Today in history: 33 years ago Mondale chooses Geraldine Ferraro to be his running mate

By Dave Andrusko

I received terrific feedback for my quasi-whimsical story yesterday about the talk I gave to a group of pro-life youngsters: “’Friends,’ evergreen content, and the beauty of the pro-life message.” If you missed it, I hope you take a few minutes to read what was a great time for me and hopefully, for the kids as well.

For our purposes here, the relevant point is that I mistakenly assumed that 15-17 year old teenagers would not have the faintest idea about a star who burst on the scene in the 1990s. But, to my surprise, they did, thanks to Netflix and other media which recycle old television series.

I mention that because 33 years ago today, Walter Mondale, the Democrat presidential nominee, announced he had chosen New York Congresswoman Gerald Ferraro to be his vice presidential running mate.

However, my guess is none of the teenagers and only a tiny sliver of the population would be aware of the excitement Mondale’s selection made in Democratic circles.

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.

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 President Reagan in 1980.

Second, in the same vein, they hoped to exploit the “gender gap”: early polling showed more women supporting Mondale than Reagan.

Third, the National Organization for Women (NOW), in those days a force, 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 selected. 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 wholly 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.

When she died in 2011, 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 was quoted as saying.

Here are three other quotes which paint a fuller picture of her believe that it was cheaper to abort. Ferraro supported federal funding of abortion, and in a June 27, 1979, speech to the House of Representatives, said, “The cost of putting an unwanted child through the [criminal justice] system far outweighs the costs of these [abortion procedures].”

In an interview that appeared in Ms. Magazine in January 1979, Ferraro added, “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.