Pro-life summit: Where are we?
As I indicated yesterday, I attended a summit meeting of pro-life activists and apologists in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday and Tuesday, spearheaded by Mark Harrington of Created Equal.
The summit was to assess where the movement is in light of the reelection of Barack Obama, also bearing in mind the fact we’re nearing the 40 year mark of legalized abortion in the U.S.
Heads of various groups from around the country and Canada gave their analyses, many via Skype, and also provided a snapshot of their plans for 2013.
I was looking forward to this summit, because in my opinion the paradigm shifted with the reelection of Barack Obama, and I was fumbling with how as a pro-lifer to respond.
I think God is done doling “Get Out of Jail Free” cards. He’s giving our country the ideological leadership we deserve, and with it the consequences.
And politically speaking, how the pro-life movement has been thinking and acting may no longer work, which has been to behave as beggars and cajolers of the Republican Party to give us morsels.
Through sheer willpower and collaboration with pro-aborts, Obama and the Democrats took the politically losing pro-abortion position (according to Gallup polls 2009-2012), and made it a winner.
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In large part this is because Republicans didn’t respond. They also let the other side shift the debate. Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List wrote in a post-election analysis (a great read, available here, with SBA List’s permission):
The pro-abortion lobby and their allies have made it very clear what their strategy is moving forward: Do not talk about abortion and attempt to re-center the debate around contraception, birth control, and rape….
[A] September 2012 Politico article about the Democratic strategy on women’s issues… led with:
“Democrats think they’ve figured out how to win the abortion debate: Don’t make it about abortion.”…
The abortion lobby and their allies know from hard data and polling trends that abortion is not a winning issue for them – and so instead, they are working to re-center the debate around contraception and birth control, like they successfully did during the 2012 elections.
If nothing else this election showed the GOP must take responsibility to persuade the public on the pro-life issue. They can’t leave it up to pro-lifers. They can’t make the excuse that the position is in writing (in the platform), and that’s all they need to do.
This is a tall order, because through the election cycle Republicans demonstrated they would rather lose than show strength on abortion. Neither Akin nor Mourdock’s gaffes on rape were insurmountable. (Recall: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” As I said, no gaffe is insurmountable.)
Had Republicans not panicked but instead shown a little loyalty and backbone, along with some better rape/incest talking points, the two may not have fallen.
But now Republicans are more terrified or put off than ever on the pro-life issue. There is lots of talk about shelving the pro-life issue, although it is never explained what good that would do – what voters that would attract, never mind what voters it would lose.
That’s my view. I think we are at a critical point, politically speaking. I think we’re losing the GOP. If we let the GOP suppress our issue more than it already does, we all lose. How to stop the bleeding is the question.
So back to the summit. Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life presented a more optimistic view. He said:
As I said on the webcast the day after the election, nothing is permanent. One election undoes what another election does.
One key point I’ve been asking people to avoid is the assertion by the Left that America has taken sharp left turn. That is nonsense. President Obama was elected by 9.5 million fewer votes than last time. The House is one of most conservative Houses in modern times. The presidential race could have gone differently with 330,000 votes in key areas of the country.
The states are where things are really happening. Thirty-three of the 50 states are overseen by pro-life governors.
People can be disappointed without becoming disengaged. We can’t say, “You see, politics is not the solution.” We don’t have right to walk away from a process God himself has put into our hands, as frustrating as it is. We’ve got to stay engaged.
This leads to two practical tasks this coming year:
1. Remain engaged on the state level, connecting churches
2. Look forward to the U.S. Senate elections in 2014, with a possible change of control
History: Usually once the White House changes hands, the incoming president gets two terms, according to the law of averages. What’s also true is that midway through his second term, the president’s party doesn’t do so well. From all human calculation and the law of averages from U.S. history we have reason to expect gains in 2014 in the Senate. Democrats are far more vulnerable. They are going to have to defend almost twice as many seats as the GOP in the Senate.
Aside from politics, convincing the American people that abortion is wrong is not up to the White House. We have got just as much power in our hands to continue momentum we are making in the minds and hearts of the American people. We have just as much strength there. Reveal abortion to them, using their words, using graphic photos. There is no need to slow down or change any strategies this movement has used for years.
My optimistic view does not necessarily mean that God hasn’t handed us over to some kind of judgment. But it’s a judgment with an escape hatch. We have been judged inasmuch as we have gotten the public officials we’ve insisted on. Yet we still have a lot of good ones, and we don’t have the bad ones forever. His judgment, in other words, is a summons to get to work harder and smarter than ever.
I think even if our country is still center right, Obama and liberals can persuade a lot of people in the next four years to their ideological viewpoint. I read of that happening a lot in the Old Testament, and it often happened quickly. And then there are those aging Supreme Court justices.
That said, I was indeed heartened by FP had to say.