Two months ago I wrote A plea to pro-life voters, followed by The speech I wish Mr Obama would make. Today, the day before the election, I write again to pro-life voters. Not to those who truly believe that Republicans know how to manage the economy and conduct world affairs, but to those who agree with Mr Obama on nearly everything except abortion. I urge you --when you vote, consider the record. What's important isn't what a candidate says about abortion, but what actually happens under his watch.
What has happened over the last 28 years--20 years of Republican presidents running on pro-life platforms, 8 years of a Democratic president vowing to keep abortion "safe, legal, and rare"?
Short answer: the Democrats did better.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, the abortion rate decreased under the Bush administration, as it has under every administration since the mid-80s. The greatest decrease in abortion rates did not happen during a Republican administration, however, but during the 90s when Mr Clinton was president. No one knows exactly why--less sex? better contraception? better sex education? aging Boomers no longer fertile? less shame about unwed motherhood? less poverty?
Unwed motherhood is certainly on the rise. In 2006, 38.5% of live births were to unmarried women, says the Centers for Disease Control, noting that "this represents a 20 percent increase from 2002, when the recent upswing in nonmarital births began." But unwed motherhood does not necessarily go up when abortion goes down. Since 1980, abortion rates have decreased and single-motherhood rates have increased during all Republican administrations. By contrast, during the Clinton years abortion rates decreased significantly while single-motherhood rates held steady. Check it out here.
Abortion aside, what about other threats to human life? Under President Bush's leadership, over 4,000 of our military personnel have died; up to 100,000 have been wounded; and nearly 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died. War too is a pro-life issue.
During the primaries, when support for Mr Obama started to gain on that for Mrs Clinton, The Economist headlined an article "The Triumph of Hope over Experience?" During the presidential campaign, journalists and bloggers have applied Dr Samuel Johnson's phrase to voters who favor Mr Obama, 47, over Mr McCain, 72. I think they have it exactly backward--especially for pro-life voters. A vote for McCain is a hope that he will reverse the experience of his pro-life predecessors.
Dr Johnson was talking about a man who, having endured an unhappy marriage, immediately remarried (Life, vol. 2, 1770). A lot of us are unhappy about rising abortion rates, rising rates of single parenthood, rising numbers of war dead. If we go ahead in spite of our experience and elect another Republican--one who expressed support for Roe v. Wade before he changed his mind in order to appeal to the Religious Right, one whose knee-jerk response to any question is to use military power--we will get what we deserve. More of the same.
Consider this definition attributed to Albert Einstein: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Please vote sanely.