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Monday, November 19, 2012

Election Reflection

Despite America's pro-life majority, abortion supporters were victorious at the ballot box earlier this month. This is no doubt due to a confluence of many factors. Most pro-lifers are not single-issue voters, and they viewed Obama as better on the economy. Mitt Romney was never a strong candidate to begin with; you'll recall that pro-lifers were essentially rooting for "anyone else" in the GOP primary. Todd Akin made an outrageous comment on rape that was then presented as a mainstream pro-life position. And so on, and so on.

A good friend of mine who is a longtime supporter of SPL suggests that "perhaps a different lesson needs to be drawn: the pro-life cause has the wrong allies." When the pro-life movement is allied with fiscal conservatives, who are inclined to cut social programs, it's all too easy for abortion supporters to accuse us of not caring about people after they are born. (I myself described this alliance as "strained" when I appeared on NPR.) The Democratic Party, with its historic concern for those who cannot speak for themselves, would seem to be a better fit-- in theory. In practice, of course, the Democratic Party is married to abortion. So it's only natural that, in a country with a pro-life majority and a two-party system, the GOP would ally with us.

Are Republicans the "wrong" allies? My response is to quote Jason Jones: it's a tragedy that the pro-life flag was not firmly planted in both parties. We must reach out to people on the left as well as the right. But that shouldn't mean abandoning those allies we already have.

What does all of this mean for pro-life political strategy in the short term? I'll conclude with two quick thoughts, and welcome yours.  

First, we must be very clear about the fact that pro-lifers do amazing work to provide for needy families through private charity, regardless of the political situation. Pro-life organizations and individuals that do this work are often reluctant to talk about it, possessing a certain humility and embarrassment about "tooting one's own horn." That has to stop.  

Second, I've noticed an interesting trend emerging among some fiscal conservatives. Rather than the usual dry talk of waste, balanced budgets, and so on, they have shifted their messaging to focus on the debt we are leaving to our children. In short, they're saying that they do care very much about people who are already born, and using that as a basis for their fiscal conservatism. That could be a harmonious fit with the pro-life position. With a few other tweaks, like an intense focus on education reform, the Republicans could plausibly market themselves as the party of children's issues (including, but not limited to, the child's right to be born).

Your reactions?

23 comments:

Losing hope said...

I'm personally afraid we don't have any allies in either party. At one time, I had hoped the pro-life left would grow... but it almost seems to have disappeared. The right has certainly gone anti-abortion, but not in any way that can meaningfully be called truly "pro-life" with the rape comments and other remarks disparaging the lives of women. I'm not about to turn my backs on the lives of women and children by any stretch, but we may need to find totally different strategies outside the political process.

Jameson Graber said...

This year was indeed a public relations disaster for the pro-life movement. Because people take political spokespersons to be actual spokespersons, comments from socially conservative politicians were a real setback.


Personally, I'm not very good at figuring out short-term strategies in politics. I think change needs to keep happening on an intellectual level, among young people who will show up for things like the March for Life and the SFLA conference in Washington, and among people who publish articles that get distributed across the Internet. We already have places where that's happening, we just need to keep interest growing.


I don't like the way we think about political divisions at all. People generally break it down into "fiscal/social" and "liberal/conservative." Abortion has been pegged as a "social" issue and the pro-life position as a "conservative" position. I don't see it that way at all. For me, being pro-life is a socially liberal idea: it makes greater recognition of human rights, despite the fact that these other humans whom we seek to protect are so different and, frankly, so inconvenient. I've long seen a direct link between my pro-life position on abortion and my "liberal" position on immigration, an issue on which I find exceedingly few allies among conservatives.


My advice: don't worry about elections. I sense that there's something a bit psychologically damaging about the way leaders of movements get caught up in the hope of getting "their people" into office, only to find they lost because of millions of other factors they probably didn't even think about. Instead, just keep thinking about how we can do more of the good things we're doing, attracting people to our movement who have very different views on other issues, and hoping making a few of them are interested enough in politics to go and make a difference. For my part, I think it's healthy of most of us aren't interested in politics. It's a dirty business.

BĂ©atrice Fedor said...

I am not sure if I would support the republicans if they didn't have the pro-life platform and I hate the fact that they always make exceptions for abortion. Unfortunately, I don't see a non- evangelical, concerned for the poor and 100% pro-life candidate coming. Not that I think it is bad to have a religious candidate but they tend to support (or are pressured to support) gun rights and the death penalty among other things (and don't get me wrong, I am a christian but I'm for a more holistic approach to pro-life).

Kat said...

To be frank, I really don't see how any pro-lifer could support the Democrats given the outright extent to which the feminists and their allies demonize and ridicule pro-lifers and loudly proclaim at every possible opportunity that all women automatically hate them as much as they do. Why would I ever join a political party that hates my very existence and even argues that I'm not really a woman because of my beliefs?


Let's add to the fact that Obama is not mushy on abortion. He's extreme. VERY extreme. He defended the right of doctors to let newborn babies die from neglect when they happened to survive late-term abortions. He thinks inconvenient babies are "punishments" to be gotten rid of. And he has medieval attitudes about free speech and religion. Please tell me again why this would EVER be someone I should ally myself with, please.


If a political party won't at least support my right to my own beliefs and won't insist that I subsidize things I consider abhorrent, they have no right asking me anything at all. They told me just to sit down and shut about about their egregious mandate because free birth control was just more important than the 1st Amendment and I simply had to deal with it. How long will it be before that argument extends to refusing a forced abortion?


Oh, and on one last note, the Democratic "response" to Todd Akin was a thousand times worse than his original comments. If I have to hear one more time about how a woman who refuses to have an abortion after being raped is "validating her rapist", I'm going to scream. Aren't rape victims at least entitled to the freedom of choice NOT to have an abortion, and how it is improving anything to speak of these women and their children in such a dehumanizing manner? Again, I am supposed to consider these people my allies? Why, again?

Clinton Wilcox said...

Question: Why do you have a problem with supporting gun rights? The right to bear arms is a constitutional right, granted all the way back from when the Constitution was drafted.

Also, just like abortion, the death penalty is not an inherently religious issue.

Clinton Wilcox said...

That's completely ridiculous. I've never heard any say a woman is "validating her rapist" by protecting the unborn child's life. I'm glad I didn't. I probably would have blown up at them, because it's such a ridiculously stupid thing to say. So everyone alive today who was conceived in rape should have been aborted, because they mother "validated the rapist?"

Clinton Wilcox said...

Gah, stupid typos.

*anyone
*their mother

TooManyJens said...

"Oh, and on one last note, the Democratic "response" to Todd Akin was a
thousand times worse than his original comments. If I have to hear one
more time about how a woman who refuses to have an abortion after being
raped is "validating her rapist", I'm going to scream."


That *would* be terrible. What Democrat said this, and when?


Akin's remarks were ignorant, offensive, and harmful, and the way the pro-life establishment lined up to support him just goes to show how disconnected it is from any concerns besides winning elections.

TooManyJens said...

Shauna Prewitt wrote about how the legal system treats women who carry to term after being raped as suspect and not in need of legal accommodation. This was not the position of Democratic (or Republican!) critics of Akin, though, or at least I certainly never heard it expressed as such.

Real California Republican said...

Dear Teavangelical Pro-Life Republicans: We hate you, the country hates you. We really wish you'd disappear. The only thing worse than you is the fact that republican politicians consider you the "base" for which the entire party platform is based. If you are a Teavangelical Pro-Life Republican, please do your party a favor and never vote in a primary again.

Kara Baylog said...

Oh goodness...
"If a political party won't at least support my right to my own beliefs
and won't insist that I subsidize things I consider abhorrent, they have
no right asking me anything at all."
You and I are forced to subsidize things we find abhorrent all the time, by force of the Dems and the GOP. Iraq War? I was against that from the start, understanding the cost in lives (most importantly) and treasure, but the GOP made me pay for that with my tax dollars. Every year Dem and GOP administrations make my subsidize a horrible food system that is cruel to our meat sources and bad for our bodies. GOP and Dems do that.
Your beliefs aren't a part of this equation. If your religion says: Don't use contraceptives, then don't. And nobody is getting contraceptives for free, they have to pay for them through their insurance, which is now going to be legally mandated.
But contraceptives prevent abortion. The same certainly can't be said for Viagra, which IS already on insurance plans. Contraceptives now mean there never has to be that choice later, and in our current legal system, I will take that and be happy for it.

Kara Baylog said...

Because poorly regulated guns lead to death and injury. Not exactly a pro-life position. Not to say guns should be 100% banned, but these days when people talk about "Gun Rights", they mean most anybody should be able to carry most anything to anywhere.
We could be doing a much better job of keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people and out of our public spaces.

NorthStar156 said...

"Despite America's pro-life majority, abortion supporters were victorious at the ballot box earlier this month."

Both clauses in this sentence are wrong.

Merely self-describing oneself as pro-life does not ensure that someone is supportive of pro-life public policies. The failure of the pro-life movement to recognize that fact is a large part of reason that the movement has had such little success.

Also, abortion supporters were not victorious at the ballot box; at least on at the national level or in Minnesota. At the national level, neither presidential candidate was pro-life and neither Congressional caucus was pro-life. In Minnesota at the state level, neither legislative caucus was pro-life.

NorthStar156 said...

"...you'll recall that pro-lifers were essentially rooting for 'anyone else' in the GOP primary."

Nonsense. If someone was supporting anyone other than Michele Bachmann, that person would have had a difficult time reconciling their candidate preference with their pro-life convictions. Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, and Rick Santorum were particularly bad.

NorthStar156 said...

"When the pro-life movement is allied with fiscal conservatives, who are inclined to cut social programs, it's all too easy for abortion supporters to accuse us of not caring about people after they are born."

Right. Add to that the problem that we have helped the fiscal conservatives obtain all of their goals but they have not helped us obtain ours. The country is buried in debt because of tax cuts and bailouts for the rich but the country is no closer to enacting legal protection for the unborn.

NorthStar156 said...

"Your reactions?"

I think you are too positive about the Republican Party. They have consistently put tax cuts for the rich above the right to life of the unborn. We need to start disassociating from them until they start to show that they understand that a partner needs to give as well as take.

Human Rights said...

The media will always give saturation coverage to any pro lifer who says something stupid - and ignore the rest. They will always twist the facts, and indeed ignore a lot of them also. In response, we need to do a MUCH better job of getting onto the media that will treat us fairly. In the current environment, this means republican media.

Even more important is that we shift gears and take a fork in the road now. Everything at the federal level is hopeless for the next four years, other than the ongoing investigation of Planned Parenthood in Congress - and maybe one other thing.. I'll get to that later.

There are lots of wins and lots of progress to be had in states all over the country now. A Personhood is alive and well in Virginia, has the votes to pass on paper, and will be voted on in Richmond in probably less the 8 weeks from now. Various other informed consent, ultrasound, and health dep't inspection rules could be passed into law in as many as 30 states.

The big shot in pro life are wallowing in bitterness and denial, and I see no indication that any of them are waking up what needs to change in our approach.. I got an email appeal for money from one of them last week to send her money so she could defund Planned parenthood in Congress. My money would be much better spent in a slot machine in Vegas.

Human Rights said...

Lets review the partisan situation over the last four years for a moment. First, it was the pro life democrats who saved us from FOCA in 2009. Period. Then the Obamacare battle raged, and during that we witnesses several national pro life leaders engage it a very bitter and personal partisan war against those same democrats. Other issues crept into the movement, and we ended up with a lawsuit between the SBA and a few pro life democrats in the midwest who they helped defeat. Jill Stanek and Kristen Day are still at odds, and the war of words continues. I'm on the democrat's side in this one.

All you need do is look at the DesJarlais vs. Stewart race in Tennessee. Here we had a republican caught on tape coercing an abortion out of a mistress, and throw in a few abortions for his wife he was AOK with also. Although his opponent was a pro life democrat, what did we get from ALL of the national organizations except for DFLA? Silence. Indeed, they were busy canvassing Pennsylvania trying to defeat pro life democrat Bob Casey instead.

It might as well be me to dare say what most of us I suspect already know to be true. The top of the pro life pyramid right now is way too partisan, and they are also fond of making theirs a rather sectarian battle also. They are doing what they do to get republicans elected ONLY. Have a look at how happy they were when pro abort Scott Brown won the MA senate seat in 2010. Look it up. That and the DesJarlais/Stewart race tells you all you need to know. They let way too many other issues creep into our movement, and they are hyper partisan in their endeavors regarding candidates.

Human Rights said...

You don't understand basic economics, and pro life should not be letting these other issues mission creep into our movement anyway.

Real California Republican said...

"When the pro-life movement is allied with fiscal conservatives, who are inclined to cut social programs, it's all too easy for abortion supporters to accuse us of not caring about people after they are born."

Pro-choicers have been accusing conservatives for decades of valuing fetuses more than actual born children (and exponentially more than post-pubescent women), and now state legislators in Michigan are considering proving them right. The legislature held a hearing on Tuesday for House Bill 5684 and 5685, which would "allow taxpayers to claim a dependency exemption for a fetus that has completed at least 12 weeks of gestation as of the last day of the tax year and that has been under the care and observation of a physician since at least 12 weeks of gestation." Yep, tax exemptions for fetuses.

This bill really demonstrates the exciting new extremist direction of anti-choice nuttery—the bill author's Todd Akin-style imagined reality, where OB-GYNs are fetus doctors instead of lady doctors, is particularly charming. But what makes this even more offensive than the norm of offensiveness we've grown used to is that Michigan just slashed a bunch of tax relief for actual children. Michigan Republicans took the hatchet to the Earned Income Tax Credit and child care subsidy, a move that directly hurts families who are trying to house, clothe, and feed children unfortunate enough to have developed beyond the fetal stage into the living, breathing person stage. If Michigan passes this new bill, it can only be taken as a direct statement that fetuses have far more value to Michigan than children.

Get a brain moran said...

@NorthStar156:disqus You need to get with the program. Cutting taxes on job creators means more investment and more investment means jobs for middle class. Tax cuts and abortion bans are one in the same. Stop being such a democrat.

Kelsey said...

Next time you post an Amanda Marcotte article as a comment, please give her credit.


Yes, I read Slate too.


The problem here is the reduced funding for older kids, not the tax credit for fetuses. A prenatal tax credit can help moms cover pregnancy-related expenses; it's a pro-woman measure that pro-choicers should not oppose. We ought to have BOTH tax credits, not just one or the other.

Real California Republican said...

The problem here is that the "pro-life" social movement consistently demostrates that it doesn't give a rat's keyster about life after it's born. This "Secularprolife" facade is really disengenuous, you can't say "oh we care about all life not just the fetuses" when the evidence on record contradicts your silly narrative time and time again. You're not fooling anybody no matter how often you parrot that worn out canard.