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Is Ted Cruz’s Position on Abortion the Least Bad Since Barry Goldwater?

Radical capitalists long for a U.S. presidential candidate who understands that rights are observation-based moral principles that apply only to individuated human beings in a social context—the very context in which historically the principle of rights was formed to apply. (Note that John Locke and the American Founders were not wondering: “How can we protect fetuses?” They were wondering: “Given that people and especially governments can use force against individuals and thereby stop them from acting on their judgment, how can we stop this from happening?”)

Such a candidate would see that a woman has a right to life and liberty because she is an individual who needs freedom to think and act on her judgment so that she can live. He would see that this right includes a woman’s moral prerogative to act as she sees fit regarding the contents of her body. Accordingly, he would see that neither the federal government nor a state government can have a moral right to outlaw abortion. And he would seek to uphold these truths in office.

Unfortunately, no candidate of either party today holds such a position.

The leftist Democrats (but I repeat myself) do not hold that a woman has rights. Leftists deny the very existence of rights, which is why they call for the state to control practically every aspect of people’s lives. The fact that leftists claim to be for a woman’s “choice” regarding abortion has nothing to do with rights. It has to do with (a) moral subjectivism and political pragmatism, which together constitute the essence of the leftist creed—and (b) the power leftists seek to gain and wield by employing those means.

As for the viable Republican presidential candidates today, Cruz’s position on abortion is, all things considered, the least bad of the alternatives. In fact, his position on this subject is one of the least bad since Barry Goldwater.

Consider the positions of the following candidates and presidents in relation to Cruz on this matter:

Ted Cruz believes, on religious grounds, that rights begin at conception and thus that abortion should be illegal. At the political level, however, he opposes a constitutional amendment that would outlaw abortion. Instead, he advocates leaving the legality of abortion up to each state to decide.*

Barry Goldwater held that “a woman has a right to an abortion”; that this is “a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right”; and thus that abortion should be legal nationwide.

Ronald Reagan held that “unless and until someone can prove the unborn human is not alive, we must give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it is [alive]—and, thus, it should be entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” On the basis of this belief, Reagan advocated a constitutional amendment that would prohibit all abortions except when “the unborn child threatens the life of the mother.”

Gerald Ford opposed abortion and called for a constitutional amendment outlawing it. As he put it during a debate in 1976: “I support the Republican platform which calls for a constitutional amendment that would outlaw abortions.” Ford’s position, however, was mixed. In that same debate, he said he favored a “constitutional amendment that would permit each one of the fifty states to make the choice.” (That latter position is essentially the same as Cruz’s today.)

George W. Bush, of course, opposed abortion and supported a constitutional amendment to ban it. He even signed into law the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

Mitt Romney, while he was running for president in 2012, supported “a federal ban on all abortions,” saying, “That would be wonderful. . . . I’d be delighted to sign that bill.”

Donald Trump doesn’t have a position on abortion, as he doesn’t have a position on anything (unless you regard “Trust me—it’s gonna be great” as a position).

So, although Cruz’s position on abortion is light years from the ideal, it is better—as in less bad—than practically any candidate since Barry Goldwater. And given Cruz’s many substantial virtues in the areas that bear most heavily on the rights of Americans and the future of America, his position on abortion certainly does not, in today’s context, disqualify him for the presidency—at least not by any objective standard.

*Update: I recently discovered that although Cruz sometimes says the legality of abortion should be left up to the states, he also signed a pledge saying he supports a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. So Cruz unfortunately is sending contradictory messages on this issue, as Gerald Ford did in 1976. Even so, as I argue in Ted Cruz for President, given his substantial virtues regarding the most pressing issues of the day—such as freedom of speech, foreign policy, government spending, and government intervention in the economy—he is by far the best candidate in the running. —CB


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