Pro-life snub of Sheheen misses huge opportunity

Pat pointed out back here the fact that my old friend Holly Gatling (formerly of The State‘s Pee Dee bureau) and her compatriots at South Carolina Citizens for Life endorsed Nikki Haley for the thinnest, most procedural of reasons. That is indeed true:

Citizens for Life director Holly Gatling says Haley scored a 100 on its 19-question election survey. She says Democrat Vincent Sheheen has voted with the anti-abortion group and has “never been hostile to our issues.” But he did not return the survey, so the group backed the candidate who put it in writing.

The fact is that in Vincent Sheheen, the pro-life movement has that most rare and precious of commodities, a creature that those who care should want to warmly embrace, cosset and nurture — a pro-life Democrat. Not since Bob Casey won his Senate seat from Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, despite the nasty blowback from the likes of NARAL, has there been such a chance to support a pro-life Democratic nominee for high office.

And SCCofL has blown that opportunity for the sake of a piece of paper not obediently filled out.

Thereby the pro-life movement misses the opportunity to demonstrate it is more than a lapdog of the Right, to be taken for granted, to be bought for a piece of paper filled out with the answers that everyone knows they want to hear. The state Chamber of Commerce has had the guts to demonstrate in this race that it is not slavishly Republican. Even Republicans, from Cyndi Mosteller to Bobby Harrell, have to varying degrees expressed their differences with the nominee of their party. Why pass up this opportunity to demonstrate some real, conscience-based, independence for the sake of a piece of paper?

As The State noted a month ago, the pro-life movement has TWO strong candidates in the major-party nominees for governor (the subhed was, “Voters who support procedures left in cold by major candidates for governor” — those of you who want to pause and hold a moment of silence for the folks Holly calls the “pro-aborts” because for once they don’t have a champion, go right ahead; I will move on), and one of them is someone who, being a Democrat, actually takes some political risk, who actually gets out of the comfort zone of a member of his party, for his support for life. Me, I’d want to give a guy like that some props. But that’s me.

40 thoughts on “Pro-life snub of Sheheen misses huge opportunity

  1. Doug Ross

    On Haley’s Issues page on her website she has this quote:

    “I believe every life has a value and is blessed by God – my husband was adopted and my pro-life convictions stem from the fact I feel the blessings of that value every day knowing someone chose life for him. I see it every day in my two children as I watch them grow. My hope is that we continue to encourage and work towards educating that value of life to everyone.”

    There is no mention of right to life on the Sheheen page. But then there’s not much on the issues pages anyway. Or else he’s just trying to stay away from any issue that would cost him votes.

    Here’s what Sheheen responded when asked in the Democratic debates:

    ““I think the debate is all wrong,” Sheheen said. “You can’t simply say someone is pro-choice or pro-life. You have to say where can we find consensus, and the consensus ought to be where can we reduce abortions in South Carolina. The governor can do that by helping make it easier to adopt.”

    Asked whether he were for abortion rights, Sheen said, “On a personal level, I do not think abortion would be the appropriate thing to do.”

    “Then you’re pro-life, not pro-choice?” Sharpe asked.

    “I think you’re trying to divide us, just like the Republicans. I’m not going to fall into that trap,” Sheheen responded. “The question is how can we reduce abortions in South Carolina.””

    Read more:

    That doesn’t exactly come out as pro-life. Sounds like a lawyer answering a question he doesn’t want to answer.

  2. bud

    This is from Brad’s linked article in The State:

    “Fifteen years ago, nearly 10,000 abortions were performed in South Carolina.

    That number has been trending downward ever since, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, with a slight uptick in 2006 and 2007.

    In 2008, the number dipped to nearly 7,200 abortions, according to DHEC.”

    So why not continue with what has worked to cut down on abortions while keeping them legal? Wouldn’t that be the safe and prudent thing for government to do?

  3. Phillip

    It’s an interesting point, but ultimately these groups are going to go with the major party that they feel more generally embraces their view on their raison d’etre. For example, those opposed to American military adventurism abroad might consider supporting true libertarians in the GOP, such as Ron Paul. Environmental groups like Sierra Club understand the principle you are espousing a little bit more: though obviously most of the time they endorse Democrats, they do seem to strive to find Republicans that they can endorse when possible, seeking to broaden the base of the cause as much as possible. For example, the Sanford endorsement in 2006.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    What possible relevance does a governor’s position on abortion have?

    It’s a federal Constitutional right.

  5. Karen McLeod

    Thanks, Doug, for quoting Sheheen about his stance on the “pro-life”/”pro-choice” question. It gives me more reason to support him.

  6. Mark Stewart

    Whatever. It’s a non-issue for state politics – especially in the Governor’s race. Or at least it should be.

    This group just feel left out of the cymbol clashing that goes on at election time. And it’s true, this group does win either way on this issue this cycle.

    So if they decided to go out on a limb and make a stand for shows sake, why did they undercut themselves, and Haley, by saying she won because she filed out the requisite form? Tepid.

  7. Karen McLeod

    You’re absolutely right, Kathryn, but for people like Brad, it’s a big deal even if it doesn’t pertain to the office in question.

  8. Doug Ross


    There are always states that try to tweak their way around what can and can’t be done when it comes to abortion. The governor would be expected to sign or veto those bills.

    From The State article Brad linked to:

    “Meanwhile, the state’s abortion law has been amended. Last month, Gov. Mark Sanford signed into law a bill requiring women to wait 24 hours before an abortion. Both Haley and Sheheen supported changing the law as members of the General Assembly.

    The new law requires that a woman be given a full day to review materials that explain the procedure, list alternatives including adoption and tell women how to calculate the gestational age of the embryo or fetus.”

    Read more:

    Sheheen or Haley would likely face similar bills in the next four years. The voters should know just how “pro-life” the candidates are. Just how “pro-life” would Sheheen have to be before you would choose not to vote for him? Some people may have a threshold on that subject.

  9. Phillip

    Exactly, Karen, me too. Most people in America do not fall into the absolutism camp on either side of the question, and Sheheen’s responses reflect that majoritarian view. Doug cites the candidates’ different responses as somehow a credit to Haley. Not to me is isn’t. All it tells me it that she thinks in absolutes, while Sheheen, though personally opposed to abortion, sees the issue as the considerably more complex thing that it is. Haley is entitled to her personal opinion about abortion (which I happen to share), but not to extending her personal opinion into the realm of law, of legislating what has to be a personal decision. This is one of several issues that puts the lie to the Tea Party’s supposed belief in limiting government’s intrusion into our lives. If it suits their worldview, most TPers would be perfectly happy to unleash the full power of government to dictate how we should live, that is to say, in strict accordance with their beliefs.

    Bud makes a good point re the statistics…nobody is “pro-abortion.” The goal, which should transcend ideology (which Sheheen gets, and Haley does not) is indeed to reduce abortions. Bringing people together on this is the goal. That he doesn’t give a pat answer to the question is to his credit, not his detriment.

  10. Joanne

    The Sheheens are strong Catholics. This is a hard issue for someone like Vincent who tries to work with both sides.

  11. Herbie

    Well maybe Bob Casey wasn’t a lunatic as Santorum was, and abortion wasn’t an issue at all. Have you Googled “Santorum” lately? He has “a serious Google problem.”

  12. bud

    I’m with Karen. Sheheen answered the only rational way you can answer this. It’s a complicated issue that simply does not lend itself to the feel good “I believe in Life answer”.

    We’ve been over this many times here and no pro-lifer has ever given a straight answer to this important question: If abortion is outlawed, what penalty would you impose on a woman who obtains an illegal abortion? Until you can answer that question just shut up about being “pro-life”.

  13. Doug Ross


    “If abortion is outlawed, what penalty would you impose on a woman who obtains an illegal abortion? ”

    I don’t know the answer to this but what is the penalty if someone pushes a pregnant woman down the stairs and she loses the baby as a result?

  14. Brad

    I was going to ignore Bud’s remark, since it was typical of the emotionally loaded rhetoric that one gets on this issue, designed not to further understanding, but to back the other person into an emotional corner.

    But now that Doug has addressed it, I will, too…

    It’s a non-question, because it would never occur to me that the woman would face a penalty. The abortion would simply be illegal, and therefore unavailable. If anyone were punished for disobeying the law, it would of course be the abortionist — the person actually committing the illegal act.

  15. bud

    Huh????????????????????? Brad you make no sense, nor has any “pro-life” person ever made sense on this issue.

    How can you outlaw something and not have penalties? The woman having the abortion is a criminal and therefore penalties of some sort should apply.

    Oh well, lets talk about something else. Maybe some rational discussion can be had over an important issue like the choice of the new mascot for the Ole Miss football team. It’s apparent rational thought is thrown out the window by all sides when it comes to abortion.

  16. Karen McLeod

    What you mean, Brad, is that a safe abortion would no longer be available to a poor woman. The rich can find a doctor to call it a D and C, or otherwise find away to perform the abortion. It was that way before Roe v. Wade, and will be that way again. There’ll be plenty of abortions, just no documentation thereof, and no safe ones for poor folks.

  17. Brad

    No, Karen, what I mean is that the unborn child of a poor woman should have as much chance of living long enough to be born as the child of a woman of means.

    And I’m sorry Bud doesn’t see the reason in what I just said. Yes, I know it is the fantasy of the pro- side that those who disagree with them want to set up concentration camps for women, because that creates a wonderful emotional conflict with the feminist narrative that’s all about the victimhood of the pregnant woman.

    I don’t know why it’s so hard for folks on that side of the argument to understand that for us, it’s about not killing the baby. And if you want to talk about penalties, obviously the object of the penalties would be the person who does the killing.

    That’s, as I say, if you want to talk about that. The subject doesn’t interest me. I don’t care about punishments one way or the other. I just don’t want the abortions to occur. I want the children to live.

    The emotional red herring of penalties gets us into territory I often find myself in in talking about other issues with libertarians. They’re all about the coercion that they abhor.

    Being a person with experience living in civilization, I realize that if something is established as against the law, most people will obey the law. Most people are law-abiding.

    Make it against the law, and you eliminate most abortions. After that, you can talk about what, if anything, to do with the outliers who would go so far as to break the law.

    The issue in this debate is similar to many of the Kulturkampf issues we yell at each other about.

    Take gay “marriage,” for instance. The argument is not about what people get to do. The issue is about what society actively sanctions. Because that’s what marriage is — not two people living together, but society actually conferring a certain status upon that state of affairs.

    Similarly, the abortion issue is about what we value more: the autonomy of a woman, or the life of a child.

    Since, as a communitarian, I don’t believe in the autonomy of ANYONE (our actions, our decisions affect other people, and cannot be evaluated in a vacuum that ignores those other people), the first argument leaves me cold. So yeah, valuing the child is an obvious call for me.

    A woman with a problem pregnancy is indeed a tragic figure, a person with a legitimate claim upon our caring support and help. But that should not extend to sanctioning the taking of life. That’s just wildly disproportionate.

  18. Kathryn Fenner

    If abortion is murder,which is a huge “if”–then the woman is guilty of murder if she gets a voluntary abortion.

    If abortion is not murder, then get the hell out of my medical affairs.

  19. Doug Ross


    But how do you reconcile this “The issue is about what society actively sanctions” for being opposed to gay marriage with the fact that society DOES sanction some abortions? I think a majority of American would allow for abortion to be legal under the current parameters.

    I’m probably closer to you in terms of abortion views but I don’t think you can win the argument based on community standards. It has to be about one thing: “when does life begin?”

  20. Karen McLeod

    Brad, I understand your motivation. I’m just saying that the method you choose to use does not work well. Most women who have abortions don’t want to; they simply find themselves in a an emotionally, medically, or financially unteneble place. I know how the children of the reasonably well off take care of an “unwanted” pregnancy. I grew up before Roe v. Wade and am well aware of how some of my compatiots (or their parents) managed it. I also, thru volunteer work, became all too aware of what a botched street abortion does. And just to add to this discusssion, you never answered my question about what you do about ectopic pregnancies.

  21. Robert

    Wait, now it’s a political risk for a Democrat in South Carolina in the most conservative national climate in recent memory to come out as pro-life?

  22. bud

    That’s, as I say, if you want to talk about that. The subject doesn’t interest me. I don’t care about punishments one way or the other. I just don’t want the abortions to occur. I want the children to live.

    Then you should be damn glad about the progress we’ve made. Celebrate that. Cheer the good news rather than continue this posturing for some enigmatic, mysterious, clandestine plan for outlawing abortions without having any penalties. Sheesh this is so frustrating. It’s like talking to the wall.

  23. bud

    Brad, I think what you’re arguing for is Braditariasm and not Communitarinism. You want things mandated and outlawed based on your pre-conceived notion of what you, personally, regard as right or wrong.

    The draft for instance is something you would mandate. I find that appaling. Why should we make it easier to fight wars of imperialsim? Yet I might, on a personal level, favor some type of mandatory community service that would benefit the more disadvantaged in this country. But simply because I find that idea attractive it is far more important to me to simply let people decide for themselves what is a useful contribution to society.

    The same thinking applies to religion. Frankly many practices by religious organizations are pretty offensive to me and it would be easy for me to just ban them. For instance, it’s offensive to have a group of people knock on my door trying to solicit me to join their religious organization. So while I may find it to my advantage to ban the practice of door-to-door proseltyzing it is even more abhorent to restrict a person’s right to do such solicitation.

    Then there’s the whole consumption issue. As a practicing buditraian I think it would be a great idea to ban the practice of eating cheeseburgers with more than a 1/4 pound of meat. That would help create an environment conducive to keeping people’s bodies attractive, hence I would not be offended by some fat chick wearing a bikini. But, again, buditarinism is not something I earnestly believe should be foisted onto the rest of the populace. If folks want to eat 1/2 pound cheeseburgers and get as big as a whale then I will just have to suck it up and endure the bikini clad monsters who populate our beaches each summer. It’s only in keeping with the enduring principals of a free country that I’m willing to make this sacrifice.

    So rather than argue for Braditarinism or buditarinism let’s just let everyone decide for themselves what the right things to support and do are. Society will be much better off in the long run.

  24. Brad

    It’s very hard discussing communitarian ideas with libertarians, or actually with anyone, since the vocabulary is lacking. Ours is a libertarian-centric language.

    Bud misunderstands me completely when he says “You want things mandated and outlawed based on your pre-conceived notion of what you, personally, regard as right or wrong.” If I wanted that, I’d say I want a monarchy, with me of course as the king. A nice idea, of course, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

    No, the communitarian idea is that we as a community would decide what our standards and rules are. And the purpose of discussions such as this one would be to help move us toward such decisions.

    The communitarian approach, as opposed to rights absolutism, actually encourages MORE citizen participation. The rights model wants to enshrine certain things as absolutes — such as Kathryn’s assertion that there is a “right” to an abortion in the Constitution. Of course, the Constitution contains no such thing in reality, but the currently operative case law SAYS, absurdly, that there is. And that stands until superceded by new case law (or by an amendment making clear the lack of such in the constitution, which of course would then have to be further refined by new case law).

  25. bud

    But Brad, isn’t the current law regarding abortion pretty much a decision made in the communitarian spirit as you have defined it? As a nation we’ve decided that we want the mothers to make the decision about whether to bring a child to birth. You may agree with that but it seems to me that we have debated this issue and have reached a consensus that that is what we should do. Both polling and the various supreme court rulings seem to agree that we, as a people, have made that decision. So why continue to argue for pro-life? Just acqueise to the community decision that makes abortion legal.

  26. j

    Bud & Brad, Thanks for your last two posts. But, I’m still wondering about morale consistency and the argument about pro-life. Brad I presume you don’t support the death penalty? So when does life actually begin and what about the morning after pill?

  27. Brad

    One thing is for sure, Bud: We DON’T have a consensus. That’s why Roe v. Wade, which happened by judicial fiat without any shift in the public consensus, has cause such bitter division. So now we have absolutists on both sides engaged in take-no-prisoners warfare, in which one absolute “right” (to life) is engaged in mortal combat with another perceived “right” (to privacy).

    And no communitarian solution would leave a life-or-death decision to one individual — certainly not someone so emotionally and personally involved in the decision. In a country that values the rule of law, a nation of laws and not of men, the mother would be the last person you’d hand absolute life-and-death power to.

  28. bud

    I give up. This seems so very simple and clear. Why can’t Brad get it? The community HAS spoken. Maybe the community will change it’s mind but the community has vested the decision in the mother rather than an “abortion panel” or something else. Call it judicial fiat or something else but it is crystal clear, the community, through it’s various government functions has spoken on this matter.

    As for Js point, the law as it exists is by far the best we can ever do morally on this issue. Mandating that all pregnancies be brought to term will endanger the life of the mother and the child in some respects. That results in making some exceptions. Once some exceptions are made you get into a tangled web of which exceptions to allow and which not to allow. Hence we would need some sort of board or agency to decide the matter. Is this pregnancy one that qualifies as morally bad to terminate while this other one is not. At the end of the day allowing the mother to decide is the only rational and moral position to take on this issue.

  29. Mark Stewart


    That’s an extreme viewpoint to suggest that a pregnant woman is the last person society would want involved in the decision.

    And who’s to say there is “death” involved in terminating a pregnancy? It’s pretty hard to die before one is born.

  30. Kathryn Fenner

    “And no communitarian solution would leave a life-or-death decision to one individual…”

    Sounds like death-panels time to me.

    If it can’t live on its own, it isn’t an independent life. We don’t interfere with any other personal medical decision. You can refuse treatment,for example, even if to do so would result in your death. Why let the person “so emotionally and personally involved in the decision” of whether and how much to treat a cancer decide? Let’s all weigh in on that, too.

  31. Doug Ross


    How would you measure consensus then? Is it your belief that most Americans want abortions to be illegal?

    “In a country that values the rule of law, a nation of laws and not of men, ”

    How does this align with the illegal immigrant amnesty efforts?
    All most of us on the anti-amnesty want is for the laws to be enforced.

  32. Jack Mosby

    It’s good to see strong, pro-life women on the front lines. Squishy white guys are waaaay out of style.

  33. Karen McLeod

    So, Brad, the right to decide whether to keep a person on life support should not be given to the husband/parent/child of the person who is alive only because of that life support? Then who, do you think, should make that call?


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