In American politics, abortion is the issue that reveals the most about the character of men and women claiming to be conservatives. To be pro-life, after all, is to recognize that abortion is an act of violence that ends the life of an innocent, helpless child in the womb, and to advocate protections for these children. Abortion is not merely an issue, it is the defining moral issue of our day. If you’re willing to sell out the most vulnerable, how can you be trusted on anything else?
Or as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis put it: “The people that aren’t supportive of the life cause, they’re not people you want to be in a foxhole with on any other political battle. They are the first ones who will sell out to the DC establishment when the going gets tough.”
Many so-called pro-life Republicans were happy to use the prospect of overturning Roe v. Wade to drive socially conservative voters to the polls year after year, even when many of those voters weren’t particularly happy about many other aspects of the GOP’s agenda. But since the fall of Roe, many seem to be backing away from the issue, worried that it might cost them votes. Trump has done it; so has his opponent Chris Christie and plenty of others. Many appear to be far more worried about losing votes than losing lives.
Frustratingly, even some commentators are buying into the idea that pro-life laws turn off voters, despite the fact that governors who passed the strictest abortion bans were re-elected in wide margins even as populist candidates lost their bids. On Fox News last week, Sean Hannity pointed to the referendum vote in Ohio last Tuesday—in which voters rejected a ballot measure that would have raised the threshold for amending the state constitution from a mere majority to 60%—as evidence that pro-life policies might be a loser.
“We saw the vote in Ohio,” he told his guests, Mike Huckabee and Tudor Dixon. “The fear among many, many conservatives is this [a 15-week abortion ban] will chase away many suburban voters. Do you agree with that, Mike Huckabee?” Huckabee’s reply was bang on: “I do not. I think the problem is Republicans have done a very pitiful job of explaining that the difference is we want to protect life, Democrats want to take it right up to the point of birth. They want to butcher a fully developed child. We’ve got to take it to the Democrats. Quit playing defense. Let’s be clear about what we stand for.”
Dixon differed, and suggested that Republicans essentially abandon the fight for pre-born rights: “Their message is very strong on this. They’ve won over women. We saw it. We just saw it in Ohio. We have to start fighting on the cultural side of it, and we have to fight on the issues that matter to people politically on the political side in a different way.”
Again, I have to note here: She’s incorrect. As I noted in my analysis on the Michigan referendum last fall, we face three primary challenges in direct democracy initiatives: the abortion movement’s massive war chest; media collusion in lies about women dying as a result of abortion laws; and the refusal of some pro-life groups to actually address the truth about abortion head-on. (I discussed all of these issues, as well as the recent referendum results, with Ohio’s top pro-life leader, Mark Harrington of Created Equal, on my LSN podcast this week.)