Politics & Media
Nov 15, 2023, 06:27AM

The Pro-Choice Plurality

The right’s wake-up call on abortion language.

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It was a courageous advocacy for parents and children, in the face of Democrat opponent Terry McAuliffe’s chilling assertion that America’s children belong to the government, that ensured Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the 2021 Virginia governor’s race. Last week, it was the fate of unborn children that lost for Youngkin his statehouse. With abortion as the forefront issue, Democrats flipped the House and retained control of the Senate, gaining a majority in the General Assembly.

There’s a spectrum-spanning electoral plurality in this nation that fears the loss of abortion rights. The cynical but necessary question for pro-life Republican candidates becomes: How to talk about this tinderbox issue without scaring off socially moderate voters who’d otherwise invariably cast their vote for demonstrably superior GOP policies.

Donald Trump says, “We have to be smart about how we talk about abortion.” Commentator Bill ‘O Reilly and others have advocated for a strong Republican emphasis on adoption. Former Clinton/Trump advisor Dick Morris, out front of the issue after Roe v. Wade was overturned with the strong assist of a Trump-appointed Supreme Court majority, predicted that the overturn could manifest as a pyrrhic victory. Staunch pro-life faith leaders rue the conundrum of having to manufacture acceptable language and calculated policy on an issue that for them is inviolable: human life in the womb.

There’s no disagreement about the stakes. If Republicans fail to find words that argue for life while allowing for repugnant but strategic abortion options, millions more of the unborn will be consigned to never seeing the light of day. That’s because the Democratic Party’s de facto hardline position is that life begins at birth, and abortion on demand should be available at any point in a pregnancy.

Legal determinations on the issue of life vs. choice are typically debated around issues of restriction and exclusion. In the former, restrictions on gradients of time after which a pregnancy can’t be legally terminated are laboriously argued and legislated along party lines. In the latter, exclusionary scenarios—rape, incest, and the health or life of the mother become the demarcations between the legal obligation to bear the child, or not. From a unequivocable pro-life standpoint the first two are problems; while the perpetrators of rape and incest are reprehensible and must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of whatever laws apply, the unborn children engendered by such criminality are just as “innocent” as a child born to a happily-expecting couple.

Only in the case of endangerment by a pregnancy to the life or health of the mother are we talking essentially about “a life for a life.” Only the most fanatical position on abortion would aver that carrying to term such a dangerous pregnancy be legally required.

Theological considerations aside, as they often must be set aside when confronting issues in the earthly realm, the loss of Gov. Youngkin’s House and Senate is a wake-up call for the right. Many lives can be saved by crafting abortion laws that ameliorate the fear that drives the pro-choice plurality. As abhorrent as it may be to part and parcel the life of the unborn, the discussion going forward, and the results of the 2024 election, will determine the final number of those lost.   

  • Rod Dreher recently wrote an article pointing out the essentially libertarian nature of the American character; they don't want the government telling them that they can't do something, whether it's owning guns or terminating pregnancies. All sides in the culture wars overreach; they find an issue that has traction with the public, and then fall into the trap of thinking that the public will support everything they want, instead of just that one thing. So maybe parents don't want schools hiding the mental illness of their kids from them; that doesn't mean that those same parents will support banning books from school libraries. Successful politicians can read the room. Failures get read the Riot Act.

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