The Pro-Life Movement is Done
Repealing Roe v. Wade was an epic disaster. Time to clean house.
The pro-life movement is completely toxic politically.
Tuesday’s electoral browbeating for Republicans (to say nothing of the 2022 midterms) has made that truth blatantly clear. When abortion is on the ballot, Democrats win.
The pro-life cope isn’t compelling either:
Apologies to Allie, but red states vote decisively for abortion with nearly the same level of intensity as blue states. A pro-life ballot initiative in Kansas last year got blown out by 20 points. In Ohio on Tuesday, the constitutional amendment legalizing abortion suffered a double digit loss and this was after the Ohio legislature passed a 6 week abortion ban. It is harder to get more aggressive than that!
Right now, given a choice between expanding abortion rights or restricting them, the voters will choose the expansion side every time.
It is time to face the truth: the pro-life movement has been a complete and utter failure. Every pro-life think tank and activist group in the country should close up shop for the foreseeable future. It’s time to wipe the slate clean: fire the boards of directors, give the donors their money back, and suspend operations for the foreseeable future.
Strip everything down to brass tacks and start over in 5 to 10 years.
This isn’t about “compromising,” it is about recognizing obvious political realities for what they are. The pro-life movement is “less aggressive” “has less money” and is “less united” than the pro-choice side because it isn’t popular and has incompetent leaders.
At this point, the groups and politicians pushing for abortion restrictions have done more to expand abortion rights over the last year than the pro-choice crowd has done in decades. The pro-life crowd is also dragging down the rest of the conservative coalition by helping the Democrats stir up their own base.
Anger over possible abortion restrictions is likely to be a feature of American political life for years. I think, for instance, that a pro-abortion push from Democrats in 2024 might very well be enough for them to solidify control over the Senate and take back the House with a narrow majority. I’m not sure even a full-on recession could stave off this fate.
In light of the current reality, GOP candidates need to adopt a complete embargo on passing legislation related to abortion, articulating a policy position on the issue, or even talking about the issue in public.
If they must make a statement they should say the following: “I am not interested in disrupting the voters’ will on abortion in any way.”
At the time, I celebrated repealing Roe v. Wade. I see now what a mistake that was. The pro-life movement simply was not prepared for that outcome in any way. The plan was to keep holding ineffectual March for Life rallies for eternity while grifting off the Boomer donor bucks. The pro-life movement has never been seriously political in terms of exercising real power or making decisive changes.
Had it not been for Trump winning in 2016 on a populist campaign oriented around immigration, trade, war, and crime then the social conservatives would have gotten their wish and stayed irrelevant (but funded) for the long haul. As it turns out, Trump—an abortion moderate—took the pro-lifers more seriously than they took themselves: he appointed judges to the Supreme Court who, despite their other deficiencies, were actually pro-life.
Unfortunately for the broader American Right-wing, repealing Roe v. Wade was a mere legal victory utterly detached from the real political situation of the country. Abortion, prior to Dobbs, was not a live issue. Americans had settled on a consensus: abortion is basically fine as long as it has some restrictions. Decades of pro-life activism had not in any way changed that overarching view.
Disrupting that consensus made liberal voters angry and was met with apathy by conservatives.
The complete failure of the pro-life movement is also a reflection of the implosion of the moral authority of America’s churches.
If the Pope himself had come to Ohio to campaign against abortion (and he would never do this) it would not have made one dime’s worth of difference in the last election.
It isn’t just the Catholic leadership, either. Protestant pastors are no better. The “Moral Majority” has simply ceased to exist as a meaningful political entity with any power.
Priests and pastors, as a whole, overwhelmingly resist the idea of preaching any doctrines that contravene reigning liberal morality. In the past three years I’ve heard more sermons on fighting racism and opposing the death penalty than sermons attacking abortion. This in a “conservative” church, mind you.
Just today, the Pope issued a new proclamation that affirmed that transgenders can both be baptized and serve as godparents. I am sure that partisan defenders of the Vatican can explain how “technically” all of this is consistent with long standing Church teaching but none of that Talmudic text parsing matters. The real purpose of this proclamation is to demoralize conservative catholics while empowering liberals.
Insofar as they are conservative at all, America’s religious “leaders” are infinitely more interested in talking about metaphysical abstractions than helping their congregants figure out how to live their lives. Ask a pastor a question about baptism or communion and he can talk for hours. Ask him how a Christian should think about immigration policy and you’ll get word salad or liberal open borders boilerplate.
As I have said before, you can’t win a culture war if you don’t have a country. The issues of national survival—restricting immigration, protecting industry with tariffs, crushing the criminal class, and staying out of foreign wars—are way more important right now than fighting over abortion or gay marriage.
The sooner the GOP learns that lesson, the sooner the American Right can start putting together an effective resistance against the revolutionary opposition.