Buttigieg’s Pandering to Women on Abortion Misses the Mark

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg listens during the Democratic presidential candidates debate in Westerville, Ohio, October 15, 2019. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

In an op-ed last week for USA Today, Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg doubled down on his position that, as president, he would support no regulations on abortion. Despite portraying himself as a moderate option in a pack of progressives, and despite his consistent nods to what he calls the moral complexity of the abortion debate, the South Bend, Ind., mayor has failed to seek moderation of any sort when it comes to his policy preferences on the issue.

“Women’s right to control their own bodies has been under assault by largely male legislatures,” Buttigieg wrote, exercising a meaningless trope common on the left. Unless abortion-rights supporters also oppose Roe v. Wade, on the grounds that it was decided by seven male Supreme Court justices, or also back pro-life legislation passed by majority-female legislatures, this is nothing more than an empty identity-politics throwaway line meant to discredit legislation without discussing its merits.

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The mayor goes on to list four ways that he claims he will “make America a better place for women” as president, one of which is “advance women’s health and protect a woman’s right to choose.” He adds that his intention is to “write abortion rights into law,” presumably a euphemism for the now-standard Democratic goal of codifying Roe as a federal statute.

For one thing, the progressive obsession with “codifying Roe” makes little sense given that the decision did not, at least in its text, provide legal carte blanche for abortion on demand, throughout pregnancy, funded by the U.S. taxpayer — which is the typical line taken by Democratic politicians. Though Roe and its companion case Doe v. Bolton have essentially allowed unlimited abortion, and have been interpreted to block abortion restrictions, the actual substance of the case acknowledged that states also have a legitimate interest, later in pregnancy, in protecting the life of a developing fetus.

What’s more, Buttigieg’s euphemistic pandering to women on abortion fails to represent most of them. Public-opinion surveys consistently find that women tend to be more pro-life than men, and Americans on the whole would prefer to limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy, if they’d allow it at all. A slim majority of respondents told Gallup in 2018, for instance, that they’d permit abortion in the first trimester — but support for legal abortion drops to just 13 percent in the last trimester, and to just 12 percent among women.

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