An Interview with Deal Hudson, Part I: The Pro-Life Legacy of George W. Bush

Wed Jan 28, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By John Jalsevac

January 28, 2009 ( –Deal Hudson is the director of, director of the Morley Institute for Church & Culture, the former publisher and editor of CRISIS Magazine, a Catholic monthly published in Washington, DC, and the author of seven books. His articles and comments have been published in many newspapers and magazines, including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, and the National Review. He served as director of Catholic outreach for George Bush’s 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns. He also assisted with presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign. 

In Part I of our interview with Hudson, he responds to questions about the pro-life and pro-family legacy of former president George W. Bush. In Part II, which will be published tomorrow, he addresses questions about the pro-life and pro-family movements during the Obama administration and into the future.

Q: What is your general impression of the last 8 years, particularly in regards to President Bush’s contributions to the pro-life and pro-family cause?

A: No president has accomplished more for the pro-life cause than George W. Bush. He kept all his promises that he made in the 2000 campaign, specifically to Catholics who supported him and worked for him. He declared himself a pro-life, culture of life president in his first televised message to the nation when he addressed the stem cell debate. His decision on stem-cells wasn’t perfect but he did use the opportunity of that televised speech to tell the nation that he was a pro-life president, which was to his credit.

What a lot of people don’t realize about the two terms of the Bush administration is that his pro-life initiatives were not just legislative, not just policy-driven, they were personnel driven. And when you look at the staff that was put in place in crucial departments like Health and Human Services and the Justice Department, the people that were put in these positions transformed the culture of the government that was left them by the Clintons. And so you had appointees with pro-life convictions who were found throughout the administration, and made a huge difference in our government and in the impact of the presidency on the culture.

Look at the fact that there was a marked drop in abortions in between 2000 and 2006, to a level of 1974 in this country. And that’s a tribute not only to President Bush, but to a great extent to him, because when a leader of a nation says that life is precious and that life should be protected, that gives heart to a lot of people who are in the middle and who aren’t sure which way to go. That kind of leadership helps those people go in the direction of life. And of course that’s the issue with the Obama presidency.

On the issue of marriage, the President spoke out against gay “marriage” on a number of occasions. He didn’t get aggressively behind a marriage amendment, because prudentially he knew it couldn’t be passed. But he did let his views be known, and he did give his personal backing to block gay “marriage” in-state.

From the point of view of the life and family and marriage, I think Bush gets an ‘A.’

Q: What do you think some of his most noteworthy pro-life and pro-family accomplishments were?

A:   I think helping support and signing the three bills that came through Congress. The faith-based initiative was important because it made Church-related social services – not just the big national networks, but local regional networks – it made them more powerful because they received funding which before had only gone to institutions like Catholic Charities, or some Washington-based charity. So actually bringing in apostolates from cities and regions around the country and showing them how to write grants and how to receive more support. I think that was very important in pursuing his fundamental respect for the role of religion and culture of life.

Q: What would you say to people who say they’re disappointed in Bush because there were only a handful of visible pro-life measures, that he was all talk and not enough action. What would you say to them?

A: I think they’re wrong. I think they’re dead wrong. And the drop in the level of abortions I think is evidence for it.

I haven’t seen any polling, but I would be very surprised if a high percentage of Americans, if you asked them if President Bush was pro-life, if they wouldn’t know that he is pro-life. I bet you 90% of America knows he’s pro-life.

And I mean, the very fact that he talked is important. Talk is not unimportant. Talk is what leaders do. Much more than that, he declared pro-life policies throughout all parts of his administration. And the White House helped to support the passage of three very important pieces of pro-life legislation. He immediately reestablished the Mexico City Policy, I think on the first day of his presidency. He defended the Hyde Amendment. His administration cut off funding, all kinds of funding, to Planned Parenthood and Marie Stokes, that were ostensibly providing abortions overseas on federal monies.

I think pro-lifers tend to look at the glass half-empty. And I think that’s the case with President Bush.

Q: If Bush were standing here right now, and you had the chance to say a few words to him, what would you say?

A: I would say, “Thank you for keeping your promises to those of us in the religious community who worked for you, who supported you, who trusted that you were going to defend life and marriage, which you did. Thank you for keeping that promise.”

(By the way, you’ll notice that even in the last months of his presidency another major decision was made at HHS, which tells you that it stayed on his mind all the way to the end.)

I would say that, “I think that history will show that you were a good president, that you responded very effectively to 9/11. That you were very mistreated by the mainstream media, who are largely responsible for the drop in popularity in polls. And that I wish, Mr. President, I wish that you and your staff had done more to fight back against the way your image was being mistreated, the way your image was being so negatively portrayed in the media."

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