A plurality of Americans already support banning most abortions after 20 weeks. Focusing on the humanity of the late-term fetus would remind those Americans that some politicians support late-term abortions — and those politicians could be named. Focusing on the humanity of the late-term fetus would raise the salience of the abortion issue for some opponents of late-term abortion. It would probably even win some converts.
A media campaign that focused on late-term abortion could also make it easier for pro-lifers to seize the political middle. The current media environment allows pro-choicers to seem moderate even when they are extreme. The president opposed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, but somehow the top abortion-related issue of 2012 was abortions in case of rape. In the current media environment, pro-choicers usually get to pick their fights, and they will naturally try to pick fights that will make the pro-choice side appealing to moderates. Focusing on incremental abortion restrictions and the humanity of the late-term fetus would remind moderates of what they find disturbing about abortion and reveal the radicalism of many Democratic politicians.
A national media campaign would also lift some of the burden off pro-life politicians. The public won’t necessarily thank a politician who brings up abortion. This means that pro-life candidates are often in the position of having to either bring up the abortion issue out of nowhere or wait to answer a debate question framed by a pro-choice journalist. Even when a pro-life politician comments on abortion, the reporting on the comment will usually be filtered by pro-choice journalists, and the extent of the media coverage of a pro-lifer’s comment will often be proportional to how self-destructive it is. Todd Akin’s gaffe is now more widely remembered than Henry Hyde’s entire career. This dynamic raises the costs for pro-lifers while allowing radical pro-choice politicians to fudge their records. Obama does not have to worry about many follow-up questions regarding his history with the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act.
That is where a well-funded media campaign could be so helpful. A media campaign can act as a heat taker. Many people did not want to hear about gay marriage either, and it was not the rhetoric of politicians that was most responsible for shifting public opinion on that issue. Messages in the wider culture made people aware of the arguments for gay marriage. Those arguments were made by people who were not running for office. They did not have to worry (as a politician would) about seeming obsessed with the issue. They could focus on making the public aware of the arguments.
It would not matter if journalists, entertainers, and Democratic politicians denounced a media campaign that focused on the humanity of the late-term fetus. It would only matter that the information got out, that more people visually identified the late-term fetus as a human being, and that the American people knew about politicians who would allow those children to be destroyed at will. It would also make it easier for pro-life candidates to talk about abortion. Right now, for some fraction of the population, all they know about a pro-lifer’s position on abortion is what they hear during a debate. Two minutes is too short for all but the most talented politician to start a conversation and explain a policy agenda in a hostile environment. If more of the public were aware of the arguments for incremental abortion restrictions (and the reality of late-term abortion), a pro-life candidate would not have to start from square one as to either sentiment or policy.
Pro-life donors could make it easier for pro-life politicians to talk about abortion. Pro-life donors could raise the political costs for pro-choice radicalism. Pro-life donors could change minds and help change policy. They would finally be getting something for their money.
— Pete Spiliakos is a columnist for First Things.