A Winning Strategy for Pro-Lifers: Shift the Debate

Pete Spiliakos offers some good advice for pro-life candidates and the pro-life movement in general in a post at First Things: Aggressive Incrementalism: A Winning Strategy for Pro-Lifers | First Things. Whether you agree with the principle of incrementalism (seeking abortion restrictions one step at a time as public opinion allows) or not, I think he’s right in suggesting that the abortion debate must move from candidates only speaking when spoken to, and instead taking the reins of the debate:

This “speak only when spoken to” approach to abortion seems cautious, but it is really foolhardy. It allows Democrats and their media allies decide when and how the abortion issue is discussed. So in a country in which third trimester abortions are legal on-demand, our abortion discussion centers on questions like “So why are you against the removal of a tiny clump of rapist-produced cells?” Republicans not choosing to talk about abortion doesn’t mean that we don’t talk about abortion. It means that we only talk about the issue when and how liberals choose.

By taking the reins of the debate, pro-lifers can then shift the debate from the “tiny clump of rapist-produced cells” to the practices of sex-selection and late-term abortion (for any reason). Make Democrats have to defend these practices if they are going to assail you over defending the viability of life in the first trimester. I respect non-incrementalists (those who think that restricting certain abortions in an incremental fashion for some cases implies an acceptance of abortion in the other cases), but even they would have to admit that taking the reins of the debate requires that we not answer on their terms only. Rather than beginning with conception and moving forward, perhaps you can start with the baby at birth and work backward to show that there is a continuity of identity.

Spiliakos, an incrementalist, suggests that the movement should focus on actual policy proposals. I realize that such proposals are unacceptable for the one committed to the maximal concerns of abortion as a moral, scientific, and constitutional issue where no exceptions should be made, period, but at least one can even use the policy suggestions of the incrementalist as an opportunity to wedge oneself from the extreme ideology of the left, rather than attack the incrementalist as a sell-out. He adds:

This gets to something that is insane about our politics. In the real America in which third trimester and sex selection abortions are legal on-demand, Republicans end up defending (often sheepishly) bans on first trimester abortions caused by rape. Instead of starting from contraception and working forward, Ryan and other pro-life Republicans should start with the late-term fetus. Modern technology allows us to clearly see unborn children at later stages of development. We can see that they are human and nothing else. The message should be “Whatever else we can disagree on, can’t we agree to protect these children?” Let the Democrats argue slippery slopes and that the destruction of these children is the price we must pay to prevent the enactment of some other law. Focus on specific policies. It should be okay for candidates to work within the constraints of popular opinion. Stick to policy proposals.

© 2013, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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