It’s instructive that Alabama has handed the anti-abortion movement a great victory by passing the most restrictive ban in the country—and Republican politicians who regularly tout themselves as pro-life don’t like it.
Abortion is cast by its opponents as a “non-negotiable” question. Yet it turns out to be very negotiable and, indeed, a matter of “personal belief.”
Thus did House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., say he opposes the Alabama law because it “goes further than I believe” by failing to include exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was right there with him. “Personally, I would have the exceptions,” McDaniel told CNN. “That’s my personal belief.”
Of course the Alabama abortion law is extreme. But you cannot fault the consistency of the Alabama legislators who supported it. If abortion is murder, it’s murder. I suppose you can have gradations on murder charges—first or second degree, say, or voluntary manslaughter—but that’s not the issue here. McCarthy and McDaniel can’t really think abortion is murder if they believe it’s OK some of the time.
Writing on the conservative website The Bulwark, Jonathan V. Last called the Alabama law “the most damaging development to the pro-life movement in decades.”
Wow! Why so? “If you want to end the abortion regime, you don’t get rid of it by outlawing abortion,” he explains. “There is a teaching effect to the law, but it’s not strong enough to support a law which does not have the consent of a large percentage of the citizenry. You get rid of abortion by moving public opinion. Which is hard. It’s incremental. It’s small steps.”
Pause on Last’s thought—you don’t get rid of abortion by outlawing it. But the entire thrust of the contemporary right-to life movement is to get rid of abortion by outlawing it. Even with the exemptions McCarthy favors, the Alabama law would still outlaw almost all abortions.
The dirty secret is that supposedly pro-life politicians support the exceptions because they poll well. But if your stand on abortion is based on a deep moral conviction, polling should have nothing to do with it.