How should candidates express opposition to abortion?

I was watching CNN’s Republican Presidential Primary Debate Monday evening very intently to see how the candidates–all of whom self-identify as pro-life–would talk about abortion. I was disappointed there were only two questions about abortion in the entire debate–one about former MA Gov. Mitt Romney’s record, and the other about former MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s stance on the “hard cases” of abortion–rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Both questions were designed more as platforms for the candidates to attack each other than to elicit thoughtful discussion about our nation’s abortion addiction and how to stop it.

But even more disappointing to me were the responses the candidates who addressed the issue–Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Tim Pawlenty–delivered. All spoke in vague, abstract terms about the “dignity and sanctity of Life” or the “value of human life”–but not once was the unborn child mentioned as a distinct, living person to be protected. I don’t doubt that the candidates were sincere in their messaging–but I doubt the political efficacy of it.

Is the appropriate response to a concentration camp or a drive-by-shooting victim merely to say, “We need to respect the dignity and sanctity of life”? Surely, the principle is true, but it is a principle that Americans, for the most part, do not yet need to be re-convinced of. Wouldn’t a more effective response be, “People are dying and it has to stop”?

Americans agree that human life is sacred–that’s why murder is still a crime. The disconnect with abortion is not primarily about values, but about facts. Americans do not need to hear from potential pro-life candidates, “We ought to respect the dignity and sanctity of life.” Americans need to hear, “Children are dying because of abortion, and it has to stop.”

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