The Corner

Politics & Policy

Working the Demand Side of the Anti-Abortion Cause — Democrats, Read This

In response to Dare We Name It? Could It Be…a Coming Crisis?

Every couple of years, it seems, a Republican politician explaining his opposition to abortion makes the news for having said something repugnant. It can be career-ending, as in Todd Akin’s case. But those are isolated incidents. Democrats talk that way all the time, though from the other side of the debate. At least that’s how they sound to many Americans who abhor or even just feel ambivalent about abortion.

“Even I have trouble explaining to my family that we are not about killing babies,” Donna Brazile remarked after the 2004 election. The “we” were Democrats. She was recommending that her party tone down its rhetoric on social issues.

After the results of 2016, some are now arguing that Democrats should promote policies designed explicitly to reduce abortion. Michael New thinks that a couple of proposals — streamline adoption procedures, drop opposition to the Hyde Amendment — that have been recommended to the Democratic party by a Boston College professor writing in the New York Times are meager, but most pro-life measures advanced by Republicans are also at the margins of the abortion debate: parental notification, stricter licensing requirements for clinics, etc. If Democrats add a measure or two of their own, excellent: Pro-lifers should applaud them and encourage more.

Some pro-lifers will object that Democrats seeking their votes are insincere. But Republican support for their cause over the years has also appeared perfunctory at times. The pro-life movement’s response to that political reality has been clear-eyed: It supports pro-life policies and, unless he’s a crackpot or a scoundrel, the candidate who can best be relied on to advance them. Whether his heart is in it or not is immaterial to their immediate purposes.

In any case, many Democrats could sincerely support abortion-reducing measures. When you talk with people who call themselves pro-choice, you find that few are pro-abortion and that most feel the moral weight of the issue more heavily than you might have thought. They are receptive to certain pro-life ideas when the question is about what is morally optimum.

Why abortion should be illegal is a related but different question. It’s necessary for pro-lifers to answer it for their aim to be intelligible, but that frame is not sufficient to their ultimate task, which is to abolish the injustice or at any rate reduce its incidence to as close to zero as they can manage. It is true but misleading to say even of thoroughgoing pro-lifers that they oppose legal abortion. They oppose illegal abortion equally.

Current legal restrictions on abortion in state laws are about as protective of unborn children as public opinion supports. Pro-life legislators looking for more ways to reduce the supply of abortion are close to an impasse. Measures to reduce demand tend to be more popular. They blunt the objections of activists who are dug in against efforts to reduce the supply.

If only out of electoral self-interest, Democrats could, for example, propose that government funding of Planned Parenthood be halved and that the other half go to Birthright, which offers prenatal care and information on adoption. The organization does what it can to reduce the demand for abortion while removing itself from efforts to reduce the supply. A hard core of party activists would object to any Democratic embrace of Birthright, but the organization’s carefully circumscribed mission is irrelevant to the fight over “choice.” And in any case, where would pro-abortion-rights Democrats go?

Pro-life Republicans would object to the half of the funding that remained for PP. They could make the case that the glass being offered to Birthright should be full, not half full (although limited-government fiscal conservatives might not want to argue for a diversion of such funding rather than for the outright elimination of it). Even if Republicans lost that debate, the pro-life cause would see some gain: more money for Birthright, less for PP.

Let the parties get into a bidding war for the pro-life vote.

Most Popular

Elections

Put Up or Shut Up on These Accusations, Hillary

Look, one 2016 candidate being prone to wild and baseless accusations is enough. Appearing on Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Hillary Clinton suggested that 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein was a “Russian asset,” that Republicans and Russians were promoting the Green Party, and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
National Review

Farewell

Today is my last day at National Review. It's an incredibly bittersweet moment. While I've only worked full-time since May, 2015, I've contributed posts and pieces for over fifteen years. NR was the first national platform to publish my work, and now -- thousands of posts and more than a million words later -- I ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More
Culture

Feminists Have Turned on Pornography

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the feminist movement has sought to condemn traditional sexual ethics as repressive, misogynistic, and intolerant. As the 2010s come to a close, it might be fair to say that mainstream culture has reached the logical endpoint of this philosophy. Whereas older Americans ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Defense That Doesn’t Work

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it’s that the “perfect phone call” defense of Trump and Ukraine doesn’t work. As Andy and I discussed on his podcast this week, the “perfect” defense allows the Democrats to score easy points by establishing that people in the administration ... Read More
Elections

Democrats Think They Can Win without You

A  few days ago, Ericka Anderson, an old friend of National Review, popped up in the pages of the New York Times lamenting that “the Democratic presidential field neglects abundant pools of potential Democrat converts, leaving persuadable audiences — like independents and Trump-averse, anti-abortion ... Read More
PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More