RNC Chairman Michael Steele is tussling with the right-est of the right-wingers today for daring to acknowledge in a new GQ interview that women currently have the right to choose an abortion.
Steele, who is adopted and is a former Catholic seminarian, has what he calls some pretty strong views on the subject. Early in the interview, he says:
We are a party that values life, born and unborn.
Sounds pretty clear, right? He delves deeper into that later:
How much of your pro-life stance, for you, is informed not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?
Oh, a lot. Absolutely. I see the power of life in that-I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it… Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth.
The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.
Now, keep in mind, one of the advertising slogans of the anti-abortion movement is "Choose life." The entire premise of the now-infamous CatholicVote commercial about Barack Obama is that his mother chose to not have an abortion. The Republican party and the anti-abortion movement seeks simultaneously to eliminate that choice and to convince women not to choose abortion until they succeed in eliminating it (hence with the crisis pregnancy centers and the clinic protests and the guilt-tripping).
But despite affirming his support for unborn Republicans and "life" and all those buzz words, you'd think the next thing he said was anti-abortion apostasy:
Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
Yeah. I mean, again, I think that's an individual choice.
Yeah, because it (currently) is a legal choice for women to make. And for thousands of years — if not more — before it was a safe and legal choice, it was an often-unsafe and sometimes illegal choice. That's the reality: laws don't keep people from choosing certain actions (like, say, smoking pot or driving drunk or drinking at age 17), they just punish people for doing so. But to listen to Republican pundits, you'd think Michael Steele had advocated for the Freedom of Choice Act.
Ben Smith at Politico gets some of those pundits on the record:
"I think it is very troubling for a public figure, of either party, particularly one who presents himself as pro-life, to describe the abortion issue as being a matter of 'individual choice,'" That is language straight out of Planned Parenthood's messaging playbook," said Charmaine Yoest, the president and CEO of Americans United for Life Action, who said she hadn't heard from the RNC.
There's also Jill Stanek, a big advocate of "Choose Life" license plates:
"Michael Steele has just unmistakably proclaimed himself to be pro-choice," she said in an email. "You thought he was 'embattled' last week over his Limbaugh comment? Ha. He has now stepped both feet into it."
And Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council weighs in, too:
"I expressed my concerns to the chairman earlier this week about previous statements that were very similar in nature. He assured me as chairman his views did not matter and that he would be upholding and promoting the Party platform, which is very clear on these issues. It is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview with the chairman's pledge."
And then, last but not least, former Arkansas governor and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee:
For Chairman Steele to even infer that taking a life is totally left up to the individual is not only a reversal of Republican policy and principle, but it's a violation of the most basic of human rights—the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It's like we didn't even read the same interview. But then, of course, I can read. And Michael Steele kept talking, so I kept reading.
Are you saying you don't want to overturn Roe v. Wade?
I think Roe v. Wade-as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.
Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
The states should make that choice. That's what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.
And there's the actual crux of the matter. Even if a statewide abortion ban or a embryonic personhood amendment gets to the Supreme Court and even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade — which, in effect, said that states can regulate but not eliminate abortion — and throws the banishment question back to the states, the truth is that in many states, abortion would remain legal. No amount of right-wing advocacy is likely to convince the states of New York or California, for instance, to roll back women's reproductive rights any time soon.
But here's where the Christian right rubs up against the other bedrock principles of the Republican party: federalism and limited government. A limited government supposedly seeks to regulate the lives of its citizens somewhat minimally — and eliminating abortion, using federal funds to teach abstinence in schools and other pet projects of the Christian right are hardly bastions of limited government. The folks who have their panties all in a wad are not remotely limited-government Republicans, they are Christian-ideology Republicans who are perfectly happy to espouse the limited government principles when it suits them and to expand the role of government in Americans' lives when it doesn't.
Michael Steele might or might not survive this supposed gaffe, and Republicans (other than, to give credit where credit is unfortunately due, Kathryn Jean Lopez who did read the entire interview rather than relying on an out-of-context quote) may or may not bother reading the interview in its entirety. But what booting Steele will do is prove that the Christian right is still helming the party that they, their President, their policies and their intolerance of dissenting voices has helped run into the ground. So, you know, woo Ken Blackwell! Ride that recall!
The Reconstructionist [GQ]
Steele, Under Fire, Walks Back 'Choice' Remark [Politico]
Huckabee Blasts 'Troubling' Steele Remarks [Politico]
Re: Steele [National Review]
Blackwell Raises The Stakes [Politico]
Related: Choose Honesty [Jill Stanek]