EDITORIAL: Betty Ireland on Abortion: Doth She Protest Too Much?

HNN Staff
EDITORIAL:  Betty Ireland on Abortion:  Doth She Protest Too Much?

Republican Governor’s candidate Betty Ireland was asked straight up on Hoppy Kercheval’s Statewide “Talkline” radio program whether Ireland was pro-life.

This is a fair question to ask of any Republican candidate, as the state and national GOP has been on record for decades as a pro-life leaning party.


While there may be different shades of pro-life among Republicans, most in the GOP agree that the life of the unborn child is sacred and that abortion should be the last resort.  Ronald Reagan himself allowed for only three exceptions: rape, incest, and the life of the mother being in serious danger.


Indeed, some studies have suggested that those three exceptions account for only 7% of all the abortions done in America.  The other 93%, presumably, are “convenience abortions” of one kind or another.


So the pro-life/pro-choice debate remains an important social concern, especially to those conservatives who make up the core of the Republican Party.  West Virginia’s Republicans are no exception.  It would be hard to imagine a  pro-choice Republican receiving the nod of a majority of the Republican voters in West Virginia, let alone the conservative Democrats and many Independents in a general election here.


As a result of all this, Kercheval’s question was an important one for Ireland, and her response indicates that she knew it was.


Ireland stated that she is pro-life and always has been.  She went on to  offer as proof of her pro-life commitment her family portrait with children and grandchildren, placed on her campaign website when she ran for Secretary of State.  “How could I be otherwise (than pro-life)?” Ireland said after the family portrait reference.


In talking with some longstanding pro-life and Republican activists, they acknowledge that Ireland may well be all that she says.  The problem is that they have never seen her at a WV for Life Rose Dinner, nor heard her give a speech about the pro-life cause in her several years in public life. Ireland may have had other priorities in her life, and that’s fine.  But she has to overcome the impression that she would rather not hang out with

such folks out of embarrassment in front of her Charleston Tennis Club friends.


Ireland is no political dummy. She knows how to deal with any significant  constituency that has any doubts about her candidacy.  If Ireland wants the support of such social conservatives, she should deliver a strong, knowledgable, pro-life speech sometime soon, so that pro-lifers in both parties could see tangible proof of her commitment to their cause.


Pro-lifers are understandably careful with their support, having been burned in the past, about whom they support for high office.  Like any constituency, they want someone who stands shoulder to shoulder with them and who is not embarrassed to identify with them publicly.


It’s not enough to insist to high heaven that you are pro-life without any tangible fruits of service to the pro-life cause.  When Betty Ireland understands what it takes to win a Republican primary, we predict that she will become one of the most passionate supporters the pro-life cause has in West Virginia. 


Pro-lifers across West Virginia will have to discern whether Ireland’s work for their cause is sincere or election year schmoozing, but it will at least be a start.