The Corner

Politics & Policy

Re: ‘The Pro-Life Case against Trump’

President Trump rallies with supporters in Goodyear, Ariz., October 28, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

For The Bulwark, Michael Stokes Paulsen argues that pro-lifers should “vote against Donald Trump’s reelection.” I don’t have any blanket view of how pro-lifers should vote in 2020. Personally, I subscribe to Ramesh Ponnuru’s and Robert George’s view that Joe Biden has practically precluded himself from earning my own vote. He promises to repeal the Hyde amendment — which bars federal dollars from being used to fund abortion — and his running mate has enthusiastically endorsed a bill in the Senate to do just that. Per the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, the Hyde amendment saves around 60,000 unborn lives every single year. The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute claims that “approximately one-fourth of women who would have Medicaid-funded abortions instead give birth when this funding is unavailable.” In his argument, Paulsen makes no mention of the Hyde amendment or what the consequences of its repeal would be.

He also refrains from bringing up the Mexico City policy, a sort of global Hyde amendment that stops federal funding from going to organizations that promote or perform abortions abroad. It was first put in place by Ronald Reagan and has been ritually repealed by every Democratic president since. A vote for Biden is a vote for a U.S.-taxpayer-funded abortion-evangelism program.

Paulsen does not ignore, but instead understates the importance of, appointing judges who rightly recognize Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey as atrocious decisions on their legal and moral merits. He calls judicial gains “short-term, ephemeral, and largely illusory” while asserting that the lesson of Roe and Casey is that pro-lifers cannot hope to effect change through the courts. “Hoping for a judicial silver bullet is a pro-life fantasy” he writes. This is exactly wrong. The lesson of Casewas not that pro-lifers should give up on overturning Roe and Casey, but that we must recommit ourselves to that goal. To work toward that end is not to hope for a “silver bullet,” but to acknowledge that as long as Casey‘s framework remains in place, hundreds of thousands of unborn lives will be extinguished every year.

I happen to agree with Paulsen and Ponnuru that pro-lifers are not obligated to vote for Trump. He is by character and competence not fit for the presidency. But it is a serious mistake for pro-lifers to dismiss the importance of political power for the movement’s short and long-term prospects, as well as for those we seek to protect.


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