Friday, November 16, 2007

National Right to Life issues clarification of its endorsement of Fred Thompson

It should be noted that Arizona Right to Life has not yet come out and endorsed a candidate for president in the primary. Obviously, Fred Thompson has better pro-life credentials than most of the Republican candidates still left in the race. Arguably Huckabee has a better record (but may not be as viable in the election since he's less fiscally conservative) and McCain isn't far behind. Romney claims to be pro-life now but has no track record yet showing that he has changed from his prior pro-abortion position. Giuliani is clearly not an option. The remaining candidates are not viable, Duncan Hunter is unfortunately doing poorly in the polls and Alan Keyes, who jumped into the race late, is being systematically and unfairly excluded from the debates.

Today's News & Views
November 15, 2007

Further Reflections on NRLC’s Endorsement of Sen. Fred Thompson
for President

Editor’s note. Please send me your thoughts at

Everyone knows what is at stake. Pro-life President George W. Bush’s second term ends in 2008 and in less than a year we will elect his successor.

He or she will either work hand in glove with a Movement whose goal is to save unborn babies from death and destruction and their mothers from remorse and guilt, or they will throw their lot in with a philosophy whose core tenet is that there are never enough abortions, never sufficient misery, and never a reason to help women choose life. The choice is that stark.

That alone would increase the room temperature. But on top of that there are time pressures. The first caucus takes place January 3rd, the first primary tentatively scheduled for January 8th.

Furthermore, it is possible—perhaps probable—that by the end of the day February 5, both party’s presidential nominees will be known. That first Tuesday in February will amount to a kind of mini-national primary.

But on top of all that there are pro-lifers who favor one or the other of several pro-life Republican candidates. Yesterday National Right to Life endorsed former Sen. Fred Thompson with the predictable result that many people are happy, some are not—and passionately so.

For those who missed Tuesday’s edition, let me offer a three-paragraph recapitulation. Then, if I may, let me make just two brief additional comments.

Not only was the NRLC board’s decision in favor of Thompson overwhelming, because those board members come directly from grassroots state and local organizations, it means the endorsement reflected the cumulative judgment of a wide swathe of our Movement, not Washington “insiders.”

In the judgment of our board Thompson best met the three criteria it established for endorsement: (1) the position of candidates on the life issues, (2) their records on the life issues, and (3) and their ability to win. The board of NRLC believes Thompson has the best chance of thwarting pro-abortion Rudy Giuliani in the GOP presidential primary and would be the strongest opponent for whichever militant pro-abortion emerges from the Democratic Party.

In the past 24 hours some have unfortunately suggested there are other considerations, but, in fact, there were none. The decision was straightforward and in harmony with NRLC’s guiding light-- we don't just want to make a statement; we want to make a difference in advancing the cause of life.

With that summary, let me move on.

Criticism (and caricatures) of any candidate will always receive far more attention than clarifications of what he or she meant. For example, Mr. Thompson has repeatedly stated his total opposition to Roe v. Wade, a breathtakingly arrogant decision that gutted the abortion statutes of all 50 states.

The Republican Party’s platform calls for a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution. An HLA is one tool to win protection for unborn babies. But it would require a 2/3rds vote in the Senate and the House and ratification by 3/4ths of the states, a formidable task.

Between 25 and 30 senators would need to be replaced to reach that 2/3rds figure, not something that is likely to take place for some time. And if an HLA were to be passed out of Congress and ratified by 3/4rds of the states, unborn babies would not automatically be protected. Protective legislation would have to be passed in each state. Ratification of an HLA is a long-term NRLC goal.

But babies are dying in the here and now. NRLC’s emphasis, like Thompson’s, is on what the next President can accomplish. Thompson has made clear that the only way Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned in the foreseeable future is by the confirmation of justices who do not believe there are parts of the Constitution written in invisible ink—where Blackmun discovered the “right” to abortion. Thompson says he would nominate justices who interpret the Constitution according to its actual text.

Thompson has also stated that he believes decisions about a patient's life-saving care should be made by the patient or his or her family. But he has also made clear that when the patient wants treatment, or in cases where the patient's wishes are unknown, if their families want life-sustaining treatment, it should be provided.

In cases where the family is divided, Thompson believes the benefit of the doubt should be given to life. Terri Schindler Schiavo would be alive today if, in this situation of a divided family, the presumption had been in favor of life.

Let me end by repeating the conclusion of Tuesday’s TN&V. I believe it captures what NRLC is attempting to accomplish by endorsing a strong pro-life candidate like Thompson.

Ron Elving, the senior Washington editor for NPR News, observed this morning, “So you take a savvy outfit like the National Right to Life Committee, pretty much the General Motors of the right to life movement, and what they are worried about is preserving the … coalition…which has pretty much won five of the last seven presidential elections, including the last two.”


In the months to come NRLC’s endorsement of Thompson may well come to be seen as the decisive action which shook up the race for the Republican presidential nomination. It is a simple statement of historical fact that millions and millions of pro-life Americans look to NRLC for guidance on these crucial questions which is the reason why presidential candidates who are pro-life have always enjoyed an advantage among the voters for whom abortion is the single most important issue.

And NRLC’s advice to its supporters—and to all pro-lifers of good will—is to unite behind Fred Thompson.

Please send your comments to Dave Andrusko at

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