Politics

Reubin Askew Fought Against Abortion on the National Stage

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 13, 2014 11:25 AM
Reubin Askew

Reubin Askew

Accolades are pouring in for the late Gov. Reubin Askew, D-Fla., with political leaders and pundits praising him for being one of the great governors in Florida history and for his commitment to civil rights and open government. But one thing about Askew’s political career is being overlooked: his opposition to abortion.

During his ill-fated bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, Askew called for a constitutional amendment against abortion. In a debate in Des Moines with his primary rivals in February 1984, Askew admitted his position set him apart from the rest of the field. In fact, Askew was actually the last in a line of pro-life Democratic presidential candidates, following the footsteps of Sargent Shriver and Ellen McCormack.

“I guess one of the reasons that I'm different on it is that I do favor a constitutional amendment to reverse Roe v. Wade in order to let Congress set a national standard,” Askew said.

Askew would not have bought in to the “war on women” rhetoric currently embraced by members of his party. In the same debate, then-U.S. Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, pressed Askew on women’s issues and the Floridian responded, noting his support of the Equal Rights Amendment and other pro-women positions.

“First of all, I think we need to recognize that we are headed, by the turn of the century, toward complete feminization of poverty in which almost all of the poor people in this country are going to be women, households headed by just one parent, the woman, and children,” Askew said. “The first thing I'd do is try to pass the equal rights amendment to the United States Constitution. The second is I would hold all those people who are against ERA but are for the economic improvement of women to work for the economic equity act in the Congress to give them a chance to fish or cut bait, the education equity act, which helps to remove so many stereotypes in so much of the programs that we deal with.

“My record as governor was one of bringing women into my administration and in fact we have only, I guess, some token men in our Iowa campaign structure,” Askew added. “I say that because I value these women and the leadership role that they can play.”

Askew even blamed the pro-choice movement for the ERA’s demise. “I think one of the reasons the ERA was defeated was that some chose to tie it in to the abortion issue,” Askew said. “I personally strongly support the Equal Rights Amendment. As far as abortion is concerned, obviously I disagree with many of the feminist organizations. I believe that we should amend the Constitution, reverse Roe v. Wade. I don't think the Constitution ever intended for a constitutional right to an abortion.”

But then Askew always prided himself on being different. He was a breath of fresh air in Tallahassee after he beat Gov. Claude Kirk, R-Fla., the first Republican governor of Florida since Reconstruction, in 1970. Unlike the flamboyant and confrontational Kirk, Askew was a teetotaler who was a consensus builder. Askew became one of the poster boys of the “New South” as a new generation of Southern governors who fought for civil rights.

Easily one of the best governors in Florida history, Askew stumbled badly when he tried to play on the national stage. He gave the keynote to the chaotic Democratic presidential convention in Miami Beach that nominated then-U.S. Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D., to challenge President Richard Nixon in 1972. Turning down McGovern’s offer to be his running mate, Askew looked poised for higher office.

He would have been the perfect Democratic presidential candidate in 1976. After Watergate, Askew would have been a good fit for voters. He was honest and an outsider. But fellow New South Democrat Jimmy Carter had the same credentials as the Florida governor, fit the bill and entered the contest while Askew stayed out. After his two terms as governor, Askew worked in the Carter administration on trade issues. Still, with his record in Tallahassee, it’s easy to imagine Askew doing a better job in the White House than Carter did.

While his family’s obituary insisted he considered running for president in 1984, Askew actually ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. By this point, Askew was a fish out of water despite pushing a “new union” on the domestic front. Unlike most of his primary rivals, he did not support the nuclear freeze movement and went out of his way to distance himself from the AFL-CIO.

Askew also was an opponent of abortion. As an unapologetic foe of Roe v. Wade, he paid the price. Despite his credentials, he was a nonfactor in the presidential contest. After working Iowa, Askew only took 2.5 percent of the vote there and 1 percent in New Hampshire. He dropped out and threw his support behind Gary Hart’s challenge against Walter Mondale.

Askew would launch another political comeback attempt after then-U.S. Sen. Lawton Chiles, D-Fla., announced he would not run for a fourth term. But the former governor ditched his bid early in the process.

As she reviewed his political career after his passing Thursday, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant ignored Askew’s position on abortion.

“Reubin Askew was a giant of Florida history, whose unparalleled accomplishments for the people of Florida set the example all Floridians elected to public office strive to meet,” said Tant. “We will miss his wisdom, his friendship, and his leadership in difficult times.

“Reubin Askew leaves behind a legacy as strong as the principles he fought for. His commitment to honesty in government, to civil rights, and to the middle class restored people’s faith that government could work for them,” Tant added. “Reubin Askew will live on in the memories of those who knew him and in the lives of the millions of Floridians whose lives he touched. Let us all continue to serve Florida in that spirit."

It’s no surprise that Tant ignored Askew’s position on abortion. But it’s surprising that Republicans also ignored it in their tributes. Gov. Rick Scott announced flags will be at half-staff across Florida Thursday until sunset on the day he is buried. Scott nevertheless ignored Askew’s opposition on abortion.

"Gov. Askew served our nation as a veteran, he served Florida’s families as an elected officeholder, and he served our children as an educator,” Scott said. “He helped lead Florida to enormous growth and was a trailblazer for good government. His advocacy for Florida’s sunshine laws was a landmark moment for ethics and transparency in government, and that legacy continues to endure.

“His accomplishments were vast, but he remained humble and took his commitment to public service seriously,” Scott added. “Gov. Askew strove to make life better for all of Florida’s families, and that dedication is an example for all who followed in his footsteps. Ann and I mourn his passing and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Donna Lou, and his entire family."

Other Republicans followed suit with the likes of Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) Chairman Lenny Curry and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, also ignoring Askew’s stance on abortion in their tributes to the former governor.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.


Comments (12)

s.
9:46PM MAR 14TH 2014
The Health Regulation Committee approved SB 2400, a bill that would allow women to see an ultrasound before considering abortion. Women would not be required to see the ultrasound and could opt out under this legislation. Opponents of the bill argue that it interfers with the right to abortion; a majority of women choose not to have an abortion after seeing their babies in the ultrasound picture. The narrow 4 to 3 vote would not have passed without the support of Democratic Senator Gary Siplin. We appreciate his vote on this bill. The Florida House passed similar legislation with the support of Democrat Representative Darren Soto.
s.
9:24PM MAR 14TH 2014
Guv. Askew was one of Florida's many outstanding Democratic governor's. His outspoken support for women's rights, including pay equity, was entirely consistent with his defense of unborn children.
s.
9:24PM MAR 14TH 2014
Guv. Askew was one of Florida's many outstanding Democratic governor's. His outspoken support for women's rights, including pay equity, was entirely consistent with his defense of unborn children.
s.
9:19PM MAR 14TH 2014
Christie’s claim about anti-abortion Democrats is false. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr. — who began an op-ed last year, “I am a pro-life senator” — delivered a prime time address during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
In fact, he said this:
Casey, Aug. 26, 2008: Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion. But the fact that I’m speaking here tonight is testament to Barack’s ability to show respect for the views of people who may disagree with him.

Another featured speaker at the 2008 Democratic National Convention was Sen. Joe Manchin, then governor of West Virginia and chair of the Democratic Governors Association. In 2011, Manchin said from the floor of the Senate, “I am pro-life, and proud of it,” though he did not raise the issue in his speech at the convention. Also in 2008, former Indiana U.S. Rep. Timothy Roemer, a Catholic Democrat who is against abortion, was among those who participated in a panel at the Democratic convention that sought to find “common ground on abortion.”
And an Interfaith Gathering was held on the opening day of that convention, during which Bishop Charles Blake made the following anti-abortion appeal:
Blake, Aug. 24, 2008: Our children have sacred value, and every child is equally valuable.

May I observe, as a pro-life Democrat, that some of us have philosophic, humanitarian and theological differences with those who put forth abortion as an appropriate, routine and acceptable birth control procedure. There are millions of us who would hold that such a position conflicts with our conviction regarding our sacred responsibility to our youth and to human life itself.

Surely we cannot be pleased with the routine administration of millions of surgically terminated pregnancies. Something within all of us must be calling for a better way. If we do not resist at this point, at what point will we resist?

We know that our party will understand and acknowledge the moral and spiritual pain that so many feel because of this disregard for the lives of the unborn.

Those of us who support the Democratic Party, despite our disagreement on this issue, do so because the Democratic Party articulate and pursues more of the positions that are relevant to the lives and circumstances of our people, the people of America in general, and the people of the world. …

Although no elected anti-abortion Democrat delivered an address at the most recent Democratic National Convention in 2012, one of the convention speakers was Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Roman Catholic social justice organization NETWORK. And she expressed her “pro-life” position.
Campbell, Sept. 5, 2012: The Affordable Care Act will cover people like Margaret. We all share responsibility to ensure that this vital health care reform law is properly implemented and that all governors expand Medicaid coverage so no more Margarets die from lack of care. This is part of my pro-life stance and the right thing to do.

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, told us that while the Democratic conventions have become less welcoming to those who oppose abortion rights, it’s simply not true that anti-abortion Democrats have not been allowed to speak at conventions. Christie’s error, she said, is likely linked to the controversy surrounding anti-abortion Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey Sr. (father of Sen. Bob Casey Jr.) being denied a speaking spot at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
Frank
1:56PM MAR 13TH 2014
Sad, shame on you . . . . with all his many accomplishments, this is the only issue you found worthy to cover . . . . and yes, you seem alone and isolated in the news world in making this the significant topic of your Askew coverage . . . . . . because to solely focus on this and basically ignore his major accomplishments is justifiably just . . . . so . . . partisan . . . and . . .

Pathetic . . . . and I wouldn't be surprised if Nancy Smith is forced to come out with a 2nd article actually praising his other accomplishments . . .
Repubtallygirl
2:23PM MAR 13TH 2014
Why is this not considered an accomplishment?
s.
9:41PM MAR 14TH 2014
The West Virginia legislature passed HB 4588, a bill to recognize that unborn children can experience pain and to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks. The legislation was sponsored by ten Democratic Delegates: David Perry, Doug Reynolds, Doug Skaff, Margaret Donaldson Smith, John Pino, Rick Moye, Jeff Eldridge, Denise Campbell, Dale Stephens, and Justin Marcum. 

Thirty-two Democratic Delegates voted in favor of the legislation.

The West Virginia Senate passed the legislation  by a vote of 29 to 5 with 19 Democratic Senators voting
s.
9:18PM MAR 14TH 2014
Pls optimize your comment form for mobile!
s.
9:11PM MAR 14TH 2014
25 million Democrats in the United States self identify as pro-life. That's over a third of the party.
 but if you listen to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the mainstream media, you would think that no true progressive can be pro-life.
That's nonsense.
Pro-life Democrats are a strong and bold voice in this country, and in 2014, we must come out of the closest and declare this truth: protecting the unborn must be at the heart of the progressive agenda.
 
Every day our organization is working hard to get pro-life Democrats elected. 
 
Because in the end, it's clear: protecting the dignity of all human life must be the way forward for our party and for our country.
Frank
11:44PM MAR 13TH 2014
One, it wasn't accomplished . . .

Two, not even Republicans mentioned this when discussing Askew yesterday . . . . . only the most rabid partisan among us would believe that highlighting this "non-accomplishment" is the highlight of Askew's career . . . . I'm sure he didn't . . . that's why it's so . . .

Pathetic . . . .
s.
9:48PM MAR 14TH 2014
The Health Regulation Committee approved SB 2400, a bill that would allow women to see an ultrasound before considering abortion. Women would not be required to see the ultrasound and could opt out under this legislation. Opponents of the bill argue that it interfers with the right to abortion; a majority of women choose not to have an abortion after seeing their babies in the ultrasound picture. The narrow 4 to 3 vote would not have passed without the support of Democratic Senator Gary Siplin. We appreciate his vote on this bill. The Florida House passed similar legislation with the support of Democrat Representative Darren Soto.
Frank
8:11PM MAR 15TH 2014
Who cares . . . . this has nothing to do with honoring Askew . . . . your rabid comments demonstrate how shrill this issue is . . . . while adding nothing to the discussion of honoring a deceased great Governor . . . . instead, you raise your sad obsession . . . . and show yourself as clearly . . .

Pathetic . . . .

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