In Part I, I argue that it would be politically foolish for the Right to further backpedal or abandon the pro-life cause. Here I want to make the case that the right to life truly is inseparable both from core conservatism and from any meaningful effort to advance conservative ideas—that, in fact, pro-abortion tendencies actually endanger the prospects of those who value limited government, the free market, and strong national defense.
As I explained on June 15, abortion is an affront to the Declaration of Independence. As the unjust taking of a human life, it is wrong for the same reason slavery, theft, assault, honor killings, rape, eminent domain abuse, and individual health insurance mandates are wrong: they are all violations of human liberty and natural rights. Accordingly, society justly protects its citizens from them via law for the same reason. As long as conservatism still “holds these truths to be self-evident” that all men have “certain unalienable rights” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and as long as conservatism still accepts that “governments are instituted among men” for the purpose of “secur[ing] these rights,” then philosophically-consistent conservatives have no choice but to oppose legalized abortion. Nobody can support abortion in good conscience without either honestly confronting this conundrum head-on, or asking himself what definition of “conservatism” he’s been operating under all this time.
That pro-choice views are an egregious exception to conservatives’ and libertarians’ pro-liberty rhetoric should be obvious. What may be less obvious—but is no less true—is that such dubious thinking cannot help but undermine other core conservative principles and efforts.
Consider the judiciary. We are often told pro-lifers should support pro-choice Republicans because they would nominate originalist judges who would vote against Roe v. Wade, which is all a president can do about abortion anyway. For the record, this isn’t true: presidents can oppose pro-abortion legislation, articulate pro-life ideas, set the standard for other politicians, endorse a Human Life Amendment and state & local pro-life efforts, and while I’m not yet entirely convinced that a congressional abortion ban would pass constitutional muster, the possibility deserves further consideration—and there are other opportunities for pro-life federal legislation. But even if judicial nominations were a president’s only effect on abortion, the pro-choice apologists’ case would still be invalid.
If someone doesn’t understand or value the right to life, there is no reason to automatically assume he understands or values other rights. To the contrary: failing the life question should tell us something is very, very wrong. Whether or not he believes in judicial originalism also remains an open question. In particular, there’s the matter of a pro-choicer’s opinion on Roe v. Wade, which employed shoddy constitutional analysis to usurp the American people’s right to decide abortion policy for themselves via their state legislatures. Nobody AWOL on the blatant affront to representative democracy & federalism that is Roe has any business calling himself a conservative of any stripe, nor can he be trusted as a good judge of judges. Thus, while conservatives are supposed to revere the Constitution, pro-choice ideology undermines the Right’s understanding of the Constitution, advocacy of judicial originalism and battle against judicial activism.
As bad as that is, the pro-abortion threat to conservatism runs even deeper. As I wrote in December, there is a definite link between a culture’s character and its susceptibility to leftist thinking:
A culture that worships gratification (particularly sexual) without responsibility or constraints, that believes truth is personal and relativistic rather than grounded in permanent wisdom, that has been conditioned to expect everyone else to provide for their every need and clean up after their every mistake, that sneers at traditional morality and religious belief…these trends and attitudes cannot help but play into the Left’s hands.
Simply put, a narcissistic, relativistic, secular, ignorant culture will always be receptive to a political movement that promises to give them things paid for with other people’s money, affirms their “if it feels good, do it” mentality, and assures them that supporting statism and “environmental consciousness” are the only forms of morality or compassion they’ll ever really need.
Conservatives need to curtail these cultural trends if they are to win any lasting victory, and let’s not kid ourselves: abortion is the ultimate expression of leftist ignorance and narcissism. If we surrender on abortion, we might as well kiss goodbye the free market, or any chance of reforming the welfare state. Once society has accepted the proposition, I may take an innocent life if it benefits me to do so, why should we think twice about taking from our countrymen anything less vital—income, personal freedom, you name it—for the sake of interest? The rights to go without health insurance or allow smoking in your restaurant pale in comparison to the right not to be deliberately killed. Surrender the right to life, and you’ve already as good as surrendered the others.
Do we really expect those who don’t take human embryology seriously to reliably assess scientific evidence in other areas, like global warming or alternative energy?
Pro-choicers mistake abortion for a question of values rather than justice, leading many of them to conclusions like, “I personally dislike abortion, but who am I to impose my beliefs on others? After all, I only believe as I do because of my culture.” This is a textbook manifestation of what the David Horowitz Freedom Center recognizes as cultural relativism or multiculturalism—hallmarks of Leftism. If we indulge and affirm this mindset regarding abortion, do we really expect it to confine itself to that single policy area? It’s ludicrous to think this mindset will be terribly useful in challenging radical Islam as an objectively-inferior culture.
Thus we see that abortionism imperils even the War on Terror. By now it’s clear that, if we care about a strong national defense or maintaining the free market, our best bet is to make sure the Right remains firmly pro-life. But this also brings us to David Swindle’s last remaining challenge: what if the choice does come down to a pro-life appeaser or a pro-abortion terror warrior?
First, let’s make one thing perfectly clear: David’s challenge is a theoretical exercise, not a pressing political danger. The pro-life movement is not asking the Right to accept statists or appeasers for the sake of advancing their cause. There is no reason to believe this must be an either-or proposition, or that “truces” on social issues would serve any purpose (indeed, the evidence actually suggests they would be unwise). Pro-lifers do sometimes threaten to sit out general elections rather than voting for odious Republicans, but even this is misleading: often we are falsely accused of such threats for doing no more than opposing such candidates in primaries, not general elections (and even the actual threats are often simply intended to discourage primary voters from voting for bad candidates out of fear of the potential general-election results). Though David’s extensive & intense work against radical Islam reveal his intent to be on the level, these challenges to pro-lifers are often disingenuous smokescreens by social liberals whose true goal is to remake the Right in their own pro-abortion image.
That said, I do recognize that America is at war. If, heaven forbid, my only choice were a pro-abortion terror warrior or four more years of Barack Obama, I would vote for the former. Pro-lifers cannot ignore the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, or the fact that a left-wing White House means a world in which Israel has no allies in her fight for survival. To this extent, David is right: “an America with legalized abortion is better than a bankrupt America under the yoke of Sharia law.”
If pro-lifers can admit this much, then our pro-choice counterparts need to admit there is far, far more at stake in the abortion battle than they have previously realized, and they need to accept the importance of keeping the Right unified and preventing such nightmare scenarios—for all our sakes.