New Tapes Reveal, Nixon: Anti-Choice, With a Disturbing Exception


Just-released tapes from President Nixon’s time in the White House reveal that he feared legal abortion would lead to "permissiveness" but that he felt that it was justified in some cases — in the case of rape, but also when you have "a black and a white," the New York Times reports. The tape, made on January 23, 1973, the day Roe was decided, sheds new light on Nixon’s personal view on abortion, as he made no public statement that day.

"There is something really fishy about people who seem unable to talk about abortion without also talking about race," says Dana Goldstein on TAPPED. "…[W]hen it came to interracial
couples, Nixon fully supported abortion — six years after the Supreme
Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia."

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  • invalid-0

    One has to wonder if tapes will ever reveal how Nixon felt about the positions his wife took on abortion and other “women’s issues” (to use a phrase of that day).

    From Wikipedia on Pat Nixon:

    She spoke out in favor of women running for political office and encouraged her husband to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court, saying “woman power is unbeatable; I’ve seen it all across this country”.[45] She was the first of the American First Ladies to publicly support the Equal Rights Amendment,[46], though her views on abortion were mixed. Following the Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, Pat stated she was pro-choice.[1] However in 1972, she said, “I’m really not for abortion. I think it’s a personal thing. I mean abortion on demand—wholesale.”[47]

    The newly released statements make Pat’s statements on abortion all the more interesting. Maybe they both talked about the issue, and had some sort of understanding that it would be Pat, and not Richard, to comment on abortion, and perhaps the Roe decision in particular?

    If so, it’s doubtful that tapes will ever be found to document that conversation. :)

  • invalid-0

    I agree that it was appalling for Nixon, or anybody else, for that matter, to be in favor of abortion for mixed race fetuses.

    But why isn’t it equally appalling to be in favor of abortion for fetuses with disabilities? Does an infant’s bodily malfunction justify negating their entire life by abortion? If so, that means a person’s entire worth is based on the functioning of one body part.

    Doesn’t that seem a little STRANGE when you really stop to think about it?

    “I’m sorry, Baby Albert Einstein, but you see, you’re going to grow up with dyslexia, so we would rather not take a chance on you growing up, even if your termination might mean we miss out on knowing the thoughts of the man who would discover the Theory of Relativity. See, we don’t know when you are a fetus that you WILL grow up to be the world’s greatest scientist, so we’d rather just decide to not bother with you.”

    “Don’t worry, it worth waiting another 100 years for the next person to be born who has your insight into science–unless that fetus has a congential disability too, in which case he/she will also be aborted…”

    There will always be groups that are more or less acceptable in different eras. But if we don’t do something to stop our striving for perfection now, soon NO ONE will make the grade. IT OK TO HAVE FLAWS–if they even ARE flaws! Remember the movie “Gattica”? In the future, having a genetic imperfection is a crime… sigh…

    Susan

  • invalid-0

    One other point on Nixon’s remarks in this (or these) tapes on abortion: it’s not really clear exactly how he’s linking how he could condone abortion (either personally or politically), it’s not clear if he’s referring to consensual interracial relationships (the potential product of the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, for example) or to rape, which he mentions in the same thought.

    Similar misunderstandings and prejudices may be involved either way, of course, but there is something different or at least there’s shading of a different kind of ‘wrong’ between someone who wants to prohibit what was once called ‘miscegenation’, an obscure term referring to ‘mixing’ of races in relationships, particularly sexual ones, someone who wants the government to enact policies that would promote abortion in cases of a mixed-race pregnancy, and someone who thinks that black-on-white rape is a much more heinous crime than rape by someone of the same race as the victim. About the only thing that can maybe be reasonably inferred from the quotes so far in the press on these tapes is that it appears Nixon was talking about his own feelings and not what might be politically acceptable policy for abortion law.

    These distinctions are worth noting because some press reports on this are going so far as to say that Nixon was saying in this cited tape that the government should promote or encourage abortion in cases where, presumably, a pregnancy results from a black-white relationship. It doesn’t seem clear that he’s saying that. This isn’t to defend Nixon or suggest he was “misunderstood” at the time regarding civil rights or relationships between black and white people, it seems evident that Nixon strongly supported the Republican party’s “Southern Strategy” of playing on the race-related fears of white people to gain votes in the face of increasing support in the Democratic party for civil rights laws and legislation. It would be much more helpful though to progressives who study this era to better understand what presidents in particular like Nixon and LBJ thought on abortion in the years leading up to Roe when support for abortion law reform was so strong, the question wasn’t so much whether or not abortion should be made legal, but how.

    It’s also worth noting that many people, including progressives, had attitudes about race and sex that today’s world would see as anachronistic at best, or racist, sexist, or (if possible) worse. On race, sex, and the South the best example might be Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”. That book is a Southern classic still taught in high schools today, cited by attorneys as motivation for them to take up law as a career, and last and least, the protagonist “Atticus Finch’s first name has been co-opted to name a popular line of punk rock clothing. The name “Atticus Finch” has been immortalized, but not the name of the accuser, Mayella Ewell.

    But try to reread “To Kill A Mockingbird” from the perspective of the alleged accuser, an apparently mentally disabled young woman and possible incest victim, and see if it doesn’t play overly on themes of promiscuity, female vulnerability and treachery to extremes that make the likely existence of a woman as deranged and driven as Mayella as unlikely and unrealistic as Atticus’ altruism and willingness was in the extreme personal and financial risk he took in representing the accused, Tom Robinson. The caricature of Mayalla is all the more unrealistic given that the entire story, as well as the perspective taken towards Mayella, is told in the book through the mind of a six year old girl, Scout Finch, Atticus’ daughter.

    This isn’t to suggest that “To Kill A Mockingbird” is any less of an insightful classic of Southern literature, just that depending on one’s depth of understanding of the people and the times, very different readings and opinions are possible, like with Nixon’s remarks above.