On abortion, a softer approach to changing hearts and minds
Years ago, I visited a privately-funded facility in Marin County that counseled pregnant women about their choices and offered emotional and financial support as well as prenatal and postpartum care to those who chose life over abortion. The individuals working at this facility understood that winning the legal and political game around abortion was unlikely, so they set out to win the hearts and minds of the ultimate stakeholders—moms and their unborn kin. Theirs was a labor of love.
Overruling Roe, which I wholeheartedly celebrate and is the best and only pro-democracy solution to our abortion pangs, rightfully moves the abortion debate to the states. But it doesn’t end there. Once overturned, some states will ban all abortions; some will encourage them to the point of infanticide; most will enact moderate positions with reasonable limitations; and sanctuary states like New York or California will accommodate out-of-state abortions facilitated and funded by abortion enthusiasts.
The sobering reality is that the debate will rage on as abortion remains a viable option for unwanted pregnancies. It will not go gentle into that good night.
Because emotions are so high about this issue, while toiling with this article, I was reassured when pro-lifer Sean Hannity (at about 4:50) echoed the same sentiments. As upsetting as it might be, conservatives must be clear-eyed to move forward.
The recently fire-bombed Wisconsin Family Action office is similar to the facility in Marin. Republicans would be wise to follow the lead of these pregnancy advocacy pioneers. They saw an untapped opportunity to win more hearts with honey than vinegar and realized that having the choice to abort did not ordain it but, rather, provided an opportunity to educate pregnant women in the hopes of persuading them to choose life.
Anti-abortion counselors implicitly understood that ours is a pluralistic society with diverse opinions and religious beliefs and that abortion would always appeal to some. While Roe-era society cannot physically force women to carry, savvy pregnancy advocates decided to compete with abortion enthusiasts on the outreach, services, and education playing fields.
Thinking outside of traditional political boxes, they opted for the soft persuasion of compassion, support, and information over the hard coercion of criminalization, punishment, and judgment. While they hope, but don’t expect, that 100% of those whom they counsel will choose life, they are grateful for each unique life saved.
This shows that conservatives can advocate for the unborn and lobby for restrictions while coexisting with “the choice” that will continue post-Roe.
In the meantime, radical leftists have gone so berserk since Alito’s draft opinion was leaked that they are making even pro-choice Americans squirm, revealing how chronically out of touch with the mainstream they are—as happened with race, gender, schools, Covid, the border, Afghanistan, Ukraine, energy, inflation, etc.
If they keep this up—and they will because it is all they know—they will push common-sense Americans, who are moderately pro-choice and already on the ledge because of Democrat failures, into Republican arms. This is a pivotal moment we can commandeer to re-orient this country back to being center-right and end what feels like an interminable 50/50 political deadlock.
But it’s not enough for Republicans to wait with open arms. We must proactively seize the high ground by communicating that Republicans stand up for average Americans and their families, and are the party of reason, compassion, and life; whereas Democrats favor ivory-tower elites and the very fringes of society, and are the party of irrational extremes, callous indifference, and death.
Ripe for the picking are women in marginalized communities, suburban women, and moderate and independent voters who might be pro-choice and have typically voted for Democrats but are disgusted by their rancor and are looking for a different political home. We don’t have to win over all Democrats; just enough in these demographics.
They are mainstream Americans, not party ideologues. We forget they exist because they quietly go about their lives without the noise and disruption generated by the loudest Democrats in the room.
They do not agree with the barbarism extolled by party elites and radical activists. They recoil when Ralph Northam promotes “fourth trimester” murder or Liz Warren preaches that women should be able to make abortion decisions without any limitations. They are appalled by this callous disregard for society’s profound responsibility to prevent late-term infanticide.
They tune out Kamala’s shrill How dare theys; scoff at “Outlaw Sperm” and “Get a Vasectomy“ protest signs and Joy Behar’s call for Lysistrata-style sex boycotts; wince at the crazed woman screaming “I’m killing the babies” as she pulls dolls from between her legs; cringe when angry mobs descend on the homes of the justices; and are stunned when the Attorney General targets parents as domestic terrorists but is silent when protesters brazenly intimidate the justices in violation of federal law.
The Democrats are out of step with mainstream America—not the most abrasive guys on the news but the guy you work with, your sister-in-law, your neighbor and, yes, even some of your kids.
Mainstream pro-choice Americans would likely support legislation mirroring Germany’s, which requires mandatory counseling before allowing a legal abortion. Given its Holocaust history with medical experiments, eugenics, and aborting “mental defectives,” the nation wasn’t comfortable allowing rampant, on-demand abortion and sought to promote a culture of life versus death. They directed tax dollars to support single and/or indigent moms; not the extermination of babies. As a result, abortion is not as ubiquitous as in the US.
In my experience, these voters have nuanced viewpoints about abortion along a spectrum of gray versus the black and white binary choice of “all abortion all the time” vs. “no abortions ever.” I’m confident many would support mandatory and neutral counseling regarding choices before a first-trimester abortion and referrals to organizations that provide health care and other social services for those in need who choose to carry their pregnancies to term.
Republicans must outline programs for such counseling services; go on offense supporting choice for rape, incest, threats to the life of the mother, and severe infirmity of the child; and condemn ignorant comments by Republicans like Oklahoma State Senator Warren Hamilton who doesn’t understand why fatal ectopic pregnancies should be aborted.
Some will argue that this approach compromises conservative values. But remember, abortion doesn’t perish after Roe is overturned.
I would argue that this soft approach is consistent with conservative values of life, individuality, liberty, compassion, and individual responsibility. On life: because the unborn cannot advocate for themselves, we strive to be pro-life in as many scenarios as possible. On individuality and liberty: criminalizing first trimester abortions would force women to do something against their will which doesn’t jibe with individuality and liberty—the same bodily autonomy we’ve been clamoring for in the COVID debates where, like abortion, other lives are impacted. On compassion and responsibility: because women bear the risks, burdens, and joys of pregnancy, we will show compassion and encourage responsibility—all through our counseling programs.
Not every woman who steps through the doors of a counseling center will choose life. Not every state will put limits on abortion. But we should applaud mothers who choose life and states that limit abortions, knowing that both save lives that would otherwise have been extinguished.