Tactically Tackling Abortion

Barack Obama enters the studio, trademark grin in place, and sits down with his interviewer to discuss "the issues."  Roundabout the middle of the conversation, the interviewer drops the bomb.  "So," the interviewer asks.  "You've been an abortion advocate your entire career, yes?"

Obama skillfully misdirects the pro-abortion insinuation: "I agree with a woman's right to choose, and sometimes abortion is the choice that makes sense for some women."

"But you're a staunch defender of that choice, right?" the interviewer asks, to which Obama answers in the affirmative.  "Tell me, Mr. President, are there any circumstances in which that choice should be limited?  What about in the case of third-term abortions where a fetus can survive on its own with a bit of medical attention?"

As far too few with opinions on the abortion issue know, not only is Barack Obama a supporter of third-term abortion legality, but he was the lone state representative in Illinois who spoke on behalf of a measure to legally refuse medical care to children who survive late-term abortion attempts.

Can you imagine the look on his face in fielding this question?  The horror you would see, and the mindless blathering that would follow?  You will have to imagine it, because this is the stuff of fantasy -- our president has been granted immunity by the media and would never be asked such a controversial question.  A hard-line abortion advocate doesn't play by the same rules as, say, a hard-line pro-life advocate like Todd Akin, who has recently been pilloried for his befuddled, gaffe-ridden response to a similar line of questioning meant solely to expose his more extreme beliefs.

There is no convincing ethical parallel between the positions that Obama and Akin evidently hold.  Obama's advocating that an extraordinarily hardy (or just lucky) abortion survivor be denied proper care on an operating gurney is not in the same ballpark as Akin's proposition that the child of a raped mother be carried to term and given a chance at life.  Poll numbers among Americans reflect this fact.  When asked specifically about third-term abortions, a mere 10% believe that they should be legal, according to Gallup, and we can assume that an even smaller number agree with the practice of infanticide.  Akin's views do indeed narrowly skirt the mainstream, as these same polls show that only 22% of Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in the case of rape or incest.  But they are far better represented in America than Barack Obama's views on abortion are.

The fact that this exposes is that each of the many, generally respected leftist politicians who seeks to protect third-term abortions and every pundit who slams a state for banning such abortions holds more extreme views than Todd Akin, in terms of what the country finds to be acceptable. 

So why is it that only staunch pro-life advocates are continually targeted for extremism?  The simple answer is that pro-abortion ideologues and opinion-makers control the dialogue, and they have chosen to assail their opposition while falling back on a broad defense of the concept of "choice" rather than the particulars of what that specific choice might be.  You see, there is "choice," which is any and all abortion, and then there is "absence of choice," which is any limitation whatsoever on access to abortion.  They are not openly fighting to secure late-term abortions, for example.  They are fighting to defend "choice."

But of course, a great number of these ideologues and opinion-makers do fight to secure the legality of late-term abortions and are not labeled extremists for it.  And interestingly enough, advocates of late-term abortions (which generally occur in the second and third trimester) constitute the same percentage of the population as opponents of abortion in instances of rape: 22%.  Clearly, the vast majority of Americans exist between these extremes on this issue.

Knowing that an abortion-friendly mainstream media complex will take every opportunity to position the pro-life movement as "extreme," why, then, would anyone willfully open himself up for this kind of attack, as Akin did?  It is the political equivalent of Barack Obama proudly stating that he believes that late-term abortion is a practice that he supports, knowing well that it is an unpopular position among most Americans.

Akin was purposefully given a length of rope with Jaco's rape question that was nothing more than a political garrote.  It served its purpose (better than could have been expected, I'm sure), and the left has quickly associated Akin's more extreme position with the entire Republican Party.  And given that the GOP has also denounced Akin, there doesn't seem to be much confidence that the dialogue can be directed otherwise.

So the question is: where does the pro-life movement go from here, having been again painted as extremists uninterested in women's rights?

Regardless of whether Akin withdraws from the race, it is clear that pro-life advocates need to do precisely what they have done in the last few years to legislatively advance the pro-life agenda.  These efforts have yielded impressive strides, and all within the confines of the pro-abortion advocate's cherished touchstone: Roe v. Wade.  Some states have implemented mandatory 3-D ultrasound consultations, for example, which do not restrict the legality of abortion, but they better educate mothers as to the developmental state of their children, thereby making their decision more informed and, by design, will lessen the number of frivolous abortions.  As another example, six states in the last two years have legislated bans on late-term abortions, and the most recent in Arizona was upheld by a federal court in spite of challenges to its legality.  And that is because, much to the pro-abortion lobby's chagrin, Roe v. Wade allows states to "regulate, and even proscribe" abortion once the fetus is deemed "viable," because at this point, the fetus' "potentiality of life" can legally be protected by the states.  Arizona's law has deemed this "viability" to be reached at 20 weeks' gestation, when a fetus can feel pain, and just two years ago, we witnessed a child born at 21 weeks who is now happily living with her parents, so that measure seems reasonable.  All such unborn children in these states now enjoy protection thanks to pro-life efforts, which is something that 78% of the population would agree with, according to polls -- making any suggestion that this effort is "extreme" laughable.

These are significant steps that pro-life advocates can be proud of, and there is no acceptable measure to account for the value in human life these efforts protect.  But the pro-life movement has achieved these goals not by coming out as Akin did, guns blazing, to outlaw abortion in all of its forms -- even in cases like rape, where abortion availability is overwhelmingly supported.  Hard-line opponents of abortion may have become upset with Romney's statement that he would not ban abortion for rape victims, but Romney is right to do this.  The pro-life movement has seen success these past years by focusing on economic issues first, then tactically operating within the current law to limit abortion in spite of the considerable efforts of pro-abortion advocates who demand nothing less than uninhibited abortion, regardless of circumstances -- even if that means terminating a developed child in the womb or a child who successfully exits the womb in a failed abortion. 

The reality is that pro-life political advocates, despite their fraudulent representation by the media, have achieved all of this by being more reasonable and moderate than their extremist, pro-abortion counterparts.  And if the goal is to revisit Roe v. Wade and continue in efforts to protect the unborn, they must continue to be.

William Sullivan blogs at http://politicalpalaverblog.blogspot.com and can be followed on Twitter.