Skip to content

And the Real Pro-life Candidate(s) Are…

August 1, 2010
Candidates James Watkins (top) & Matthew Burke (bottom)

Republican Congressional Candidates James Watkins (left) & Matthew Burke (right)

 The following is an update to previous reports on the 1st Congressional District primary race. First, a little background:   

In the Washington State 1st Congressional district, we have several Republicans challenging the Democrat incumbent. Matthew Burke and James Watkins are the two candidates who have received the most attention.   

Either one would be a tremendous improvement over pro-abort extraordinaire and NARAL darling, Congressman Jay Inslee.  And yet while we are still in the primary-phase, the goal of vetting should be to distinguish differences between similar candidates, not simply criticize the opponent on the other side of the aisle.   

For this reason, I attended and reported on two candidate forums featuring Burke and Watkins over the past several months. At the time, I found little differences between them when it came to their position on abortion…mostly because I didn’t know what, exactly, their positions were. Since then, new information has been revealed, requiring an important update:    

The forum on May 19th did not leave me in a particularly charitable mood, feeling as though both candidates were dismissive regarding the issue of abortion. I quickly rattled-off a review titled, “The Unfashionable Issue”, in which I wrote: ”      

It appears that the policy responsible for the greatest number of American deaths, the law that sanctions the killing of 1 out of 5 preborn children in the United States, is not quite fashionable enough to take a bold stand on…    

I hope I am wrong about my impressions of Burke and Watkins as being laissez-faire on this issue of life. But as it stands, I would be lying if I didn’t say I left the forum last night with a bitter taste in my mouth.     

My issue, it seems, is merely “personal”. My issue is “divisive”.    

Turns out, my impression was wrong, at least in part. Matthew Burke, after reading the article, was quite willing to set the record straight. “I’m sorry and disappointed that my answer at the forum…apparently didn’t reflect my strong feelings on the issue.  That certainly was not my intention,” explained Burke, who went on to clarify his position:    

Life is life.  When an abortion takes place, a human life is taken.  Therefore, I am pro-life without exception.  I don’t think anyone has the “right” to take the life of another human being, period.  That is my position.  It is the unfortunate political reality, that because the current crop of “leaders” are doing so much to destroy the freedom of us already born, the protection of the innocent unborn has been placed on the back-burner by much of society.  Recognizing this environment in no way diminishes my personal views that abortion is a human tragedy.    

And therein lies the misunderstanding, and my error. As a jaded activist, anytime I hear someone describe their views on abortion as “personal”, I assume it means, “not-public”, as in “I’m not going to do a thing about it”. Burke clarified this as well:    

When I said, “personal”, I in no way meant that I would keep my position on protecting life to myself, or that I would somehow publicly hide it or vote against any pro-life legislation. I proudly announce my Human Life PAC endorsement and do not evade questions when asked directly about my pro-life position.  In fact, I would not have applied for the Human Life PAC endorsement if I had any intention to hide my pro-life position.    

Good! My apologies to Mr. Burke for jumping to conclusions in the public arena before asking him directly.    

Back to the issue of endorsements… 

At the second forum I attended on July 13th, Burke did in fact bring up his Human Life PAC endorsement. Human Life of Washington PAC awards endorsements to candidates based on their answers to a questionnaire–it is a high standard to meet. 

I mentioned Burke’s endorsement in the second article, “Bringing Up the Embryo in the Room”, and went on to describe my brief interaction with the other candidate, James Watkins, following the forum. Watkins described how he had not received the Human Life PAC endorsement, but he had received the personal endorsement of Dan Kennedy (the CEO of Human Life of Washington) and a couple other local pro-life/pro-family leaders.    

This, of course, would be puzzling to the outside observer. Why would Kennedy’s organization endorse one candidate, while Kennedy himself endorsed his opponent? The answer it turns out, is that Kennedy endorsed Watkins prior to Burke entering the race.  The endorsement came after a long talk between the two men, after which Kennedy felt assured of Watkin’s pro-life principles. The details of that conversation have not been made public.   

So why didn’t Human Life PAC offer a dual endorsement to both candidates? Because Watkins chose not to participate in the questionnaire. Instead of filling out the survey, he issued a statement to the PAC which reads:    

Our nation is facing an economic and fiscal crisis – caused in large part by career politicians like my left wing Democrat opponent who have forgotten they’re supposed to represent us. To save our nation and rebuild our economy, I am working to unite voters behind practical common-sense policies that build real jobs, stop out of control deficit spending, protect families and ensure a brighter future for our kids.   

I believe families are the foundation of our society.   When campaigning, I remind voters that I support strong families – I oppose partial birth abortion, oppose federal abortion funding and support parental notification.  I’m running to clean up Congress, not become a career politician, so you can count on me to stand by my principles.  I’m proud to have endorsements from Attorney General Rob McKenna, Dan Kennedy, Kirby Wilbur, Joe Fuiten, and Maureen Richardson among others. I would appreciate your support. (emphasis added) 

I am glad Watkins will stand by his principles, but what exactly are those principles? The bulk of his statement to Human Life PAC consists of vague fiscal and familial references, and has very little to do with abortion. Watkin’s opposition to partial birth abortion and federal funding, and his support of parental notification are all good things, and yet the savvy pro-lifer must recognize that this statement does not necessarily constitute a pro-life worldview.   

Partial-birth abortion has already been banned on the federal level. The law’s effectiveness has been limited by lower courts, and abortionists have been quick to “alter” their late-term abortion techniques to avoid legal challenges. Even before the federal ban, the partial-birth procedure was exceedingly rare. The fact remains that the vast majority of abortions done in the Unites States occur within the first trimester. How would Watkin’s vote in these cases? How would he vote on other late-term abortion procedures, such as dilation and evacuation? What are his positions on embryonic stem-cell research? Physician-assisted suicide? Conscience clause?   

I have asked Watkins for clarification, but have not yet received a response.   

(It should also be noted that the first endorsement Watkins mentions in this statement is that of Rob McKenna, the most prominent pro-choice Republican in Washington State.)   

So who are the real pro-life candidates in the 1st District?   

Matthew Burke has passed the rigorous test of Human Life PAC, and in recent weeks has proven himself eager to explain his position publicly.   

James Watkins has the endorsement of several pro-life leaders, but his public professions have left many unanswered questions. Without a comprehensive public profession from Watkins, it is impossible to hold him accountable once elected. In other words he has few promises to keep, or break, to either the pro-life, or pro-choice community.   

Should positions on LIFE really be this complicated?   

Fortunately, Burke has already stood up and simplified his stance, necessitating this follow-up clarification and correction.   

I’m hoping in the days ahead I will have the privilege of writing a similar article clarifying Watkin’s pro-life position.   


10 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2010 10:41 pm

    Thank you for this review. It is disheartening to see big names endorsing people without vetting them as you have done here. Keep up the good work.

    • August 2, 2010 6:36 pm

      Thanks Dean,

      I am sure the leaders do have a way of vetting, but when candidates don’t make their position public, it is impossible for the general public to know the specifics and hold them accountable.

  2. Larry Andrews permalink
    August 2, 2010 3:28 am

    I had a conversation recently with a friend on abortion, pro-choice Catholics, and the Pope. A question was raised as to how people who are pro-choice could call themselves members of the Catholic Church when the Pope, the spiritual head of the Church who determines the Church platform, is pro-life. The Catholic Church has had a pro-life platform for hundreds of years. By a person calling themselves a Catholic, the external world assumes that this person takes the position of pro-life. Any other position would mean they were not a member of the Catholic Church. You can not assume a role or position and not be that position, otherwise, what is the purpose of a Pope or calling yourself a Catholic?

    The Republican party also has a platform, which is created by a body of people who represent the constituents of the local precincts and districts of the State of Washington. The 2010 State Republican platform states in SECTION 7:

    Government’s responsibility is to uphold and respect traditional institutions, such as marriage between one man and one woman, protect the elderly and children from the harmful elements of society, and defend the unalienable right of human life from conception to natural death.

    It seems that any candidate who calls himself a Republican, has to assume the role or position of the Republican platform… which is to “defend the unalienable right of human life from conception to natural death,” otherwise, what is the purpose of having a platform or calling yourself a Republican?

    Am I wrong?

    • August 2, 2010 6:43 pm

      Great point Larry! And many thanks to all of you who worked to secure a pro-life plank on this year’s WSRP platform. Even King County adopted a firm pro-life plank! From what I hear, this is a huge accomplishment. We are moving in the right direction, but given our history, we must stay vigilant.

      As far as this race goes, for all I know, both candidates might fall within the plank guidelines…it’s just that we have not been given all the facts to determine for ourselves.

  3. murray mccory permalink
    August 2, 2010 10:50 am

    It is imperative to hit these social issues with a state law to be voted on by the citizens of our state. These issues are not the primary concern of our state today. every time a candidate runs for office, he or she is selected based on the stand towards gay marriage or abortion. this must stop, or we will always have people like Jay Inslee in office. our state is liberal, and a Republican is sacrificed based on social issues alone. Lets get these issues out of the way for good, by popular vote. Then we can focus on our budget, economy, environment, health, etc.

    • August 2, 2010 7:21 pm

      Hi Murray,

      I love the idea of having a citizen’s initiative–we need to attack this from all angles. BTW, the race we are discussing is on the federal, not the state, level.

      I’ll try to address your other concerns one at a time:

      “These issues are not the primary concern of our state today.”

      Sadly, you are right, but they should be. 1 in 5 American’s are denied their civil rights based soley on their age and location. 1 in 5.

      “every time a candidate runs for office, he or she is selected based on the stand towards gay marriage or abortion.”

      I’m not sure what candidates or offices you are referring to…unless you are referring to pro-choice Republican candidates. The Washington State Republican Party leadership has a long history of promoting pro-choice candidates to run for office.

      “this must stop, or we will always have people like Jay Inslee in office.”

      Being Pro-life is not only right, it’s a winning political strategy. It is also the best way to energize and add diversity to the Republican party. Have you ever been to a pro-life rally?…it is remarkable! Young people are becoming increasingly pro-life. Pro-choicers are aging as a demographic, and not replacing their numbers with younger voters. Pro-choicers are also less likely than pro-lifers to single out the issue when making voting decisions.

      “our state is liberal, and a Republican is sacrificed based on social issues alone.”

      Leadership is about changing hearts and minds, not melding with the worst values of the culture around you. Running candidates who simply mirror the general population is political laziness, at best.

      “Lets get these issues out of the way for good, by popular vote. Then we can focus on our budget, economy, environment, health, etc.”

      Referring to abortion as just one of many “issues” is at the heart of our disagreement. Any time I hear someone speak of abortion this way, I view it as a failure to understand what is at stake. A pro-choice politician is not simply wrong on “one issue”, their position reveals a fundamental difference in the way they view government and the Constitution. No longer do they consider it the role of government to simply *secure* unalienable rights–now the government has the tryannical power to *redefine* what our rights are.

      Thanks for engaging in this all-important debate.


  4. Jean Avery permalink
    August 3, 2010 2:15 pm

    A candidate’s statements on abortion are more telling than any other issue. *They know that a significant number of people will disagree with them no matter what they say.* So their answer here tells me how they will act under pressure – are they the kind of official who will bend with the wind or do what’s fashionable? Or the kind that really believes in what they’re saying? If you’re “pro life” you believe that lives hang in the balance – but you’re wondering what the right thing is to do or say? Sorry, doesn’t add up.

    Of people who thought abortion was their #1 issue, 90% of those people voted for McCain (don’t have that citation handy, I believe it was from a Rasmussen cross-tab exit poll). So tiptoeing around doesn’t hold water ethically or strategically.

    I agree that politicians need to respond to the fact that the economy is everyone’s #1 issue. But in this case, Inslee has abeen a champion of *paying for abortions in foreign countries* with our tax dollars. IT doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say, dude, I’m not okay with that, and I wouldn’t do that if you voted for me.

    There are other things that have turned me off about the Watkins campaign (which I won’t go into here), but I will definitely be casting my ballot for Burke. Thanks for addressing this ‘elephant in the room’ (no pun intended).

  5. DadOfThree permalink
    August 11, 2010 1:11 am

    “I oppose partial birth abortion, oppose federal abortion funding and support parental notification.”

    In my opinion, Watkins is being laser focused here on very specific actions he can take in the limited time he is going to have available to fix things within the current political reality. He’s being realistic, not idealistic, about what is going to be possible in the limited amount of time he will be serving as a citizen (rather than career) politician.

    When it comes down to it, either Burke and Watkins are going to have to start somewhere when elected if they are going to tackle abortion related issues. I expect any actual legislative victories achieved during the next term will initially be along the very lines Watkins has mapped out, even if Burke ends up being the one doing it.

    Vote your heart in the primaries! Whichever way it goes I feel confident we’re going to have a great alternative to Jay Inslee.

    • August 11, 2010 8:21 am


      I hope you are right, and Watkins is simply being specific. However, I have yet to hear what his comprehensive position on abortion is, which troubles me. The three specifics he mentioned are the “non-controversial” positions, and two of them are already federal law.

      Thank you,


  6. Ron permalink
    September 21, 2010 9:20 am

    I am trying to pin down where Dino Rossi stands on abortion. Things seem rather vague with him, and so I’m trying to find out his stance on pro-life issues.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: