Abortion Debate and Fiorina’s Problem

By Garry South

October 7, 2010

Capitol Weekly

In last week’s radio debate between Sen. Barbara Boxer and her opponent, deposed Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, the latter went to great lengths to slap some rouge on her extremist position on a woman’s right to choose.

As could be seen in the videotape of Fiorina in the Pasadena studio, she furrowed her brow, puckered up and declared herself shocked at what she called Boxer’s “mischaracterization” of Fiorina’s record on the subject.

Nothing was more “unconscionable than the senator’s continued assertion that I support the criminalization of abortion,” Fiorina thundered, fairly spitting out the words.  “She knows very well that is not true.”

But the lady doth protest too much, methinks.  Fiorina said publicly during the GOP Senate primary that she “absolutely would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade,” and has bragged about her endorsements from The National Right to Life Committee, California Pro-Life Council and Sarah Palin, herself an avid anti-choice activist.  “In fact, I am proudly pro-life,” she proclaimed on conservative commentator Dennis Prager’s radio show in May.

Either Fiorina is being thick or disingenuous when she asserts that there is a distinction between seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade and re-criminalizing abortion.  Fifteen states currently have unenforceable, near-total criminal bans on abortion, and four more have bans that would be triggered if Roe v. Wade were overturned.  If the protection of Roe v. Wade goes away, all those provisions go into effect.

Webster’s defines the word “criminal” as “involving or being a crime.”  If abortion is made illegal, then having one is a crime, pure and simple.  If you want to ban abortions, you are seeking to criminalize the act of abortion, period.   Fiorina can’t have it both ways.

Luckily, here in California, we have a woman’s right to choose ensconced in our constitution and our statutes, so an overturn of Roe v. Wade would not unduly affect the women of this state.  And, we have a long history of electing pro-choice public officials of both parties who uphold a woman’s right to choose.

California has not had a U.S. senator of either party who opposed abortion since George Murphy, who served from 1965-71.   Pete Wilson, who was a GOP senator from 1983-91, was a longtime defender of a woman’s right to choose.   Even his predecessor, Republican S.I. Hayakawa, although one of the most conservative members of the Senate, upheld a woman’s right to choose as a matter of freedom and conscience.

In fact, it is perhaps little remembered today, probably particularly by anti-choice zealots like Fiorina, that Hayakawa threatened to hold up President Reagan’s nomination of C. Everett Koop as surgeon general in 1981 if Koop did not clarify that his personal opposition to abortion would not translate into using his official status as an anti-choice crusader.

Fiorina not only doesn’t fit the mold of our two previous GOP senators on this issue, she is wildly afoul of California voters on the matter as well.  This is one of the most pro-choice states in America, and the issue of abortion alone is sufficient to sink Fiorina.  The last anti-abortion candidate to win a top-of-the-ticket statewide race in California was Gov. George Deukmejian running for reelection in 1986.

The respected Field Poll in July found that 71 percent of California voters either favor no changes to the state’s current liberal abortion laws or want to make abortions easier to obtain.  The same 71 percent endorsed Roe v. Wade itself.  Fully 75 percent of independents, of which Fiorina must win a majority to beat Boxer, favor making no changes to the law or allowing easier access to abortion.  Fiorina’s position is even out of sync with her own party.  Among registered Republicans, only 40 percent want to make abortion harder to come by.