Video: Abortion debate holds risks for GOP

Yesterday’s anniversary of Roe v Wade and the March for Life had both sides of the abortion debate fully active, and once again raised the question of whether this will work as a major campaign issue for the pro-life Republican Party. The RNC took time to proclaim the issue as one of its priorities, and proved it by postponing their conference so officeholders could participate in the demonstrations. National Journal’s Sophie Novack points out the rewards and risks in that strategy:

After their failed 2012 bid to retake the Senate, Republicans vowed to talk about Obamacare, jobs, and the economy—and to keep abortion out of the spotlight. It’s easy to see why. Talking about abortion doomed Republican runs in two states: Missouri, where Akin’s “legitimate rape” verbiage ignited a national firestorm; and Indiana, where candidate Richard Murdoch sealed his fate with controversial comments about rape and pregnancy.

And so while Republican-led state legislatures have worked aggressively—and successfully—to push state-level abortion restrictions, the national party has preferred to focus its rhetoric elsewhere.

2014 isn’t 2012, however, and national Republicans are now wading back into the fray. But this time, they hope to talk about the issue in a way that paints their opponents—rather than their candidates—as the extremists.

With a complete overturning of Roe v. Wade unlikely, Republicans’ messaging shift aims to highlight some of the more contentious aspects of abortion, in a bid to appear moderate on the issue, and to depict Democrats’ position as extreme and harmful to women and young people—two groups the GOP has struggled to hold. …

Of course, devotion to the cause is one thing, political strategy is another, and wading deeper into issues of women’s reproductive rights ahead of midterm elections is definitely risky for the GOP. Yet Tobias says she is confident that candidates will receive training and talking points on the issue, to avoid another Akin-like debacle.

Let’s hope that’s the case, although that could be … tricky. Many candidates will come not from lower office, where rhetorical skills and political instincts have already been honed, but also from grassroots novices and/or wealthy self-funders looking to take some pressure off of national resources for a race. The RNC will have to catch these very early, because trackers are everywhere now thanks to the low technological barriers to hi-fidelity recording, and a bad answer in March might end up costing dearly in October — even if training came in May.

As far as painting opponents into the extremes, that will go in both directions. Take for example last night’s Crossfire on CNN, where my friend Lila Rose squared off against Sally Kohn on CNN. Kohn and NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue cornered Rose on the question of pregnancies caused by rape — which accounted for less than 1% of all abortions in 2004, according to the CDC, and 1% according to the abortion-friendly Guttmacher Institute in 2005. Cases of incest accounted for even fewer abortions in both reports. And yet, this is the ground on which Kohn and Hogue want the fight to take place:

“Are you really telling women that they should be forced by the government to carry their rapists’ babies?” Kohn asked her.

Before clarifying that rape is a “horrible injustice” against women and that the rapist should be “held to the fullest extent of the law,” Rose reiterated her original point. “Abortion doesn’t un-rape a woman,” she said. “An abortion just adds more violence on top of that first violence that she endured.”

Hogue jumps in at this point and declares abortion an expression of religious liberty:

Soon, Hogue jumped in to counter Rose’s assertions. “Isn’t it great that we live in a country where Lila Rose could decide that she would decide to carry her rapist’s pregnancy to term but her version of morality doesn’t dictate what I can choose to do,” she said. “And that’s what religious liberty is about. It’s about you getting to choose what would be right for you in that circumstance, but I don’t get to tell you what to do and you don’t get to tell me what to do.”

I guess … if you’re praying to Moloch.

Lila gives a spirited defense of children conceived in rape, and she’s right — from a theological and biological point of view, and those victims are the ones for whom Lila needs to fight. Republican politicians should not allow themselves to get pushed into this extreme, narrow ground, though, and this is what happened in 2012. When this gets tried, it’s time to cite those statistics and say, “Why don’t we talk about the 99% of abortions that take place for elective convenience? If you have to justify abortion through just these extreme circumstances, aren’t you admitting that it’s indefensible in all but 1% of all cases?” And when they continue to get pressed for an answer for those cases, refuse to discuss that until their opponents justify the other 99% of abortions that take place.

If they do get pushed into that territory, though, the answer is easy. “I’ll be glad to compromise on the 1% of cases involving incest or rape, as long as we agree to bar abortions in all other cases.” If we can save 99% of the children killed in abortion clinics each year, I’d take that deal — and hope to save the rest through changing of hearts and minds. Since we won’t get that deal, we will need to keep up the fight so that we can eventually change 100% of the hearts and minds by forcing pro-aborts to confront the fact that every abortion kills a human being, fact of science regardless of religious perspective, and they need to explain how one human being can kill another just out of convenience.

That’s where we’ll win. Not on the law in the immediate future, unfortunately, but by changing the culture.