Double Down on Pro-Life

Pro-life gains were one of the (faintly) bright spots of 2012 politics — and one lesson from the election is that if the Republican Party has a future, it will have to own and honor the pro-life issue.

  • On Election Day, three pro-life measures were on ballots. Pro-lifers won two of them: parental notification prevailed in Montana and assisted suicide lost in Massachusetts.
  • The U.S. House retained its 11 pro-life Freshmen and added more.
  • States are where most of the pro-life action is — including 119 restrictions on abortion in the last two years. After Nov. 6, Republicans have 30 governor seats, the highest number for either party in more than a decade, thanks in large part to pro-lifers, including Indiana’s pro-life hero Congressman (now Governor-elect) Mike Pence.
  • Gallup records 2012 as the year that the number of people describing themselves as “pro-choice” hit a historic low.

But in this promising pro-life year, Mitt Romney only mentioned social issues when pushed — and then, his main concern was to point out the cases where he rejects the right to life, not to denounce the abortion extremism of his opponent.

“Romney perfected the neat trick of abandoning social conservatives while pretending not to, in two easy steps,” said Peter Wolfgang of the Family Institute of Connecticut. “Step 1) Perfunctory support for our issues by, say, signing the pledges of NOM and the Susan B. Anthony List; and Step 2) Ignore those issues completely while campaigning.”

After Election Day, some have added a third step: Blame social conservatives for losing.

This time the blame centers around the rape comments of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. One of the biggest self-inflicted wounds of the election was the Republican “throw them under the bus” response to those comments.

The right answer for Republicans to make was: “The candidate apologized for his insensitivity. When will his opponent apologize for being so insensitive to the right to life and to taxpayers who don’t want to pay for abortions?”

Instead, the party seemed to say, “Yeah, you’re right: These pro-lifers are nuts.”

Memo to the GOP: That turned us off. So did the way Romney summed up the right to life in the first debate: “That means the military, second to none.” Huh?

“Here’s a theory,” said Wolfgang. “Remember when Karl Rove said millions of evangelicals didn’t vote in 2000 and he managed to activate them in 2004? I think the missing 3 million in 2012 are the same people. So the moderate mandarins of the GOP who want to see what an election looks like without those darn social conservatives have already gotten their wish. It looks like 2012.”

Even if the right to life was just a political issue, it would be a good idea for the GOP to embrace it.  The GOP is losing the youth vote — but Gallup shows that the young are much more pro-life than older generations. They are losing African-Americans — but the black vote is more pro-life than the white vote. They are losing Latinos — they are pro-life, too.

What’s not to like about pro-life?

But apart from the sheer electoral power of the pro-life issue is its immense moral force. We worry about terrible things in the offing: America is being fundamentally transformed.

I would argue that abortion, and its growing unpopularity, is the Achilles Heel of this attempt to transform America. Abortion has a very weak hold on its supporters. They know it’s wrong, and more and more are breaking the spell and walking away. Doing that changes them.  I counted the ways here:

  • Becoming pro-life undermines moral relativism.
  • Becoming pro-life introduces people to “faith in things unseen.”
  • Becoming pro-life teaches people to act out of hope instead of despair.
  • Becoming pro-life replaces destructive shortcuts with authentic love that makes hard choices.
  • Becoming pro-life reorders a voter’s preferences.

To these I would add two more.

First, becoming pro-life teaches people that rights don’t come from the state, but from somewhere above the state, and that the government exists to protect those rights. In order to kill that child you have to decide that the state can give you permission to treat humanity in a way you know is wrong. When you become pro-life, your universe gets put back in order.

Second, becoming pro-life teaches you that people have duties and responsibilities, not just rights. In order to be for abortion, you have to allow your “right to choose” to win out against another person’s “right to life”, you have to make “what I am owed” greater than “what I owe.” To become pro-life is to discover that we live not just for ourselves, but for others.

So it is time to double down on pro-life. We know how to change public opinion on abortion. We have been doing it for years: Telling the stories of wounded women, sharing the pictures of unborn infants and offering help that unwed mothers need.

Let’s do more of that. We may be surprised when we change more than just the abortion debate.

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Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., where he teaches in the Journalism and Mass Communications department and edits the college’s Catholic identity speech digest, The Gregorian.

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32 thoughts on “Double Down on Pro-Life

  1. Jordan says:

    Tom, I admire the steadfast and unflinching devotion to pro-life issues, and social conservatism in general, displayed on this site. However, the GOP has a systemic problem. Democrats are united for liberal, secular legislation and the social welfare state. Republicans are all over the map on issues and given to infighting. Mitt Romney lost because he couldn’t placate all movement conservatisms at once.

    Barack Obama won reelection because he led a united party with a single, unchanging message. Hate Obama’s message all you want, but at least realize that Obama and his campaign exploited consistency. Mitt Romney tried to run as a fiscal conservative but couldn’t ever earn enough cred from the social Right. If the social conseratives just got out of the way and let moderate fiscal Mitt take center stage, you would have gotten your SCOTUS picks regardless of which way his abortion-position windsock blew on any day. After all, Robert Bork was Mitt’s SCOTUS go-to man.

    Social conservatives need to learn to give up some campaign control in order to appeal to a broader array of Americans. This doesn’t mean giving up the pro-life plank, but rather shifting more towards economic and foreign policy concerns without demanding “equal time” for social conservative concerns. For the next few elections at least, social/religious movement conservatism has to play second fiddle just so that the GOP can catch and keep the executive post.

  2. MissyT111 says:

    I find it amazing that those who say a woman can do what she chooses with her body never ever mention the rights of the unborn child. We need more brave women who actually had abortions and find that the choice was not a easy one and it isn’t as casual as the media would like you to believe; nor are the recurring affects afterward. Having known a few women who made that choice, the years put the decision into perspective and the lingering memories of the choice made withstand decades. These women finally made their peace, but one woman never survived the decision and died at age 30. I’ve mourned her loss for years as she was a very caring woman with opinions from others who lead her to a painful choice.

  3. John Riegel says:

    You two folks are getting nowhere at this point! Please consider that Catholic or not, a woman does not own her body, she was created by Almighty God, one reason being to procreate new souls for heaven (not that God needs company, he is not lonely, he created man out of pure love, way beyond our underatanding of “love”). God owns us, only God has a right to take a life of the unborn, or born. We are deluded by our own free will, we think that we have the “right to choose” when only God does. Remember, when Lucifer, the “greatest” of angel’s used his free will, thinking he could be as powerful as God, he and other angels that thought the same way ended up in eternal damnation. We as human’s should give more thought to how we use our “free will”.

  4. Katherine says:

    What’s not to like about pro-life?
    Pro-lifers.
    Seriously. Have you given any time to consider the cause..the issue is just and true and right and appealing but it is the message carriers who are viewed as jerks by the American public? In the early ’80s there was a joke that Americans believe in women’s equality, they just can’t stand feminists; they love the environment, they just can’t stand environmentalists; etc.. In 2012 it is not the pro-life cause but pro-life spokesmen who the public is turned off by. I don’t have a solution on this, I just see the problem.

    1. Julie T. says:

      Rather than do nothing but criticize, propose how the pro-life message could be more effective. If don’t, you are part of the problem.

      1. Tony Love says:

        Please inform us, Katherine, how we should go forward. I agree with Julie. Please share your insights. We must work together.

      2. MissyT111 says:

        Maybe we should start with the policy of China and how they would only allow the birth of one child per family and the affects on those who were lead into abortions to accommodate the state edict.

    2. Paul says:

      I think it’s hard to tell someone that they should be forced to incubate their rapist’s baby in any way that would be deemed “likable”.

      1. Paul, if you were walking past a dumpster one day and heard a tiny cry inside you would look inside right? So you look and there is a newborn baby wrapped in newspaper that has been thrown away. What do you do? You crawl inside and save the child, right? Of course you would. Now, what if the baby had a note attached to it’s ankle saying, “I was the result of rape”? Would you leave it there to die? A woman who has been raped is a victim of violence. So is the baby. Aborting the baby is another act of violence but this time we are asking the baby to pay with his life for what his father did. Suppose instead, we surround the woman with love and support. Suppose we have a caring place where she can go to live out her pregnancy and then she can decide whether to keep the baby or adopt it out. She can live the remainder of her life knowing she did the best thing for her child. She doesn’t have to live with shame and sadness, looking at each little girl and boy in the mall and wondering if her child would have looked like that.

  5. Mara says:

    Tom, the Republicans did not and can not embrace pro-life. Americans will not allow the government or religions to strip women of basic human rights. We will not allow a forced birth agenda. It’s against what this nation stands for. You can raise the state of a fetus to a god, which by the way, you’ve done, and it won’t change Americans minds. Americans know that freedom of choice is a fundamental building block of our nation. It’s what makes us different from animals. The anti-abortion stance by the Catholic Church tells all of us that the Church does not understand this basic human right. The right of a fetus to exist is solely the right of the woman to decide regardless of what Catholic teachings say and Americans know this.

    1. Julie T. says:

      Mara, how much are you being paid to be an obnoxious human being? Just wondering. Do you know that many elements of your worldview give you several points of commonality with the German Nazis who stood trial at Nuremberg? Think about that the next time you happen to look in the mirror. When you accuse Catholics of hate, you are only projecting what festers inside your own soul.

      1. Mara says:

        Julie T. where did I accuse Catholics of hate. The stance of the Catholic Church is based on a lack of understanding of human rights and I know that the intent of the Catholic Church is good. I’ve accused no one of hate. You’ve accused me of hate. Perhaps you might consider checking in that mirror.

        1. Julie T. says:

          You have posted *numerous* times about the “hateful” Catholic Church. Please; you demand honesty, but refuse to give it.

          1. Mara says:

            Julie T. where are those posts you mention? Show everyone where I used the word hate or hateful.

    2. Mack says:

      Mara, the truth is that you do not understand the basic human right to life. It is grounded in the dignity of the human person. Sadly, you are twisting the fundamental building blocks of our nation into something that they are not. The right to kill is not what America is all about.

  6. Pro-life Democrat says:

    I’m pro-life and I support President Obama because his intended economic policies will make it less likely for economically distressed women to opt for abortion. If you want to cut down the number of abortions, write your Republican congressmen and tell them that you support taxing the upper one percent of income earners at the rate they paid during the Bush admistration before his cuts went into effect. If you don’t do this, you should have on your conscience every unborn baby who will be aborted because of the economic distress of the mother.

    1. Joe M says:

      You are mistaken. Poverty and unemployment have increased while salaries have decreased in Obama’s economy.

      “Less likely abortions” is not a pro-life position. It is a pro-choice position. But, even if it wasn’t, the economic evidence does not support your position.

      1. Get Real says:

        Data and any analysis needs to be considered in relation to what would have been if Bush had been allowed to continue his reign of error. And over the past two years, economic reform has been held hostage by Republicans in congress who have used every tactic imaginable to block legislation needed to invigorate the economy. Also, the US DOL has shown that unemployment has gone down the last four years. Are you relying on the same statistician that led you to believe that Romney was going to win? Your purported “pro-life” position relies on the ridiculous belief that Roe vs. Wade. will be overturned. It ain’t gonna happen. Get real. Do something that has a chance to save unborn babies in terms of alleviating the economic duress of women contemplating abortion rather than just indulge yourself with endless curmudgeonly commentary. Do something to fix your objective disorder.

        1. Julie T. says:

          Get Real, you need a reality check. Unless you are prepared to call the people at the Annenberg Foundation’s FactCheck.org liars, not to mention those who post the data at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Obama’s record’s is best described as a “near-jobless” recovery. FactCheck.org stood by its data throughout the presidential campaign: approximately 5,325,000 jobs *gained*, 5,000,000 jobs *lost*, for a net gain of 325,000 for an unemployed/underemployed population of approximately 15,000,000 people *for the entire four years of his first term*. Now that is completely underwhelming. The latest Bureau of Labor U-6 figure—the *total* unemployment/underemployment rate—was 14.6% of the workforce as of October 2012. Unimpressive. Now a question for you—do YOU contribute to programs such as the Good Counsel Homes for women in crisis pregnancies who WANT to keep their babies? A yes or no will suffice. I’m thinking if you actually told the truth now and then, the answer would be a resounding *no*.

          1. Tic 4 Tac says:

            You do recall that you were certain, based on selective poll numbers you believed, that Romney was going to win the electoral college and the popular vote. You were wrong then and you are wrong now. If you want to concern yourselves with economic matters, I suggest you would do better to consult the Economic Policy Institute: http://www.epi.org/ As for your question, I will check out the Good Counsel Homes organization and if I am convinced they do good work, I will be happy to make a contribution. I hope you, in turn, will call your congressman and tell him or her that you support the President’s tax reform initiative because you realize it will lessen the chances of pregnant women in economic distress opting for abortion.

          2. Julie T. says:

            I have to say your ability to distract and avoid is very well-honed! I repeat, unless you are prepared to call the staff of FactCheck.org *and* the personnel of the Bureau of Labor Statistics *liars*, you are delusional to call our current economic situation better—except when measured by minuscule standards—than when Obama first took office. As far as *you* making a contribution to the work of the Sisters of Life and the Good Counsel Homes, I won’t hold my breath. People like you are far too generous to the merchants of death at Planned Parenthood to have anything left over to give the *guardians of life*.

          3. Peace Out says:

            Julie, Mark Twain said it best: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Numbers can be twisted and turned to make them mean anything you want them to mean. You were delusional in thinking the numbers were there for Romney to win. Again, while the economy has not improved to the extent that we would all like it, you are simply wrong in your understanding of unemployment and job creation statistics. Again, I refer you to the Economic Policy Institute which presents very realistic appraisals of our economic situation. Unlike Romney and his sheep were bleating in unison that everything was rosy, win-win-win, you will find a much more nuanced consideration of where all sorts of economic indicators actually stand in relation to one another And again, if you continue to support the Republicans continued sabotaging of economic reform legislation, you can’t really expect wholescale and immediate improvement of our economy. And, consequently. you can expect comparatively more pregant women under economic duress to opt for abortion. So that’s on your conscience if you actually have one.

          4. Julie T. says:

            You guys remind me of an illustration of the Three Monkeys when it comes to your politics of death: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil. You also remind me of the the characters in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”; you just keep admiring and defending what isn’t there.

          5. Not Deluded says:

            Julie, better get acquainted with facts. You’re deluded. http://www.RomneyAbortionFacts.com

          6. Ed A. says:

            Not Deluded, Abortion Kills.

          7. I haven’t heard of Good Counsel Homes. I will look them up. Thanks. I give to The Center for Bio-ethical Reform.

          8. I don’t think money is why most women get abortions. For instance, the rate of black abortion is an alarming 47%. In the segregated past, the black family was poorer but the rate of abortion was low. That’s because black people married and the black family was intact. The biggest reasons people get abortions are an oversexualized society where accepting consequences for the sex are not part of the picture, acceptance of abortion as birth control by many people, a general turning away from God and his edicts, rejection or delay of marriage, and putting the self before others including one’s own child (I am not ready to be a mother).

    2. Elizabeth McClintic says:

      Taxing the rich at that level will run the burgeoning government for maybe 9 days.

      1. Paul says:

        actually, raising the upper tax rate back to the levels that we had under Clinton would turn our budget deficit into a surplus. No additional changes needed. Done.

        1. Mack says:

          That’s pure fiction. Even if you taxed the rich at 100%, it would only run the country for a few months. Warren Buffett’s wealth would cover the first week.
          The feds are just spending too much. And it won’t go on forever, because at some point a fiscal collapse will come.

    3. What good is economic policies to an American who has been aborted?

    4. Rich and middle class women get abortions too. It’s often a matter of convenience or fear of what other might think.

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