I recently came across a website called Pro-Life Profiles (hat tip: Lisa Graas), which evaluates the pro-life credentials of various center-right figures, from GOP candidates to conservative activists. The first thing that’s important to note about the site is that it’s a project of American Right to Life. ARTL proclaims itself the “personhood wing of the pro-life movement,” but according to the National Right to Life Committee, ARTL is a scam that does little more than raise funds from people who confuse them with the more well-known NRLC. Who’s right? I can’t say for sure, but I’m inclined to trust NRLC (despite some disagreements with them) based on my familiarity with all the work they undertake on behalf of the pro-life movement, whereas I know of ARTL doing no such work. (UPDATE: In the comments, ARTL spokesman Bob Enyart claims the ARTL that ran afoul of NRLC was a different, now-defunct organization.) I report, you decided.
Their website seems entirely devoted to tearing down other pro-lifers as traitors to the cause (or at least insufficiently devoted), and that’s the exclusive mission of Pro-Life Profiles. Admittedly, they have found several legitimate reasons for criticizing politicians such as George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and even Sarah Palin, and they’re correct to stress that the ultimate goal of the pro-life movement must be full, nationwide legal protection for the unborn as full human beings. Unfortunately, in their zeal to reach the ultimate goal, they make profoundly wrong moral and practical arguments against various valuable, common-sense pro-life policies.
For instance, in criticizing Concerned Women for America and its president, Wendy Wright, ARTL argues that pro-lifers should not support laws that require obtaining parental notification/consent, or require being shown ultrasounds, before obtaining an abortion. They claim that it’s immoral to support any law that tacitly accepts abortion’s legality, and that such laws are somehow counterproductive to the goal of legal protection for the unborn. Among their arguments (many of them are vapid & repetitive, and life is short, so I’m only going to address the highlights):
ARTL: They don’t actually reduce abortions, and in fact may increase abortions.
ME: Simply ask yourself: does having to inform or get permission from your parents to get an abortion, does that make seeking an abortion easier or harder? If a women sees an ultrasound showing that unborn babies aren’t simply a lump of tissue, is she more or less likely to go through with it? Though these laws won’t prevent abortions in all cases, it should be obvious which direction they move things in. In particular, does ARTL mean to deny the enormous power of ultrasounds to change people’s hearts and minds?
ARTL: It’s immoral to support any law whose end result still permits abortions to take place.
ME: You’re not giving abortion tacit approval by voting for something less than outright prohibition if outright prohibition is not an option available to you. If it pushes the law in the right direction, and if it saves lives, it’s not only moral, but necessary. Strategy is not an either-or proposition; you have to pursue every available avenue.
ARTL: “Thirty years of evidence also shows that the regulation strategy has failed to move the federal judiciary, which is mostly Republican and overwhelmingly pro-choice, toward the right-to-life position.”
ME: This is just stupid—who ever said they’re supposed to move the judiciary? Reducing abortions legislatively and getting good judges on the bench are both important goals, but one has nothing to do with another. Again, it’s not either-or.
ARTL: Such regulations “call upon our own judges to uphold laws that regulate killing the innocent, and thus turn conservative judges increasingly against the personhood of the unborn.”
ME: Their link claims that “Antonin Scalia has publicly stated that he would strike down any law that prohibited abortion in all fifty states, and Clarence Thomas has ruled that the public has the right to decide to legalize the killing of unborn children.” I don’t know what cases/remarks they’re referring to, but in Scalia’s case I suspect he was simply noting that, as a judge, he does not have the authority to criminalize abortion. And unfortunately, he’s right: judges are not policymakers, and even the language of the 14th Amendment discusses “born” citizens, making any judicial abortion ban shaky Constitutional ground. That’s why pro-lifers should fight for the Human Life Amendment.
ARTL: These laws “will keep abortion ‘legal’ if abortion is wickedly ‘returned to the states.”
ME: “Wickedly” returned to the states? Short of a constitutional amendment, you can’t make much legislative headway until you return it to the states by overturning Roe v. Wade (and popular support for state abortion bans will certainly come before enough support to pass a national constitutional amendment). Because abortion is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, the states have the right to determine abortion policy. Reverse Roe, and abortion automatically becomes illegal in those states whose pre-Roe abortion bans remain in effect, and the rest of the states get a fighting chance. Pro-choice politicians would no longer be able to hide behind the Supreme Court. This scenario is bad why?
It’s absurd to think parental notification laws would prevent full abortion bans. Even if they did give tacit approval to the principle of choice (which they don’t), they’re mere legislative acts, and can be superseded by new legislative acts with a simple majority vote.
Absent in ARTL’s analysis is any recognition of Constitutional originalism, separation of powers, or judicial restraint. Understandably-frustrating though it may be at times, the Founders placed clear limits on how political goals—even noble and essential ones—may be pursued. In their view, how much should the pro-life movement respect the rule of law? If they think the ends justify the means, and that the Right should embrace judicial activism, they should come out and say so. But before that, they’d do well to brush up on how past leaders reconciled human rights and constitutionalism, and think twice before condemning the rest of us as traitors to the unborn.