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After political losses, the pro-life movement's path forward

A close-up view of signage in support of Issue 1 is seen on November 3, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio.
A close-up view of signage in support of Issue 1 is seen on November 3, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. | Andrew Spear/Getty Images

Last week’s election results have been discouraging for the pro-life movement. The hard-fought victory in the Dobbs Supreme Court decision gave Americans the opportunity to defend the unborn at the ballot box. Yet, instead of protecting the most vulnerable among us, the 2022 and 2023 elections proved why the fundamental right to life should never be left to a vote.

Over the past few days, GOP pundits have claimed that deceptive advertising and high spending are the reasons Republicans and the life issue have failed miserably, and to some extent, they are correct. Unfortunately, these things are not going to change. Democrats are going to make “a woman’s right to choose” the cornerstone of their 2024 election strategy, and major donors like George Soros and Jeff Bezos will continue to fund pro-abortion candidates and ballot initiatives far from their home states.

Still, the pro-life movement cannot be disheartened — and certainly cannot back down. We aren’t fighting for a hypothetical or an ideal. We are fighting for people’s lives.

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The year and a half since Dobbs has taught us that many more people — and perhaps different people — than we realized want to keep abortion legal. It’s not only “women in crisis pregnancies;” it’s wealthy, educated men and women; it’s the men and women we’re sitting next to at church on Sunday; it’s our neighbors and our friends.

Americans have grown numb to the reality of abortion. But if the pro-life movement is going to succeed in defending life, the path forward begins with presenting an undeniable truth — an unborn child is a person, and an abortion kills her. Protecting the unborn starts with lovingly having this conversation with our friends, coworkers, children, parents, and neighbors.

We should be prepared for these discussions to be difficult. As last week’s election demonstrated, hundreds of thousands of people are willing to say they are “pro-choice.” A large percentage of those people don’t even shy away from labeling themselves as “pro-abortion.” But very few people identify as “pro-killing an unborn child.” It seems most people don’t want an abortion, but they have bought into the lie that someday, they or a loved one will need an abortion.

We cannot allow this fear to prevail. Paying for a mother’s child to be killed doesn’t solve any problem. We need to shake people out of the illusion that Democratic euphemisms like “women’s rights,” “reproductive freedom,” and “choice” mean anything other than the right to kill an innocent human being, and we need to drive away the fear that abortion is a solution. After all, we aren’t for limiting a woman’s future, rights, freedom, or choice. We are for protecting a defenseless person from a horrific death and helping her mother flourish.

While we work to remind our friends and family what abortion actually does, we must also remind our “pro-life” legislators what it means to be worthy of that title. Legislation that focuses on protecting life after a gestational age without a plan to move forward from that point is not pro-life; it is pro-compromise. And as Nellie Gray, founder of the March for Life, said, “On this basic subject of life … there is no compromise. You’re either for or against it. I was just rereading the Scriptures the other day seeing that is exactly where Christ was … There is no neutrality and there is no in-between. You can’t have a little bit of abortion. You can’t be a little bit pregnant. You must understand that life must be protected in total.”

Certainly, this does not mean that the pro-life movement must totally abandon an incremental approach to completely protecting the unborn. In some states, the incremental approach is saving lives. But the goal of every piece of pro-life legislation — especially at the federal level — must be protecting every unborn child from the moment of conception and working for the day when Americans are no longer voting on whether an innocent unborn child can be killed.

Legislation that seeks to find “common ground” with Democrats should be abandoned since their version of “common ground” has killed millions of innocent babies. Instead, pro-lifers should champion legislation that points to the fact that the unborn child is a person, and we care about that person and her mother.  Pro-life politicians must highlight how dangerous the abortion drug is for women and demand that existing federal laws protecting unborn babies and their mothers from this drug are enforced. Similarly, pro-life candidates must call for investigations where there is evidence that unborn children’s lives were destroyed through the gruesome, illegal practice of partial-birth abortion. Highlighting these cases forces Democrats to contend with what abortion actually does.

Pro-life presidential candidates must commit to signing any democratically passed legislation that protects unborn children, appointing pro-life judges and members of the administration, and ensuring that American taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortion. All of this must be done alongside a commitment to working towards a country where every single person — including those in the womb — is valued as a member of society with limitless potential.

For 50 years the pro-life movement fought for the opportunity to defend the unborn. The 2022 and 2023 elections were anything but a step forward. But as we head into the 2024 election, we must remember who we are working for and why we are defending unborn babies and their mothers. Democrats have shown they will fight with lies and money. Fighting with unyielding truth and love is the best possible response.

Originally published at The Washington Stand. 

Mary Szoch serves as the Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. In this position, Mary researches, writes, and coordinates collaborative efforts with other pro-life advocates on policies surrounding life and human dignity.

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