Thousands of protestors gather on the National Mall in the annual March for Life on January 27 to call for defense of the unborn. The march briefly sweeps abortion into the news cycle and inflames passions on all sides of the issue. Funds will be raised. Counter-protests will rage. Pundits will yell over each other. But one can only hope such marches bring enough pressure on lawmakers to actually legislate protection for unborn children.
If recent history is any indicator, however, that hope is dim. This past September the Republican majority in Congress caved, and sent additional funding to Planned Parenthood on its claim to combat Zika, despite the organization’s obvious lack of resources, equipment, and expertise to even begin to address the Zika outbreak beyond handing out contraception and aborting Zika babies.
More outrageously, the GOP caved on giving Planned Parenthood extra funds despite overwhelming evidence that surfaced just last year, and on which GOP leaders had arranged congressional hearings, that Planned Parenthood had been trafficking the body parts of aborted babies for profit.
This is a Republican majority that acquiesced to Democrats. As RealClearPolitics reported at the time: “Most of the major issues that have blocked the continuing resolution have been resolved, including $1.1 billion in funding to combat the Zika virus that no longer restricts allocating money to Planned Parenthood, an impasse that caused Democrats to repeatedly filibuster the Zika funding earlier this year.”
Your Platform Is a Platitude
The Republican majority that voters sustained this year is likely to continue such conciliatory maneuvers under the continued leadership of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell. The majority’s repeated capitulations to the radical left-wing come from the party that supposedly drafted the “most pro-life platform ever,” which asserts unborn children have a right to life and that Republicans “oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide health care.”
Republicans have a “principles problem” that grows more obvious by the day. Last year Mollie Hemingway pointed out that although some blame Donald Trump for the GOP’s abandonment of conservative principles, the party already had a long track record of ignoring conservative principles in favor of the status quo—the pro-life stance included, even in light of Planned Parenthood’s organ trafficking.
So Republican leadership in DC appears tone-deaf and spineless. This election cycle, many fed up with the DC elite and the GOP establishment channeled their frustrations into support for supposed “DC outsider” (yet still a GOP candidate), Trump. Sick of politicians who seemingly lack the courage of their convictions (a.k.a. campaign promises), they wanted the tough guy. The guy who won’t settle for a bad deal, and who will stand up for them.
Donald Trump Has No Pro-Life Cred
Although pro-lifers have consistently choked down the tofurkey passed off to them as a “red meat” pro-life agenda from the GOP, Trump’s record on protecting the unborn should be beyond unpalatable in comparison. It’s true, within his first hours in office he reinstated a policy prohibiting tax funding to Planned Parenthood abroad with the simple stroke of a pen.
That’s good news, but it hardly required any courage; only an advisor whispering in his ear that the move would be popular. But as Ben Domenech has noted in his case for a pro-life party, Trump is “the only presidential candidate in American history on record as urging his past girlfriend to abort his unborn daughter.” As late as last March, Trump said that Planned Parenthood does “wonderful work,” and it wasn’t until August that his campaign even bothered to promise defunding the abortion giant, leaving Trump’s sincerity in serious doubt.
Trump’s election and the recent behavior of congressional Republicans demonstrate how the GOP has abandoned its conservative principles on the national level, the pro-life stance chief among them. Almost half the nation identifies as pro-life. They need a party that clearly, consistently, and persuasively represents their conviction about the sanctity of life.
As Domenech also noted in his argument, single-issue parties can be quite successful in their stated goals. But such a party could actually benefit Americans more generally, beyond the stridently pro-life.
Real Toughness Comes from Real Convictions
After nearly eight years of political posturing from the administration that amounts to a continuous bow to those abroad, and six years of Republican majorities caving on everything they supposedly stand for, a desire for strength in leadership, for “toughness,” is manifesting. What if a pro-life party has the backbone, the “toughness” so many Americans are supposedly looking for in elected officials? What if real toughness stems from convictions, not rhetoric or a belligerent personality?
Trump fans have said they love him because “he fights!” But what if to win the fight, or at least to put up a good one, you have to actually be fighting for something you believe in to your core, something beyond simple patriotism, beyond winning, beyond a desire to bring abstract “greatness”? We think we’re looking for staunch leadership, but what we are really looking for, or what we should be looking for, are the deeply rooted convictions that require one to have fortitude and fierceness just to uphold them. That’s toughness.
Even people who shy from conflict in lesser matters overcome their disposition to fight when those they love, especially their families, are threatened by cultural or political forces. Consider the massive backlash by a broad swathe of mothers against Common Core, or laws allowing men to use women’s bathrooms. Toughness doesn’t get much deeper, or more rooted in what is good, than ensuring the safety and values of one’s family. Grit is born from deep within our natures, what we know in our very core to be good and true: it is in our instinct to protect our families and the innocent, and our profound convictions about what is right and wrong.
We Fight Not for Power But for Justice
I hate conflict, but my principles keep bringing me back into the fray again and again because they require a defense. Perhaps that is what America needs. Not someone who tentatively holds a consensus on a basket of issues, as Ben Sasse had called for in a “consensus candidate” for president, but someone who believes in a principle greater than winning, patriotism, free markets, wealth, or any materialistic or emotional measure of “greatness.”
To draw from people who are absolutely convinced about the sanctity of life to govern the country seems like the natural next step, if America really wants fighters, and if America is to be “great” in any spiritually meaningful sense of the word.
Sen. Rand Paul is one of the few in Congress who have aggressively sought to protect the unborn. Three years ago he asked if “a nation can long endure that does not respect the sanctity of life?” He then said, “I believe that great nations and great civilizations spring from a people who have a moral compass. Our nation is adrift, adrift in a wilderness where right and wrong have become subservient to a hedonism of the moment.”
America is indeed adrift, its leadership in bondage to convenience, luxury, and power. This voluntary subjugation manifests in moral cowardice. This nation needs the pro-life party Domenech has argued for. We must elect a group to Congress under a pro-life banner, however small, who have courage because of their convictions. This group must be aggressive when those convictions are under attack, and one Democrats and donor-appeasing Republicans think twice before crossing.
Such a group would drive the national dialogue and bring attention to a critical moral issue, and certainly would be loath to let an organization that trafficks the organs of murdered unborn babies receive one penny from our tax dollars.