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Pro-life demonstrators march during the Right To Life rally on January 15, 2022, in Dallas, TexasPhoto by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

(LifeSiteNews) — The Republican red wave turned out to be a ripple, with a few distinct silver linings in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ election tsunami and the election of candidates like J.D. Vance of Ohio. 

But the real tragedy of the midterms was the abortion referendums. In Michigan, Proposition 3 was passed, legalizing abortion up until birth and including a slew of other bad policies. California’s referendum also enshrined abortion until birth in the state constitution; Vermont, too, voted to constitutionally protect “reproductive rights.” In Kentucky, a ballot measure that would have denied any constitutional protections for abortion narrowly failed, although this result will have no effect on the abortion ban passed by the legislature should it survive a legal challenge before the Kentucky Supreme Court. 

If you include the failure of the pro-life amendment in Kansas in August and the stunning rejection of an amendment that simply would have mandated care for babies who survive an abortion in Montana, it is clear that the pro-life cause has not fared well with direct democracy. 

I asked Dr. Michael New, a fellow at the Charlotte Lozier Institute and a prestigious pro-life scholar and statistician, what these recent losses mean for the pro-life movement – and what the way forward should be.  

Jonathon Van Maren: After four ballot initiative losses during the midterms, what lessons do pro-lifers need to learn? 

Dr. Michael New: Direct democracy poses some unique challenges for pro-lifers. There is a body of academic research which shows that money plays a large role in the outcome of ballot propositions. Very often pro-lifers find ourselves outspent by our opponents. We still need to raise money, campaign aggressively, and try some new messaging. Personally, I think opponents of Proposition 3 in Michigan should have argued that it would have struck down limits on Medicaid funding of abortion and represented an “abortion tax increase.” 

In the aftermath, we need to hold supporters of legal abortion in these states accountable. Groups supporting legal abortion argued that Proposal 3 did not jeopardize Michigan’s pro-life parental involvement law and would not require the state Medicaid program to start praying for elective abortions. If subsequent judicial rulings (1) strike down the state pro-life parental involvement law and/or (2) require the state Medicaid program to start covering elective abortions – pro-lifers need to publicize this aggressively. Voters need to realize that they were misled by pro-abortion groups. 

JVM: Is direct democracy a dead-end for the pro-life movement? 

Dr. New: Direct democracy is not a dead-end, pro-lifers used direct democracy to end taxpayer funding of abortion through West Virginia’s Medicaid program in 2018. We used direct democracy to enact pro-life parental involvement laws in Florida, Alaska, and Montana. 

That said, direct democracy campaigns do pose some unique challenges for pro-lifers. We need to learn from what happened in states like Kansas and Michigan and move forward. 

JVM: Can any of these losses be blunted or undone? 

Dr. New: Yes, Proposal 3 will strike down Michigan’s pro-life parental involvement law and require the state Medicaid program to start covering elective abortions – pro-lifers should use direct democracy to restore these policies. Pro-life parental involvement laws and limits on taxpayer funding of abortion both poll well. A future ballot campaign would have a strong chance of success. 

JVM: What is your advice for a way forward? 

Dr. New: Pro-lifers were never promised a smooth glide path to victory. There will inevitably be some setbacks along the way. As always, we need to keep praying and maintain our educational, service, and legislative activities.  The Dobbs decision gave us some great opportunities to legally protect preborn children. We have taken advantage of this opportunity and should continue to do so. 

I also want to add that there were some positive developments for pro-lifers on Tuesday. Some of the strongest performing Republican candidates were GOP Governors Greg Abbott (TX), Brian Kemp (GA), Ron DeSantis (FL), and Mike DeWine (OH). All these governors signed strong pro-life laws and did not hide from the abortion issue. They also faced strong, well funded Democratic opponents. All of these Republican governors prevailed by large margins. 

JVM: Overall, where is the pro-life movement now compared to the beginning of the year? 

Dr. New: The pro-life movement is in a much better position now than it was at the beginning of the year. Since January, Roe v. Wade has been overturned and 13 states are now protecting all preborn children. Additionally, Georgia is protecting preborn children after a fetal heartbeat could be detected and Florida is protecting preborn children after 15 weeks’ gestation. There is a good chance that other states will enact strong pro-life laws in the future. 

A study from the Society of Family Planning found that in the two full months after Dobbs, 10,000 fewer abortions took place. My recent Charlotte Lozier Institute study of the Texas Heartbeat Act has found that starting between March 2022 and July 2022, it has saved over 5,000 lives. Pro-life laws are stopping abortions and saving lives! Pro-lifers should be excited! 

Here and there in 2022 we have encountered some setbacks at the ballot box; however, the future is still ours! 

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.