Geraldine Ferraro: RIP

By Dave Andrusko

Geraldine Ferraro, with Walter Mondale, in 1984

Former Congresswoman and vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro was buried Thursday in a private ceremony. She died March 26 at the age of 75 after bravely fighting cancer for a number of years.

Ferraro has been credited by people of all political persuasions with “breaking the glass ceiling.” In 1984 when Walter Mondale asked her to help him take on the incumbent pro-life team of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, she became the first woman  nominated to be on the presidential ticket of a major political party.

It is to take nothing away from her legitimate achievements to recall that many obituaries matter of factly charged that she was unfairly treated by pro-lifers in general, the Catholic Church in particular. This is not true. Let me just clarify a few points:

Both Ferraro and Mondale, a former United States Senator and Jimmy Carter’s vice president, were 100% pro-abortion. Ferraro was an activist leader in Congress.

Ferraro was chosen to be on the ticket for three reasons. First, Mondale’s campaign was in disarray. They hoped Ferraro could be packaged as a “personal pro-life but…” Catholic who could bring back into the Democratic fold those many pro-life Catholics who voted for Mr. Reagan in 1980. In the same vein, second, they hoped to exploit the “gender gap,” which early polling showed more women supporting Mondale than Reagan. Third, NOW threatened a floor fight at the convention if Mondale did not choose a woman. Mondale settled on the Queens, New York congresswoman.

Ferraro’s candidacy imploded over a host of questions that arose very quickly after she was chosen. But on the abortion issue, the major media—much MUCH more influential in those pre-radio talk show, pre-Internet days—tried assiduously to portray her as almost reluctantly “pro-choice.”

The truth was otherwise. There were 14 key votes on abortion while she was in Congress prior to her nomination. She was on the wrong side on all 14. She was a co-sponsor of legislation that would have required federal funding of abortion on demand under Medicaid, the Department of Defense, and a number of other federal programs. She voted against an amendment to prohibit federal funding of harmful medical experimentation on living unborn children who are intended for abortion, or who survived abortion. She voted against an amendment to prevent the denial of routine medical treatment, food or water to babies born with handicaps. In those days the ERA was a hot topic. Ferraro refused to make the ERA abortion-neutral.

One obituary in the Los Angeles Times explained her “transformation” from a “small-c conservative to a liberal” and supporter of abortion to her work as a prosecutor in the special victims bureau. “You can force a person to have a child, but you can’t make the person love that child,” she is quoted as saying.

Here are three other quotes which paint a full picture. In a June 27, 1979, speech to the House Ferraro supported federal funding of abortion, saying, “The cost of putting an unwanted child through the system far outweighs the costs of these [abortion procedures].”

In an interview that appeared in Ms. Magazine in January 1979, Ferraro said, “It’s a simple matter of economics. Unwanted children so often end up in the criminal justice system as offenders or as persons in need of supervision, and it’s very expensive to take care of them.”

In a tape-recorded talk given  to a pro-abortion conference in New York in 1983, Ferrari said, “I also know that if either one of my girls [then ages 21 and 16] came to me and said, ‘Mom, I’m pregnant, and I’m not gonna have that baby,’ I would say, ‘Here’s the money. Please go see a doctor.’ And what I say to everyone else is, if I would do that for myself for my daughters, how can I say to a poor woman, ‘You don’t have that right  to make a choice’?”

Ferraro was a close ally of the militantly pro-abortion group, then known as “Catholics for a Free Choice.” She also wrote the introduction for a booklet the group produced, a guide for how ‘pro-choice’ Catholics could finesse their support for abortion.

There is much more that could be said. Suffice it to observe that the team of Reagan/ Bush won 49 states, carrying even Ferraro’s congressional district, and 55% of the female vote.

Our condolences go out to her husband of 50 years, her three children, and her eight grandchildren.

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