How big of an impact will abortion have in the November elections? Conventional wisdom holds that so-called social issues like the right to life are good for throwing a little red meat to the base now and then but are too divisive to be allowed to “distract” from real issues like the economy.
But the Washington Examiner reports that some Republican leaders plan to keep abortion in the spotlight as they attempt to dethrone President Barack Obama:
This guy is the ‘abortion president,’” said New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, who for three decades has co-chaired the House pro-life caucus. “This election is the most important in our lifetime. This is a transitional election,” he added.
Smith, who just received the Henry J. Hyde award for Americans United for Life for his career dating back to his days as a pro-life organizer at Trenton State College in 1972, told Secrets that the movement is eager to battle Obama over the pro-abortion mandate he leveled on religious institutions and support for Planned Parenthood.
“I think this is going to be a big issue,” he said, adding that it is good for his efforts when pro-choice groups run ads against the anti-abortion crowd because it reminds the public of where each side stands on the issue.
While America remains divided on abortion, the data suggests that it’s generally advantageous for politicians to embrace the pro-life cause. For one thing, the public firmly sides with pro-lifers against the Obama administration’s current anti-life policies. Likely voters have told Rasmussen that they favor the repeal of the pro-abortion ObamaCare by double-digits thirty times in a row. A recent Marist College/Knights of Columbus poll found that majorities favor conscience exemptions for health care providers in everything from abortion and birth control pills to in vitro fertilization. And polling data released this month by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute found that 77% of Americans – and 80% of women – would support a ban on sex-selection abortions.
Granted, disagreeing with some of abortionism’s more extreme manifestations doesn’t necessarily mean the public is ready to throw in with pro-lifers entirely. But the polls also indicate a deeper national affinity for the right to life. Gallup recently found that 39% would allow abortion only in a few circumstances and that 20% would forbid all abortions, for a combined total of 59% who reject abortion on demand. Gallup also found that abortion is losing support in all demographic groups except the nonreligious and post-grads.
So while the nation is more moderate than the average pro-life activist, it still wants to move the law in the same general direction. Besides, moderation cuts both ways – the public is also nowhere near as extreme as Barack Obama, who has not only endorsed legislation to erase nearly every federal, state, and local restriction on abortion in the nation, but whose anti-life fanaticism also compelled him to block efforts to protect newborns who were being starved to death in Illinois hospitals. How do you think either of those positions would fare on the ballot?
Lastly, author and columnist Ramesh Ponnuru explains that being visibly pro-life is actually a net gain for a politician, not a hindrance, because “surveys have consistently found that pro-lifers are more likely to vote on abortion than pro-choicers.” In other words, pro-life voters are more likely to consider a politician’s stance on abortion a deal-breaker, while pro-choice voters tend to be more willing to overlook it if they agree with a candidate on other issues.
For politicians to avoid the human rights crisis of our lifetimes isn’t merely cowardly and shameful; it’s also self-defeating. Timidity is a guaranteed ticket to either defeat or a career of irrelevance and enshrinement in the history books as a footnote at best. But while taking a stand always risks alienating some, it also reveals one’s mettle to others. Truly great leaders acknowledge strategic considerations, but they don’t let perception define principle, or dissuade them from answering justice’s call.