For the most part, I’d wager abortion is not the ideal topic at an intimate dinner party. Even politicians are shy to discuss it. Yet those who are adamant on their stance typically aren’t afraid to voice their opinions. We’ve all seen them along Grand River Avenue, demonstrating with posters and picket signs, fighting for their cause, passing out brochures graphic enough to make a med student queasy. Who are they? They are members of the East Lansing pro-life community. MSU, as liberal as it may seem sometimes, has had mammoth internal debate over the topic of abortion. Why do students and other community members feel so strongly about abortion? Is it the result of religious upbringing, health reasons, party allegiance or a combination of the three? What happens when those who believe in Republican ideals are pro-choice? When Democrats are pro-life? It can be a thin line to walk, but a bold and well spotlighted line, too.[blair]
The debate over abortion is one that never has a clear victor. Even the group names of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” directly threaten each other, implying the opposite viewpoint is “pro-death” or “anti-choice” (neither of which sounds very appealing). While our country still upholds Roe v. Wade (tried in 1973), it is clear there has never been a national consensus. With elections rolling around in November, Roe v. Wade could be entering its last days, whether a Democrat or a Republican wins the presidency. The two major Republicans in contention – John McCain and Mike Huckabee – are adamant about trying to repeal the verdict. On the other end of the spectrum, the leading Democrats, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, are resolving to uphold Roe v. Wade. While both parties campaign vehemently for their respective viewpoints, it remains clear the nation has reached a turning point on the legalization of abortion.[preg]
A Changing World?
Should a conservative win the election in November, is there potential for a future U.S. without legalized abortions? It is widely believed the potential for Roe v. Wade to be overridden rests widely on the justices who sit on the Supreme Court and their style of interpreting the Constitution. While the justices do not directly represent a political party, it is widely recognized that seven of the justices lean conservative, while two are liberal – indicating an obvious imbalance. Ben Morlock, a representative of MSU’s College Republicans, said the key to overturning Roe v. Wade is for a conservative president to appoint strict constitutional constructionists to the Supreme Court. “The Roe v. Wade decision, made 35 years [ago], was a split decision by the Supreme Court and is based on very little constitutional precedent,” Morlock said. “A new strict constructionist justice to the Supreme Court would allow it to overturn the decision and give abortion rights to the states.” President George W. Bush added two strict constructionist Justices to the court, Samuel Alito and John Roberts, in a move that many Republicans consider to be a highlight of the administration.
Most Democrats, however, approach the subject from a different angle. Instead of weighing in on the legitimacy of Roe v. Wade, many liberals tend to focus on how to undo the damage they believe Bush has done. Many Democrats are against the Bush administration’s nominations to the court, and the current Democratic nominees vow to appoint justices who will uphold decisions. “The big issue is preventing states from enacting their own laws on what kind of abortions are legal, which has the potential to outlaw almost everything with loopholes,” said Erin Robinson, MSU Democrats communications chair. “The Democratic candidates are both dedicated to make the federal law more clear cut, avoiding the confusion that can result from states enforcing their own laws.” Hillary Clinton’s campaign Web site even promotes her plan to enact a Freedom of Choice Act, which would sign the legality of abortion into federal law.
Give Me That Old Time Religion
[abort1]While there are typically two sides to the abortion issue, the reasoning goes far beyond self-imposed titles. For many, it is not a simple political choice, but one that touches on religious values. “When it comes to abortion, that is when the line between church and state is crossed,” finance senior Megan Sieg said. “This is a free country, and therefore people should be able to believe what they want to believe. I believe it’s God’s decision in who is born, not one people should be empowered to make. People don’t have the knowledge to back up a decision of that proportion.” Dozens of religious groups, from Lutheran to Catholic to Jewish, are ardent supporters of the pro-life movement. This viewpoint neatly fits in with the family value-focused Republican party.
[morlock]Alternately, many pro-choice Americans claim their reasoning isn’t derived from their personal beliefs, but from the principle that it should ultimately be the woman’s right to choose. Democrats contend that if abortion is outlawed, women’s rights will be violated by the government’s failure to uphold the separation between church and state. “Before Roe v. Wade was decided in the U.S., abortion was a huge blow to women’s health,” said Emily Mixter, an MSU pro-choice representative. “Women were forced to risk their lives and break the law, and thousands die from back alley abortions in other countries.” Could this be the future of ours? Those who are pro-choice proponents point to this potential reality. Mixter knows that once again, women will be faced with death if abortions are made illegal. “Women will still try to get abortions but they won’t be rare, safe and legal,” Mixter said. “Instead women will turn to what was practiced in the U.S. before abortions were made legal and what is still being practiced today in countries where it remains illegal. That would be an unacceptable situation for the U.S.”
It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To
College Republican Morlock and College Democrat Robertson have claimed their respective parties’ views on abortion are built into their national platforms. While at first glance it would appear the liberal pro-choice and conservative pro-life mindsets fit neatly within the parties’ ideals, we have to wonder how those who find themselves at a crossroads vote. East Lansing is crawling with pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans who aren’t sure where they fit in the political spectrum. Education junior Erika Johnson described her difficult position. “I could never imagine getting an abortion. It’s something I don’t agree with and never have, no matter the stage of the pregnancy,” she said. “I am a Democrat, but I hold a traditionally conservative view of pro-life. It would affect how I viewed the nominees, but probably wouldn’t sway me from voting Democrat.” For students like Johnson, abortion is not a deal-breaker in terms of leaving her political party.[mixter]
For others, however, abortion is the main determining factor on who gets their vote. Local resident JoAnn Taylor proudly labels herself as a Republican, yet holds an avid pro-choice opinion. “My family always labels themselves as Republican in terms of economics and international affairs. But if I had to vote between a pro-choice Democrat or a pro-life Republican, I would vote for the Democrat because I feel very strongly about pro-choice,” she said. There are hybrid political figures that share these beliefs as well.
“One popular pro-choice Republican is former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani,” Morlock said. “There can be a broader spectrum of opinions in the Republican Party. While Mayor Guiliani leans towards the left in terms of abortion, he is also a high promoter of adoption. It has a way of balancing out.” It can be a tricky decision, but one that many Americans make every time they set foot in the voting booths.[abort2]
All in all, do not expect to hear Roe v. Wade focused on by nominees in the upcoming election. “The media is more likely to mention it more than politicians, since it is easy to differentiate parties.” said Matthew Grossman, an assistant professor of political science. It is simple for the public to choose their parties by associating themselves with a pro-life conservative or pro-choice liberal. However, as abortion continues to wobble on an unsteady foundation, the future of Roe v. Wade may be very much in jeopardy. Whether a Republican or Democrat is elected in November, there is a real possibility for a solid law to be derived, one way or the other.
With the Democratic candidates narrowing down and November fast approaching, political issues are on everyone’s minds, and abortion is always a quick way to get people talking. Abortion was a hot topic long before Roe v. Wade was handed down; add politics and religion to the mix, and the subject becomes much more dynamic…and much less likely to disappear.

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