Republicans and pro-lifers are in a bind. Republicans have lost several winnable elections since the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade, with many voters citing abortion as the reason – but the Grand Old Party cannot drop the pro-life cause if it still wants to win nationally. Meanwhile, pro-lifers must face the reality that they need both the American voters on their side, and a majority of Americans don’t yet support a total ban on abortion. The GOP and the pro-life cause are tied together; if they’re to succeed, both will need to strengthen political messaging across the board.
Democrat motivation is up, and it makes the difference in states like Virginia, where Republicans recently outperformed President Joe Biden’s results but still failed to hold the State House or to take the Senate. While inflation and crime worried voters, Democrats had blanketed the airwaves with ads claiming Republican victory would mean the end of abortion in the state, and internal polling showed the ads worked–particularly on women.
Pro-abortion voters made the difference in Ohio and Kentucky as well. Last year, when the red wave failed to materialize, exit polls showed 31 percent of voters ranked inflation as their top priority but 27 percent ranked abortion as theirs–with 60 percent of all voters reportedly unhappy about the Dobbs decision.
While left-wing activists claim pro-abortion messaging has always been Democrats’ best weapon, this isn’t true. Take the example of former Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, who was rated 100 percent by pro-abortion groups, while his challenger was rated zero. Udall sought to wrap his 2014 re-election fight around abortion and was defeated. “It’s not that Democrats didn’t try to make voters care or that supporting Roe wasn’t popular,” liberal blogger Matt Yglesias writes, “it just wasn’t something that swung votes until it was gone.”
Recent defeats have given an in for those Republican elites who’ve long dreamed of ejecting social conservatives, positing that a fiscally conservative, socially liberal candidate is what the country really wants. While these Republicans are probably correct this is the kind of candidate who could win the governorship of Massachusetts or mayorship of New York City, the math doesn’t hold if they want national influence.
One in 10 Republican voters will refuse to vote for a candidate who does not share their pro-life views. That’s the difference for a win or loss in the 2023 Mississippi governor’s race, which Republicans won. It makes the difference in the 2022 North Carolina and Wisconsin Senate races too, as well as that year’s Nevada governor’s race.
In the 2020 national election, 10 percent staying home would have meant Donald Trump losing North Carolina and Florida, while putting Texas into play. In 2016, it would have meant Trump losing Nevada, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, giving Hillary Clinton a bigger win than even the liberal pundits had predicted.
In short, to abandon the pro-life cause would be to abandon the legislature and most certainly the White House.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t points to learn from the last two election cycles, however. Pro-life Americans need to understand that changing abortion views in hearts and minds is a crucial battle, but will take years. Meanwhile, the pro-abortion movement is defeating pro-lifers in every single ballot initiative yet held, including in Michigan, Kentucky, Montana, and most recently, Ohio, which in November enshrined late-term abortion without parental consent in the state constitution.
Nationally, 55 percent of voters think abortion should be illegal in the second trimester. The number rises to 70 percent for the third. Ohio is more church-going, Christian, and conservative than many of the states included in that average. So how did this constitutional amendment happen?
The answer is pro-life overreach combined with Democrat fear-mongering. Ohio’s Republican heart-beat bill had effectively banned abortion after six weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Ohioans were turned off by this, and switched sides.
This cannot stand. Pro-lifers are faced with a house fire, and tens of thousands of children are stuck inside. We can save some, or none. In the future that might change, but for now, more Ohios and Michigans is unacceptable. The first step to winning is changing the messaging. In short, it’s been terrible.
The number of pro-choice voters has grown since Dobbs. Americans are primed to respond to talk of “rights,” the romance of “allyship,” and “the new civil rights.” When you combine that with celebrity support and the reality that few people have ever thought deeply about the brutal physical and emotional realities of abortion, this surge isn’t surprising.
Democrats are perfectly happy putting rape victims and pro-abortion doctors on camera to speak directly to the voters. These storytellers pull at the heartstrings and obfuscate abortion’s cruel realities. Pro-lifers should learn from this. Their stories are heart-breaking and heart-warming stories, with real people as well. Let those people have their say.
Put the woman on camera who was pressured into an abortion, and has regretted it her entire life. Show the woman who’s experienced the pain of infertility. Let her talk about how callous pro-abortion politicians have been with the precious gift of life. Show the adopted child whose mother bravely decided against abortion. Feature the woman who is 18-weeks pregnant, and let her describe to you the child she feels moving inside her womb.
Put the doctor on camera who once performed abortions. Let her walk viewers through an ultrasound, a heartbeat, the baby the size of a grapeseed who grows to the size of a cantaloupe. Let her tell about the baby born at 23 weeks who is now a 6’3″ linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks. Or tell the story of the baby who survived the abortion, only to be left to die, gasping for breath unheld on a cold operating table. Let the expectant mother who lost her child when she was hit by a drunk driver speak about what that life meant to her–and how little it means to the Democrat Party.
Let real people tell the joyful and the painful stories alike, straight to the voter. The Democrats have defined what they say is at stake, framing the issue as if it’s about supporting or not supporting women and rape victims.
The pro-life movement needs to let the voters know what’s at stake here is a lot more real than the feel talk of “choice” gets across. They can and must frame the story in real-life terms with real people and real consequences. Tell the painful truth. The American people can handle it. What we cannot handle is another Ohio.