In yesterday’s New York Times, Ross Douthat takes on the conventional wisdom among pro-choice Republicans who blame the pro-life movement for losing the presidency in 2008 (HT: Russell Moore). Douthat notes how pro-choice GOP’ers such as Christie Todd Whitman and P. J. O’Rourke have charged uncompromising pro-lifers with alienating the American mainstream in 2008.
Douthat rightly points out that such an analysis makes little sense in light of the fact that John McCain rarely even used the word “abortion” in the general election campaign. It’s difficult to imagine that the country voted against McCain’s position on an issue that he hardly ever mentioned.
Douthat goes on to explain that it’s not the pro-life movement who has rejected compromise. He writes:
“In theory, there are many middle grounds imaginable in America’s abortion wars, from bans that make exceptions for rape and fetal deformities to legal systems modeled on the French system, in which abortion is available but discouraged in the first 10 weeks and sharply restricted thereafter.
“The public is amenable to compromise: majorities support keeping abortion legal in some cases, but polling by CBS News and The Times during the presidential campaign showed that more Americans supported new restrictions on abortion than said it should be available on demand. And while some pro-lifers would reject any bargain, many more would be delighted to strike a deal that extends legal protection to more of the unborn, even if it stopped short of achieving the movement’s ultimate goals.
“But no such compromise is possible so long as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey remain on the books. These decisions are monuments to pro-choice absolutism, and for pro-lifers to accept them means accepting that no serious legal restrictions on abortion will ever be possible â€” no matter what the polls say, and no matter how many hearts and minds pro-lifers change.”
I would add one other observation to Douthat’s. All the so-called pro-life “evangelicals” who discouraged Christians from holding the line on the abortion issue in 2008 were really taking the same view as the pro-choice Republicans. In effect, the Donald Miller’s and the Jim Wallis’s were urging pro-lifers to give up on achieving any legal restrictions on abortion. Theirs was a position that was “pro-life” in name only. By urging pro-lifers to give up on their efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, they were encouraging pro-lifers to give up on the one issue that might make compromise on the abortion issue possible. The substance of their argument was and is a total capitulation to the culture of death.
Douthat’s analysis is spot-on, and you should read the rest of his article.