Fred Thompson may be in trouble with pro-life advocates, reports Robert Novak reported yesterday in the Washington Post.
Apparently Thompson made two missteps. First he mentioned, in a TV interview, that he didn't want to criminalize young girls and the parents of girls who got abortions: "I do not think it is a wise thing to criminalize young girls and perhaps their parents as aiders and abettors... You can't have a [federal] law" that "would take young, young girls . . . and say, basically, we're going to put them in jail."
The article identifies this as a red herring: pro-lifers generally don't want to prosecute abortion recipients. In fact, pro-life groups tend to offer sympathy and support to those who have had abortions. And Thompson should have realized this, but he never endorsed abortion. He merely was trying to distance himself from a body of extreme pro-lifers that apparently is small to non-existent.
Fred Thompson's primary political position is for states' rights, or federalism. Many Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives alike agree in principle with states' rights, until they get a chance to change the entire nation from the top down, as abortion proponents got in Roe v Wade and opponents want in a constitutional amendment banning abortion.
That was Senator Thompson's second costly opinion: initially opposing such an amendment. He wants the abortion debate to take place in the states. On a similar point, he refused to take a position on the Terry Schiavo fiasco in Florida. The opinions led one pro-life agitator to ask: "How, then, can Thompson describe himself as pro-life?"
Because he supports the states banning abortion, that's how. He doesn't have to preach against the evils of abortion every time an interviewer asks about it. That's not the president's job. Nor is it the president's job to oversee a judge's decision on a custody/right-to-life case that is entirely based on Florida state law. If the state doesn't properly protect life, that's its own problem and the federal government doesn't have the authority to change its law or practice. Would also criticize Justice Byron White, dissenter to Roe v Wade, when he wrote that Roe interfered with a decision that the people and states should be making themselves?
The constitutional amendment issue has some nuances. Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision that declared a Constitutional right to abortion, is incorrect and usurps states' rights. A constitutional amendment is the only way anyone but the Court can change this decision. Perhaps this is why Thompson later came out in favor of such an amendment - or perhaps he was just tired of losing supporters over the issue.
No one is claiming that Fred Thompson actually supports abortion, but if he tries to balance states' rights with ending abortion, we complain that he doesn't take abortion seriously. If he doesn't know the details of a local court case some have studied in depth, we say he's uninformed. Opinions like that make me sick of campaign politics. Instead of looking at the details of how a candidate believes and votes, we expect politicians to shake our hand, sweet-talk us, and not yell "yaaah!". And heaven forbid he once insulted our state's political system.
I'm just glad Thompson has principles, good principles, and doesn't gloss them over when he's courting votes.