Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana was promoted during his prime-time appearance at the podium of the 1996 Democratic convention as a rising star. He was young, attractive, energetic - kind of like that Republican vice-presidential nominee from Indiana, Dan Quayle. But don't count on him to be Al Gore's running mate.
That's because, as the late Democratic Governor Bob Casey explained in his book "Fighting for Life,"despite the presence of pro-life Democrats, "Often it seemed like the Democratic National Committee had become little more than an auxiliary of NARAL," the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.
To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen's rejoinder to Dan Quayle, Evan Bayh is no Bob Casey. He is not a uniformly pro-life Democrat, but he has made the strategic mistake (at least within the Democratic firmament) of voting for a ban on partial-birth abortions. Last year, he sided with the pro-abortion position in four of five abortion-related votes - except for the partial-birth vote. As Governor of Indiana, he indicated support for a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, although he never proposed or signed one into law.
Gore vice-presidential coordinator Warren Christopher has quietly taken an earful from the feminist hard left. "We shared information we have on all the candidates and shared with him our feelings that Evan's record is problematic for us," NARAL's Alice Germond told the Baltimore Sun. "We want to keep the Democratic Party the party of choice. That's a more clearly made statement when the vice presidential nominee reflects the party's position and the nominee's position."
"It causes me no small amount of heartburn that I have been hearing about the possibility of Bayh," said Kim Gandy, the executive vice president of the National Organization for Women. "I didn't take it seriously because I did not think Gore would ever select someone who is so weak on women's rights." NOW boss Patricia Ireland told National Review, "Among our activists, there would be a decided lack of interest in campaigning for him and getting out the vote."
Senator Bayh has yet to make the apparently mandatory journey made by nationally ambitious Democrats Jesse Jackson, Dick Gephardt, Bill Clinton, and Al "I Was Always Pro-Choice" Gore, and abandon whatever pro-life "imperfections" they had to become a 100-percent rubber-stamp for abortion-on-demand Democrats.
Mark my words: the pro-aborts will not stop until Bayh goes down that road. And they'll have plenty of help. These behind-the-scenes burblings over Bayh have yet to stir any interest in most quarters of the national media, despite their ritualistic celebrations of "inclusive" abortion-friendly Republican vice-presidential possibilities, from Pennsylvania's Tom Ridge to New Jersey's Christine Todd Whitman. Much like they labored to ignore Bob Casey being banned from the podium at the last two Democratic conventions, liberal reporters would rather leave the impression that only one party needs to moderate its position on abortion to appeal to those mysterious "independent" voters.
Numerically, Democratic dissenters from the NARAL line are much greater in numbers than Republican NARAL sympathizers. In April, the House voted to outlaw partial-birth abortion by a vote of 289 to 140. The Republicans were almost unified (209 to 8), while the Democrats were split dramatically (77 partial-birth opponents to 132 pro-abortion hardliners).
The hard pro-abortion core of the Democratic Party is maintained by NOW, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood - and yet the harshest label they'll ever receive is "liberal" - and this in less than five percent of news stories about them. Even the stories on Bayh clashing with these feminists contain anodyne descriptions of "women's advocacy groups," as if they spoke for all women. Pro-life groups, by contrast, are labeled "conservative" in more than almost half of news stories. Pejorative descriptions like "hard right" and "far right" are often tacked on for good measure.
This journalistic imbalance fails to address the harsh, unflinching language of the pro-abortion political machine, or the reality that their views are thoroughly out of the mainstream. For example, NARAL's Kate Michelman's post-mortem on the 1998 elections included the sentence that "Almost everywhere across the country, voters rejected extremes - including the extreme initiatives to ban so-called 'partial-birth' abortion." But partial-birth bans have been passed in thirty states, and every national poll finds they are favored by 70 percent or more of the voters. We must ask the media elite: who in this equation qualifies as pushing the "extreme initiatives"?
As new polls from the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute show support for abortion is falling even among teenage boys, and the Los Angeles Times finds support for the Roe v. Wade decision has fallen 13 points to 43 percent, perhaps poll-watching Democrats and their friends in the media should wonder whether it would be politically wiser to push Al Gore toward Evan Bayh, instead of pushing Evan Bayh toward Al Gore.