Gov. Mike Huckabee is more moderate than most of those who’ll be seeking the Republican presidential nomination, and far more restrained than the reckless reactionary currently in the White House, but when the subject is abortion, the brutish side of Huckabee’s nature emerges, perhaps in response to pressure from both his party and his church. Although they seem headed toward a merger, the Republican Party and the Southern Baptist Convention are still separate entities, technically.

Huckabee was among those cheering last week when the South Dakota legislature passed a bill to strip women of authority over their own bodies. Cold as a South Dakota winter, the bill would ban all abortions except those necessary to save a woman’s life, allowing no exceptions even for rape, incest or to protect the woman’s health. It is a direct challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, hoisting women up from slavery. Since Roe, Republican presidents have succeeded in stacking the Court with activist anti-abortion judges.

Though anti-abortionists habitually refer to abortion as “murder,” the South Dakota bill, like most anti-abortion legislation, would punish not the women who initiate the “murders” — as would be the case in a normal prosecution — but only the doctors (up to five years in prison). The anti’s are aware that there are no doctors forcing abortions on women, and the most intense haters among them would impose criminal penalties on the women too. But the more nearly reasonable in the group know the American people wouldn’t stand for that. So they refrain. Not because they’re merciful, but because they’re dishonest.

“I’ve always felt Roe v. Wade was illegitimate,” Huckabee told a group of media types in Washington, at a dinner hosted by the governor himself and paid for, according to his staff, by a political action committee and not the Arkansas taxpayer. A newspaper account said only about 20 people attended. Not many, considering journalists’ fondness for free meals. The teetotaling Huckabee probably didn’t offer free drinks too. That would have doubled or tripled the crowd.

Well, as we said, Huckabee is no worse on abortion than the other Republican presidential hopefuls. (May we suggest “They’re just as bad,” for the governor’s campaign slogan?) Once proud of its hostility to Big Government, the Republican Party now wants to extend the reach of government in all directions — into the womb, the bedroom, the library, the pharmacy, the doctor’s office, the prayer, the telephone call, wherever. The party has misunderstood one of its former heroes. Barry Goldwater didn’t say liberty was a vice; he said failure to defend it was.


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