The failure of pro-life activists to secure abortion restrictions in conservative states reflects both systemic problems in fighting abortion and the repetition of mistakes in advancing a pro-life agenda. Pro-lifers must change their approach to fighting to limit abortion rights and must add fighting to limit the perceived need for actual abortions as well to their agenda.
Much reported in last week’s news was the failure of pro-life activists to limit abortion rights in the ruby-red states of Nebraska and South Carolina. In essence, their proposed policies were too restrictive. Their failure, as well as the failure of pro-lifers to remove abortion rights from the constitutions of equally conservative Kansas and Kentucky last year, show that pro-lifers must rethink their strategies and tactics if they’re to achieve any degree of success.
Any rethink must start with the recognition of two facts: First, throughout the country about two-thirds of all Americans support an unrestricted right to abortion within the first trimester of pregnancy, which is when most abortions take place. And second, even those who (like me) are basically pro-life believe in what we consider to be both rational and humane exceptions to anti-abortion policies, including abortion to save women’s lives, in instances of rape and incest, and in instances of gross fetal anomalies which will lead to stillbirth or death within days of birth. The fact that most Americans support abortion rights at least early on in pregnancy make imposing abortion limits problematic at best. The rejection of seemingly humane and rational limits doom any such attempts to certain failure.
In previous columns, I’ve argued that pro-lifers should recognize the popularity of exceptions to abortion bans and incorporate acceptance of such exceptions into their policy proposals. Moreover, pro-lifers must expand their focus: They must fight not only to limit abortion rights but to reduce perceived abortion needs through promoting research, development, and implementation of new policies concerning more effective birth control and sex education, as well as better policies to promote prenatal and neonatal care.
And recently David French, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, has suggested additional policies pro-lifers should adopt to reduce actual abortions. He’s noted journalist Elizabeth Brunig’s advocacy, in The Atlantic, that we “make birth free,” and Senator Mitt Romney’s proposed Child Allowance Plan for more financial aid to struggling families. Neither program, if implemented, would eliminate all perceived need for abortions, but to the extent that some women are motivated by financial fears to seek abortions, policies that might ease those fears might thereby reduce abortions. And isn’t that the main point of all pro-life endeavors?
Some define mental illness as the expectation that doing the same thing over and over will produce different results. Pro-lifers have been doing the same thing over and over—attempting to impose narrow restrictions on abortion rights while ignoring the issue of limiting actual abortion as well. And frequently they achieve the same result—failure. It’s time for the pro-life movement to recognize the fact that to truly make progress in abortion reduction they must simultaneously accept humane and rational exceptions to abortion limits, and support effective policies which help women avoid unwanted pregnancies and support women who are actually pregnant, as well as their children, born and unborn alike.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.