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Rudy on Abortion

In response to my last post on Rudy's poll numbers, reader AG emails with a good point: the phrasing of the questions in the FOX poll is far too crude to accurately gauge how Republicans feel about Rudy's position on social issues. AG asks how the numbers might have looked if FOX had instead asked the following:

Are you more or less likely to support a candidate who is personally pro-life on the issue of abortion, but believes it is ultimately a woman's decision?

Are you more or less likely to support a candidate who will nominate strict constructionists to the Supreme Court in the mold of Scalia, Roberts and Alito?

AG also challenges the idea of labeling Rudy pro-choice: "In your opinion, what makes Rudy Giuliani "pro-choice"? He is personally against abortion, says he "hates it", would advise against it, and would nominate judges to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe."

Fair enough. But I call Rudy "pro-choice" because that's what he calls himself, and that is probably how most people will come to understand his position.

The debate that's pinging around the blogosphere is whether Rudy's pledge to nominate "strict constructionists" to the bench will be enough to bridge the gap with the base on the abortion issue. Law prof Ann Althouse thinks it will:

Can Rudy walk this tightrope? I think he can. With the level of legal understanding that Giuliani obviously has, it's a very thick, stabilized tightrope. You pick great judges who follow a strong interpretive methodology, and they take their proper constitutional position in an independent branch dedicated to law. How utterly solid and responsible.

Ace points out that Rudy's "pro-choice" position isn't all that different that our current President's "pro-life" one:

He's basically parrotting Bush's position, which is, felicitiously enough, my position, and a principled, coherent position to take on the issue. Put strict constructionists on the court to adjudicate not legislate new dubious rights, and Roe may or may not fall, and then the states can decide on the question.

The Influence Peddler agrees:

A rose is a rose is a rose. Bush describes himself as pro-life; Giuliani as pro-choice. That doesn't necessarily mean that they're all that far apart - in terms of practical effect.

My two cents, for what it's worth, is that Rudy may well be able to paper over differences on abortion with his pledge. But labels do matter, especially the ones we give ourselves, because they offer at least a glimpse into a person's world view - and Rudy's world view is distinctly more liberal than the Republican base on abortion. Yes, there are Republicans who call themselves "pro-choice." Even many Republicans who "hate" abortion but also begrudgingly recognize Roe v. Wade as the law of the land, don't want to throw women or doctors in jail, etc. (all of which Rudy says he believes) characterize their position not as "pro-choice" but "pro-life with exceptions." Again, it's a world view thing.

And the kicker for Rudy is going to be his public unwillingness to support a federal ban on partial birth abortion in 1999. This is a procedure that is opposed by the vast majority of Republicans. To give you an idea of where this puts Rudy on the ideological spectrum: when the Senate finally got around to passing the partial birth abortion ban in March 2003 by a vote of 64-33, only two Republican Senators voted against it: Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Snowe. You think either one of those Senators could win the Republican nomination for President?