New GOP platform: 'Not a bad document' – but pro-life stance minimized, considerably fewer mentions of God

New GOP platform: 'Not a bad document' – but pro-life stance minimized, considerably fewer mentions of God

New GOP platform: 'Not a bad document' – but pro-life stance minimized, considerably fewer mentions of God

The Republican National Committee’s newly adopted party platform offers some encouragement for protection of life and the sanctity of marriage – but observers say where the party is going pales in comparison to where it’s been.

The weaker stance on abortion was an anticipated reset in the party’s first platform since 2016. It made no modifications in 2020. These are the first tweaks since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in 2022 which overturned Roe v. Wade and gave the power to legislate abortion to the states. Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee at next week’s convention in Milwaukee, has said that’s where abortion should be decided.

Reaching this point was not without drama. The new platform was rushed through the finish line. Strong pro-life voices were minimized or in some cases removed altogether:

“We proudly stand for families and life. We believe that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees that no person can be denied life or liberty without due process and that the states are therefore free to pass laws protecting those rights. After 51 years, because of us, that power has been given to the states and to a vote of the people.

“We will oppose late-term abortion while supporting mothers and policies that advance pre-natal care, access to birth control and IVF,” the new platform states.

Gone from previous platforms are support for a human life amendment to the Constitution and a commitment to endorse legislation that would clarify that 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.

Perkins, Tony (FRC - mug shot) Perkins

“It’s very unique; different than any I’ve seen before. It’s a fairly decent statement of a campaign’s priorities – but not the enduring principles of a party,” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, a platform meeting delegate, commented on Washington Watch Monday. “Maybe that’s where they want to go with it. If it is, that’s fine for the campaign, and it’s not a bad document from the standpoint of whether it says anything bad.”

However, it just doesn’t say much at all, Perkins told show host Jody Hice. “It’s very broad language. For instance, it talks about the sanctity of marriage, but it doesn’t define what marriage is,” he noted.

“There are some good things in the document. I think you’d have more people rallying around it if they didn’t feel so stepped on and disrespected,” Travis Weber, the FRC’s vice president for policy and government affairs, told Hice.

What’s next for Evangelicals?

Evangelicals, a key part of Trump’s base in two elections, seem curiously marginalized. There are only two mentions of God in the new platform compared to 15 mentions in 2016, Weber pointed out.

“That’s a big reduction. I was struck and concerned by the reductions of 'God' being mentioned in the platform, but also concerned with the way God was not honored but was used in the discussion,” Weber said.

Weber, Travis (FRC) Weber

The Hyde Amendment, a legislative amendment that took effect in 1980 which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except in cases of rape or the mother’s health, is not mentioned.

The call to defund Planned Parenthood and the lack of international religious freedom discussion are also glaring omissions in the platform, Weber said.

The problem, Perkins explained, is this platform is light on specifics that will play a key role in shaping thought and positions of elected Republicans.

“These platforms are followed by policymakers at every level of government. Eighty percent of the time plus, Republicans have followed their platform. These are guiding documents. They’re not insignificant. It’s a statement of principle that gives direction,” Perkins added.

The rest after Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision clearly was not the end of the abortion fight. In many ways, as Democrats began to target state constitutions in their election strategies, it was a new beginning.

“Many people thought, ‘Okay, we’ve won the battle,’” Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wisconsin) said on American Family Radio Tuesday.

But that’s not the case. Democrats, in fact, have become brazen in their pursuit of not only legalized abortion but abortion with no limits. Without Republican resistance, abortion on demand could become a very real thing.

“Every Democrat in the last session of Congress voted for abortion all the way up until birth,” Tiffany told show host Jenna Elis. “That tells you everything you need to know about how this needs to be an ongoing effort on our part. We need to continue the fight for life and to win battles.”

Tiffany, Rep. Thomas (R-Wisconsin) Tiffany

For Tiffany, that means renewed focus on the Hyde Amendment. “We’re working every day in the House to make sure the Hyde Amendment provisions are included in any federal legislation," he stated.

House members are also working to advance “born alive” protections in a bill reintroduced by GOP Reps. Steve Scalice (Louisiana) and Ann Wagner (Missouri) in 2021.

“I think we kind of got caught flat-footed with the Dobbs decision and weren’t fully prepared for what was about to happen when the Left took up the abortion issue,” Tiffany said. “In our state of Wisconsin, we lost our state Supreme Court on this issue because we simply weren't ready. I think we're getting in a better spot now to message this properly to the American people and to be able to notch some victories.”

The secret platform push

Platform language aside, there is great concern among staunch pro-life Republicans for how the process played out. The party’s move away from a stronger pro-life platform was done in dark recesses, not in the open.

Typically, each state sends two delegates to the meeting to adopt the platform. Those delegates are given a copy of the proposed platform to review upon check-in. The process plays out over two days.

“This year delegates didn’t have a chance to read it beforehand. There were no sub-committees. It happened extremely fast,” Brent Keilen, FRC’s vice president for strategic initiatives, told Hice.

The process was condensed to “half a day,” he said, and the limited time delegates had to read and consider the platform was not conducive to such.

Keilen, Brent (FRC Action) Keilen

“While they were trying to read there was discussion going on. It was not even a quiet room,” Keilen said.

There was also controversy among the delegates. In South Carolina, for example, the state party’s preferred delegates were removed for being too pro-life.

LaDonna Ryggs, a longtime party activist, and former state party chair Chad Connelly, have been ousted. Both had clearly stated their unwillingness to “water down” the platform’s positions on abortion, marriage or Israel, Politico reported.

Connelly told Hice that about a week before South Carolina’s scheduled meeting his fellow delegates began receiving calls from “mid-level Trump consultants” who attacked his views.

The state meeting was held, and Ryggs and Connelly were elected. But the RNC ran its own meeting and elected its preferred people.

“They had delegates and alternates vote in the meeting. They didn’t give 24 hours' notice. They broke pretty much every rule in the state party book,” Connelly told Hice.

When the state party chairman submitted the names of Connelly and Ryggs as delegates, the RNC filed a protest. It was heard by the contest committee of the RNC. That’s where Connelly and Ryggs lost. From that point, Connelly and Ryggs were denied a protest hearing.

“The process was completely wiped out. The cake was baked. They had a desire to just steamroll through this, and from the 84-18 vote you could tell,” Connelly said.

The irony, Connelly says, is that it didn’t need to happen. “Everybody I know realizes that our country can’t take four more years of Joe Biden,” he said.

Now Connelly says he’s heard from more than 1,000 pastors who are concerned about the “outcome, disappointment and betrayal.”

Their disappointment may not directly cost Trump votes, according to Connelly, but their lack of passionate support could impact others.

“Yeah, I’ll probably vote for the right – but do I want to work for this? Do I want to stand in my pulpit and make a declaration of this? I think the base is going to be deflated in a lot of ways,” Connelly lamented.

Did RNC make the right call?

It’s too early to predict the response of pro-life voters, Perkins said. “We still have a sharp contrast between the two candidates, but it dampens enthusiasm,” he said.

“There’s still some good stuff in there. No denying that. There’s also stuff that was in there for 50 years that’s not there anymore,” Keilen said.

Fifty-nine percent of Trump voters in 2016 said Republicans’ strong positions on life and religious liberty impacted their vote, Keilen said.

“To me, the other piece of the equation is the Democrat Party will adopt their platform next month, and it will be really interesting to see what that contrast is. It’s going to be interesting to see how people respond to that,” he said.