What We Learn from Pro-Life Losses

It is the latest example of the perennial pro-life temptation: to compete with the abortion activist narrative by putting the pro-life movement in a reactive position. For example, the abortion movement states that abortion laws hurt women, and the pro-life movement reacts by saying that abortion hurts women. While it is undoubtedly true that abortion hurts women, this narrative is not powerful enough to compete, since the “revealed preference” of many voters is that, given that choice, they’d like to have the option to decide for themselves whether or not abortion hurts women. (I write this as one of the co-authors of a “Post-Roe” statement signed by dozens of pro-life leaders calling for robust state support for mothers.) Throughout the entire debate, the central character in this great moral drama—the pre-born child—often gets forgotten. Indeed, some pro-life activists go to great lengths to insist that the real issue at stake is parental rights, or bad law, or something else—in Michigan, pro-life groups ran an entire campaign on the convoluted slogan “too confusing; too extreme.” The truth is that this is about abortion, and everybody knows it.

We know abortion is an act of violence that ends the life of a human being in the womb. Abortion activists claim abortion is healthcare. The central task of the pro-life movement is to confront the culture by proving our premises. For most voters, abortion is still about a what rather than a who. If pro-lifers spend entire campaigns on peripheral issues that essentially affirm this premise and imply that it is not abortion at any stage that is the issue but rather particular aspects of the proposed amendment or potential implications of the legislation, we lose the opportunity to make progress in rehumanizing the dehumanized. The only possible justification pro-lifers have for restricting abortion, after all, is that pre-born children are children—if they are not, pro-life laws are cruel.

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