Kevin DeYoung reprints the respective parties’ platforms—Republicans and Democrats—for the past 36 years (after Roe v. Wade).

Here is his summary points for the Republicans:

  • Initially, the party was much more hesitant to take a firm stance on abortion.
  • The pro-life statements have generally gotten more expansive over the years.
  • The position has not really changed since 1980. The last three platform statements (2004, 2008, 2012) have been very similar.
  • I could not find language on abortion in 1984. It’s probably in there and I just didn’t see it. Curiously, though, 1984 was the only year for which I couldn’t find a Democratic statement on abortion. If the statements were in there and I missed them, they must not have been a big deal.

And here are some observations on the Democrats:

  • The Democratic statements tend to be shorter. They emphasize the right to choose and then move on fairly quickly in most instances.
  • In recent years, the platform has emphasized that abortion should be legal but also rare. The statements often celebrate the right to choose an abortion while at the same time celebrating the decline of the abortion rate.
  • Like the Republicans, the Democrats were hesitant to be too dogmatic about abortion in the immediate aftermath of Roe v. Wade (1973).
  • The Democrats included a strong statement of inclusion (respect for differing opinions on abortion) in their 2000 platform. I did not see the same language in 2004, 2008, or 2012. In fact, judging by the past few weeks and this year’s convention, the Democrats are making a gamble that pushing leftward on abortion is a winning strategy.

Kevin’s final point was confirmed by the start of the Democratic National Convention: the Democrats have chosen a new tact this year in explicitly highlighting and celebrating their support of unrestricted legal abortion. It’s an interesting strategy, given that those self-identifying as “pro-choice” are at a recorded-low. The theme, however, is consistent with the fact that President Obama—whether you agree or disagree with his philosophy in other areas, has to be acknowledged as the most extreme presidential advocate of abortion-rights in American political history.

On the Republican side, inarticulate advocates of life like Todd Akin have certainly not helped the cause or the case for life. The best article on his mind-numbing gaffe and its aftermath can be found here.

It’s important to point out, however, that the Republic Party platform on this is important and not inconsequential. Pro-life presidents do matter. And despite the fact that Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, 2011-2012 was a record year in terms of pro-life legislation at the state level.