Harry Reid is retiring from the Senate after the 2016 elections. The Senate Democratic leader has already retired from the pro-life cause.
You may not realize that Reid is, by his own description, a pro-life Democrat. That’s because he has done much to conceal the fact since he began rising up the Democratic leadership ranks more than a decade ago.
Reid responded to a 1998 survey saying abortion should only be legal in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life in danger. He voted to ban partial-birth abortion, the first time an abortion procedure was outlawed at the federal level since Roe v. Wade.
In fact, Reid twice voted against measures expressing the sense of the Senate that Roe was correctly decided. In 1999, he and John Breaux were the only Democrats to do so. By the thirtieth anniversary of the decision, they were joined by three more pro-life Democrats.
So when Reid ascended to the leadership, many pro-life Democrats were jubilant. Reid headlined Democrats for Life’s group of congressional all stars.
They would be disappointed. Reid was always a weak pro-lifer. Since the mid-1990s, he never voted with the National Right to Life Committee more than 66 percent of the time. Things deteriorated from there.
When Reid became the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, the line was that he would vote pro-life but whip pro-choice. Over time, that became untenable.
Reid went from voting with NARAL Pro-Choice America 29 percent of the time in 2003 to 100 percent of the time in 2007. (He had voted 100 percent of the time with Democrats for Life just three years prior.)
The first year after becoming Senate majority leader, Reid voted with the National Right to Life Committee only 28 percent of the time. According to the group’s ratings, he didn’t cast a single pro-life vote from 2009 to the end of 2012.
As far as I can tell, Reid never publicly repudiated his past pro-life views. He contrasted his position on abortion with Hillary Clinton’s in a 2006 op-ed they co-authored. Reid’s former spokesman Jim Manley described the senator as “strongly pro-life” in 2009, the same year he got a zero from National Right to Life and worked against pro-life Democrats trying to keep abortion funding out of Obamacare.
Reid did vote with National Right to Life a third of the time in 2014 and 40 percent of the time the year before.
Yet even as he conceded he might consider holding a vote on a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, Reid dismissed it as a “fringe issue.” That’s not how most pro-lifers talk about late-term abortions.
And Reid is now agitating against a bipartisan health care bill because it contains language banning public funding of abortion. This puts him to the left of pro-choice House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who backs the compromise.
Reid has objected to similar language in the Senate’s human trafficking bill, even though the Hyde Amendment was enacted by a Democratic Congress in 1976 and he has personally voted against taxpayer funding of abortion over the years.
That will be one thing to remember Harry Reid for. He entered the Senate a Democrat willing to challenge his party on abortion. He’s leaving as someone who will block legislation dealing with the trafficking of human beings because of abortion.
Hope the nice office was worth it, Harry.
W. James Antle III is managing editor of The Daily Caller and author of the book Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? Follow him on Twitter.