Schlafly’s Lie about Democrats and Abortion

A few days ago, Tom Ashbrook interviewed Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum and a primary leader in grassroots conservatism. One particular exchange caught my attention.

CALLER CAROLINE: …I would like to ask her: If Sarah Palin were a Democratic candidate with a tiny special needs child at home and a 17-year-old daughter that’s expecting a baby that’s unwed, how the Republican Party of family values would view the fact that the mother went to work just a few days after the special needs baby was born. So that’s what’s happening with the Republican Party, and I would like her to comment…

TOM ASHBROOK: …We’ll put it to her. Are you a Republican, Democrat, independent, what?

CAROLINE: Former Republican, due to this, exactly what we’re describing.

ASHBROOK: Phyllis Schafly, what do you say…?

PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: If Sarah Palin were a Democrat, she would have aborted the baby. That’s the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats (“The Soul of the GOP,” On Point with Tom Ashbrook )

Never mind the fact that, as was pointed out later in the interview, 90% of Down Syndrome pregnancies are aborted (does Schlafly presume that the overwhelming majority of Down Syndrome pregnancies are conceived among Democrats?). She stood by her statement, outrageous as it was.

As I’ve addressed at length before, many—perhaps most—liberals (people like Schlafly typically conflate liberals and Democrats) do not encourage or approve of abortion. We may believe that there needs to be some recognition of and respect for what is typically an agonizing choice for the mother, a recognition that postnatal life deserves just as much sanctity as prenatal, and that we can do more to support life by providing support for those who chose life than by heavy-handed government control. Unfortunately, people like Schlafly are determined not to see the difference between that broader perspective and actually advocating abortion.

A good friend of mine, one who is ardently liberal, recently wrote a very intimate and emotional essay in which she expressed her abhorrence of abortion.

For years now I’ve been saying, “We need to keep abortion legal to save lives,” and I still believe that. But at the same time, I hate abortion. Abortion is violent and invasive. I can imagine that just as birth and health exams can be extremely traumatizing for women who have been raped or sexually abused, abortion is no different. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a surgical abortion with a history of sexual abuse or after being raped, but given the high percentage of these incidences, it seems likely that a great many women who choose to abort are in this category. That makes abortion a seriously disgusting proposition…

…Pro-choice advocates do women a disservice when they refuse to recognize the authentic human experience of abortion, in which a woman might not leave the clinic feeling empowered and independent, but instead feeling abused and disgusted – even while feeling also that they absolutely made the right choice…

I hope that abortion will stay legal, but even more importantly, I hope to see the reasons for unwanted pregnancy attacked with precision and strength. This means, above all, preventing unwanted pregnancy from occurring. This speaks to issues of comprehensive sex education, the availability of contraception to people across the economic spectrum, and further development of contraceptive methods.

This also speaks to poverty and our culture of rape and easy exploitation of women and children. Our habit of blaming the victims followed by ostracism and judgment doesn’t help, either. Our lack of support for women for whom abortion is not the uterine equivalent of dental work speaks volumes about perpetuated stereotypes and dichotomies in our culture. (“Abortion Redux,” Conscious Intention )

Like my friend, I vehemently challenge the Pro-Choice advocates who trivialize the procedure—though I rarely hear such arguments. Maybe they were more prominent a few decades ago, earlier in the abortion conflict, but those sentiments seem rare now. Virtually everyone I hear from on the Left recognizes the gravity of the issue.

I join Schlafly in my admiration for Palin’s willingness to take on the challenge of raising the Down Syndrome child God gave her—just as I equally admire the Democrat running for the Utah House of Representatives in Davis County who is raising a Down Syndrome child.

Schlafly is right to criticize those who promote abortion or discuss it lightly. But she is wrong to lump all Democrats (or all liberals) in that same boat. It is an outright lie to assert that a Democrat would have aborted the baby.

I’ve heard conservatives complain that it is wrong when some liberal voices assert that conservatives don’t care about the poor and disadvantaged. And these conservatives are correct; while far too many conservative commentators use the Moral Conservative Criticism against Social Justice, or disregard the problems which poverty represents, there are a good many who do care deeply about the poor. We may have disagreements with them about the manner in which to alleviate poverty, but we cannot discount their sincere concern for the issue. I hope these same conservatives will understand our grievance with Schlafly’s statements.

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12 Responses to “Schlafly’s Lie about Democrats and Abortion”

  1. alliegator Says:

    Fear controls people, and it’s easier to make people afraid if you keep life very black and white, us against them.

  2. Jenni Says:

    Great post — comes down to simplifying a subject that is anything but simple.

    It’s kind of funny, but when I heard about Palin’s family values troubles, the first person I thought of was Phyllis Schlafy. I remember a speech or something where she said that women didn’t have any business getting into politics until AFTER they had raised their children. Palin certainly hasn’t let her kids get in the way of her career — that’s almost liberal of her, I think.

  3. Aaron Orgill Says:

    That was a reprehensible thing to say. I am troubled by some of our local political leaders who go much further than our Church leaders in their denouncement of abortion, and going so far to say it should NEVER take place, when the Church’s handbook itself has stated that in certain cases (rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is in jeopardy) it may be justifiable after careful consideration. I am with them on the ugliness of abortion, and believe most thinking people will concede that.

    Thank you for acknowledging the truth that there are many conservatives who care for the poor. I am a small-l libertarian and tend to lean to the Right on many economic and social issues, and have seen the most strident of the far right show some of the greatest generosity.

    Jenni, there are actually a lot more female Republicans on the national scene than you might guess. One of them is Hawaii’s governor, Linda Lingle, who is very popular in a state almost as liberal as Utah is conservative.

  4. Frank Staheli Says:

    That might be one statement Schlafly’d like to take back. Considering that she’s now had the chance to, let’s go to the instant replay, and…no….Phyllis has not apologized.


    Of course, I’m beginning to wonder about her (more than I already did) because of her demagoguery for the Establishment (along with James Dobson). Ron Paul was the far better candidate, and with things as they are now, Chuck Baldwin IS the far better candidate, yet she’s shilling for John and Sarah.

  5. Craig Says:

    I have similar feelings as your friend. I believe that the right to choose ought to stay a right, that it is a very personal choice, and should never be trivialised. I think that it is seen by many as “no big deal”, and while for a few that may be true, I think that for many others, having an abortion is an agonising decision. The point is that both extremes (liberal and conservative) do women a disservice.

  6. jennifer Says:

    I’ve always found great irony that the most vocal abortion opponents are often the ones with the fewest comprehensive plans for abortion prevention (thorough sex ed, availability of contraception, support services, health care, child care, not judging the girl,……etc. etc.)

    The other thing I just don’t get about the topic: if we have have a “conservative” president, who appoints “conservative” judges, etc. and then somehow they overturn Roe v. Wade (which they won’t because it’s such a hot topic election issue), will that somehow eliminate abortions in the USA?? How would those laws be enforced?? preventing abortions would be MUCH more effective than trying to prosecute them IMO.

  7. Craig Says:


    Exactly. I’ve never understood the right’s predisposition to utterly ignore reality and live in a fantasy world. They want humans to act in a way that is totally unrealistic and will never happen. People are GOING to have sex before they get married (because most of us are NOT believing right-wing Christians/Moslems/etc. Abstinence-only education is NOT EDUCATION, it is burying your head in the sand. It is CLEARLY one of the strongest causes of why abortions are happening.

    I could go on and on.

    This mentality is the main reason why I don’t take any thing the GOP/most conservatives say seriously. First they try to re-make history to fit their perfect little plan (the 50s was NEVER like they say it was), and then claim that the present and future need to fit that made-up standard of perfection.

    Not only is it utterly unrealistic and false, but their unwillingness to see that really does cause harm to our society and to individuals. It is the same mind-set that causes gay people in the LdS church to be depressed and even kill themselves, because they are falsely being taught that they have to live up to some standard that is absolutely impossible.

  8. Azúcar Says:

    Thank you for this, it distills so much about my opinion into a clear and well-reasoned piece.

  9. nancy Says:

    maybe if Roe V Wade was repealed we could force a women to give birth against her choice. But we cannot force her to care for her child. And most conservatives are opposed to programs that help poor mothers. In Romania abortion and birth control was outlawed and the results were horrible. Hundreds of children were abandoned and ended up in Orphanages with out even basic things like clothes. For years Romania had to rely on foreign adoptions to provided these children with a life. Nobody likes abortion, we do not trivialize it, yet we do not want to see children be abused or abandoned by parents who cant or wont care for them.

  10. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Nancy, you are so right. I have a soft spot for children, and taking care of those who are born into dire straits should be a top priority. But I do feel that Roe v. Wade is terrible law. Many liberals will even acknowledge that. I think abortion needs to be discouraged as often as possible, but we absolutely do need to encourage birth control and accept the reality that our society’s responsibility does not end there, and investing in those without will go a long way to help overcome much of society’s ills.

  11. Richard Redick Says:

    I am a card-carrying Latter-day Saint, and Democrat. When LDS friends ask me are you pro-life, or pro-choice, my response is an emphatic, “Yes, I am!!! I believe in life, and I believe in choice. I don’t believe that these must be mutually exclusive.” When they pin me down to specifics, I tell them that I don’t believe in abortion, but I don’t believe in outlawing it. When they seem confused by this, I tell them that I don’t believe in divorce, but I don’t believe in outlawing it. My point is this: We need to mentally categorize abortion as a really undesirable thing like divorce, rather than categorizing it as a really outlawed thing like murder. Although I am liberal, I would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, because I think we need a legislated solution. Congress and the state legislatures should have the courage to settle this once and for all with a Constitutional Ammendment that Americans can live with. Once that is done, abortion can quit being an election issue, and our elections can center on the real issues. The majority of Americans are mildly pro-choice, and they are also against late-term and so-called partial-birth abortions on demand. An ammendment that preserved the right to choose for the first X months (X TBD) would satisfy the median voter. The religious right would gripe and moan, but they do that anyway. No loss there. A ratified ammendment, as I have described, would give them a well-deserved signal that it is time for them to shut-up and get to the back of the bus. I definitely agree with all that has been said about supporting post-natal life. There is so much more to life than birthing a baby. Although I am a liberal, I will be the first to say that some of the most generous people I have known have been conservatives, and some of the most witholding people I have known have been liberals. We cannot stereotype based on political preference.

    That said, I add that it angers me that The Ensign included an article on abortion by Elder Nelson in its October 2008 issue (right before the Presidential election). It is a good article, but this is bad timing, in my opinion. It would have been better to delay publication until after the election.

    I love this web site, and all of the comments….even those that I disagree with, but are well thought out and worded. Makes me think, and that is not a bad thing.

  12. mixlom Says:

    I know I am late on reading this, but very good article on this subject.

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