Once known primarily as pundit that, while not everyone’s cup of tea, was a pro-life stalwart who devoted much of her writing to defending the preborn, Ann Coulter has irked pro-lifers in recent years with a handful of statements, from her criticism of Ebola missionary Dr. Kent Brantly (which I interpreted differently than some of my colleagues) to her tweet that “I don’t care if @realDonaldTrump wants to perform abortions in White House after this immigration policy paper” (which was a horrendously-phrased expression of her argument that immigration policy ultimately affects pro-lifers’ chances anyway).
But for my money, the biggest disservice she’s done for our cause came this past weekend, where she had a… different… reaction to Chris Christie’s horrendous advocacy of rape-case abortions as “self-defense” than most pro-lifers:
THANK YOU, CHRIS CHRISTIE! Pro-lifers are not for the govt forcing women who have been raped to have the kid!!! Only Rubio disagrees.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) February 7, 2016
We at Live Action have made it abundantly clear that we believe children conceived in rape do deserve our voice, so here let’s consider Ann’s assumption that she and Christie speak for the pro-life movement as a whole.
Per Marist’s latest annual survey, only 25% of the general public opposes rape exceptions. Another 32% oppose elective abortions but allow the exception. So among the half of the country that wants to ban abortions, it is true that more tolerate exceptions than reject them—albeit the gap is much closer than a blanket “pro-lifers are not for” implies. But that’s not the whole story. For one, we don’t know how many of these answers reflect principled stands and how many reflect strategic calculations about what law respondents think would be most realistic in the near term.
For another, while Marist does not provide a breakdown among those who self-identify as pro-lifers, they did in their 2015 and 2014 surveys. Then, pro-life supporters who oppose rape exceptions outnumbered those who support them 48% to 44% (2015) and 57% to 38% (2014). Further, the no-exceptions candidates in the Republican presidential field, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson, currently hold a combined 46.6% of the primary vote.
So the share of pro-lifers who insist on protecting all life is much bigger than the impression left by Coulter’s tweet. And when we move beyond the rank-and-file and to the activist class of the pro-life community—the “pro-lifers in the trenches” Coulter claimed she was speaking for the last time she touched on this subject—the answer is even more lopsided against her.
Live Action’s position, in our president Lila Rose’s words, is that “Abortion is not a pathway to healing; it’s another violent act.” Susan B. Anthony List says that “unborn children conceived in even the most difficult circumstances deserve the same legal protections that every other unborn child deserves.” Students for Life believes that “Aborting a child conceived through rape simply extends this pattern of violence and victim-hood.” American Life League declares that “We should punish the criminal, not kill his child.” Life Training Institute, Abort73, Generations for Life, Human Life International, and Priests for Life oppose rape exceptions, too. Americans United for Life focuses on incremental laws that contain exceptions, but they don’t present them as anything other than incremental steps on the way to the long-term goal, nor do they declare abortions for rape to be inherently valid. Even the National Right to Life Committee, which has in the past butted heads with no-exceptions pro-life groups, distributes material on countering arguments for rape exceptions.
(It is certainly true that most pro-lifers are willing to support laws that include rape exceptions, and prefer to keep the conversation’s focus on elective abortions or pro-abortion extremes, but that’s not the same thing as believing rape exceptions are appropriate in principle.)
Pro-lifers are not simpletons blindly taking the most absolutist position without regard for public perception. We are fully aware of the gulf between the ideal and the public consciousness, and taking it into account when we decide which messages to emphasize and which policies to pursue. The majority’s unwillingness to go as far as we’d like is a problem, but not an insurmountable one.
So there is simply no need for these lectures from a fellow pro-lifer. They only serve to provide pro-aborts with fodder for the “look how extreme anti-choicers are getting” narrative—and this case is the worst yet. It’s bad enough to see Chris Christie giving pro-abortion talking points the veneer of bipartisanship, but it’s another level entirely for them to be able to cite Ann Coulter, someone whose owes her success and reputation to not compromising her message to satisfy moderates.