  If one defines "human life" as any life form with human DNA, then the term applies to a newborn, fetus, embryo, and pre-embryo after the process of conception and to the ovum and spermatozoa before conception. Although the sentence sounds impressive, it is doubtful that many voters "assert the inherent dignity and sanctity" of ova and spermatozoa.

The reference to the "unborn child" refers to its rights under the Constitution. Unfortunately, the sentence does not clearly define when "human life" becomes a human child. Most pro-life advocates probably assume that the transition happens during the process of conception when an ovum and one very lucky spermatozooon join to become a pre-embryo. However, this is not clearly defined. This point is important, because if human life becomes a human person sometime later during pregnancy -- as many pro-choice supporters believe -- then early abortions would be acceptable.

The first sentence also seems to imply that the life of a pre-embryo, embryo and fetus "cannot be infringed." That is, every pregnant woman is to be compelled to give birth, without considering any threat to her life or health, as well as any consideration of her age, financial circumstances, life goals, stage of pregnancy, etc. The sentence could be interpreted as criminalizing emergency contraception, medical abortions and surgical abortions, including conceptions created during rape and incest, and including abortions needed to save the life of the woman.

The refusal to use public funds to help poor women to obtain abortions perpetuates the current system in which the rich can always afford to go to another state or country to have an abortion while many poor women will not have that option.

The implication that a parental notification requirement will protect girls from "exploitation and statutory rape" seems to exhibit bad logic. Any exploitation and rape would have already occurred long before the girl would realize that she is pregnant. Meanwhile, in states requiring parental notification or consent, pregnant teens have sought illegal abortions in order to avoid informing their parents. Deaths can and have resulted.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "2004 Republican Party Platform," Page 81, at: http://www.gop.com/
  2. Ibid, Page 86.
  3. "All Issues," Republican Party, at: http://www.gopplatform2008.com/
  4. "Values," 2008 Republican Platform, at: http://www.gop.com/

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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-AUG-15
Latest update: 2008-OCT-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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