The XX Factor

Who’s the Pro-Life-iest?

Whether a candidate is pro-choice or pro-life probably isn’t as big a deciding factor in a New Hampshire election as it is in other parts of the country. In the Live Free or Die state, there are at least as many classic Republicans whose views on small government extend to restricting government involvement in personal matters as there are those whose conservatism takes a more social approach. But here, as everywhere, it’s getting out the votes in the primary that matters: New Hampshire is a small state, and persuading a few hundred Facebook friends to turn out at the polls can easily decide an election here. And when it comes to getting out the votes, there’s still a feeling that people will turn out to cast a vote for or against matters concerning abortion whereas if it were just, say, the economy, foreign policy, or education, they might well stay home. The result has been a pack of in-fighting ads over whether Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire’s former attorney general, is pro-life enough .

Ayotte’s pro-life stance has been challenged because once the parental notification law she took all the way to the Supreme Court was overturned by a newly pro-choice state government, she accepted a court order to pay Planned Parenthood’s legal costs. At least one other candidate has framed a willingness to concede to both a court and an election result as a sign of a lack of pro-life conviction, and added to that Ayotte’s professed willingness to make an exception in cases of rape, incest, and medical emergencies as proof that she lacks true pro-life cred. The Susan B. Anthony List disagreed with that assessment to the tune of a $150K campaign to promote Ayotte’s candidacy .

Responsible people can disagree on the subject of abortion rights, and, as it happens, I disagree with Ayotte and with the Susan B. Anthony list. But few disagree that abortion is only one of many factors we should use to evaluate politicians. Ayotte’s pro-life views aren’t as absolutist as those of at least one of her opponents, and certainly there number a few among her fellow Mama Grizzlies who are, shall we say, a little more militant on the subject. So when I first heard that the SBA list was coming in full force behind Ayotte, I wanted to believe it represented some sort of widening of the pro-life tent. But the more I looked into it, the less I bought it. I suspect it comes down to nothing more than this: Ayotte may not be the most pro-life candidate in the New Hampshire primary race, but she is the pro-life candidate who’s most likely to win .

Her leading opponent in the race, Bill Binnie, is pro-choice.