Democrats aggressively court black voters, talking about their concerns and winning a large majority from that voting bloc on election day. Republicans do the same with abortion opponents and generally win their votes.
But between elections, both groups sometimes complain that their agenda slips to the bottom of the priority list despite their reliability at the ballot box. On Friday afternoon, when U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof visited the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Cape Girardeau, Les Wells took notice of that gap between words and action and asked whether Hulshof was different.
Hulshof, a Republican from Columbia, is seeking the GOP nomination for governor. "What are you going to do to say we won't have abortions in Missouri?" asked Wells, who was in attendance to hear Hulshof speak.
"Good question," Hulshof immediately replied, then reminded Wells that, despite his views and the views of many people, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land.
Pro-choice activists immediately challenge every step taken to restrict or limit access to abortions, Hulshof noted. Waiting periods, medical requirements and the ban on "partial-birth" abortions all had to endure lengthy court battles before becoming law, he said.
"That is the way we have to operate," Hulshof said.
Hulshof visited the Crisis Pregnancy Center, 354 S. Silver Springs Road, a privately funded counseling program that helps women with financial and moral support to find alternatives to seeking abortions. "The bottom line is we are here to save babies," said Jeanette Dohogne, director of the center.
Hulshof, who according to polls is in a tight primary race against state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, told about 25 people gathered at the center that he has a pro-life agenda that will meet with approval from abortion opponents and promised to work as governor for its enactment.
That agenda, he said, includes a state-sponsored program to collect the umbilical cord blood from newborns to provide morally clean stem cells for research and treatment. Another part of that effort, he said, would be to enact tough penalties for anyone convicted of coercing a woman to have an abortion either through physical or mental pressure.
For the past week, Hulshof and Steelman have been trading attacks over which campaign is most closely aligned with the pro-life movement. Steelman has criticized Hulshof for not joining her push for Gov. Matt Blunt to call a special session to deal with pro-life issues, including the anti-coercion bill. Hulshof said he has declined to endorse the call for a special session because the decision is up to Blunt.
"We're talking about a larger legislative agenda," Hulshof said in an interview after speaking to about 25 people gathered at the center. "If the governor chooses to call it, I will support it, but it is a call for the governor to make."
In his remarks to the assembled group, Hulshof said the umbilical cord blood storage program would supplement private efforts. The idea, he said, is a place where both sides of the abortion debate can find common ground. Umbilical cord blood is a source of stem cells that hold great promise for treatments, Hulshof said. The research can go forward without destroying embryos.
"My personal feeling is the destruction of a human embryo is not a morally neutral act," Hulshof said.