Opinion

It's time for the pro-life movement to scare the GOP straight

It might be the only way to get the party to stop bowing to its moderate professional class

It's a grand tradition. Every year, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, enormous numbers of people march on Washington, D.C., to protect the dignity of every human life. Every year, the media fails to cover it appropriately.

This year, there was supposed to be an additional symbolic event: Since the Republican Party controls both houses of Congress, it was as good a time as any to pass a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks — when babies can feel every single moment of being torn apart limb from limb in their mother's womb. The bill also included a rape-reporting requirement, which isn't surprising given that Planned Parenthood has been implicated in failing to report sexual assault in the past.

This isn't an extreme right-wing position. It's a political no-brainer. After all, banning late-term abortion is enormously popular.

And yet, proving its talent for incompetent improvisation once again, the House GOP fumbled this incredibly easy ball. The bill died.

This is a wake-up call for the pro-life movement — if the GOP cannot support our cause when it is a political no-brainer, what will it do when the going gets tough?

The left tends to view the pro-life movement as a force so scary and powerful that it essentially controls the Republican Party. But the fact of the matter is that, in this tense relationship, it's not clear who controls who. As Eric Erickson writes, for many pro-lifers — and I am very much among them — being part of the pro-life movement feels like being the GOP's "whores." It's simple political logic: If a group votes overwhelmingly for one party, then that group gets ignored; the group that the party cares most about is swing voters, not groups that have no choice but to vote for it.

While the GOP's rank and file and many of its elected officials are committed pro-lifers, the party's very important professional operative class, and a disproportionate number of its big-money donors, are in favor of legal abortions. Against all political logic, the GOP's professional operatives constantly seek to marginalize the pro-life movement and this plank of the Republican Party.

But, as Erickson points out, there is one way for pro-life activists to reassert our influence within the GOP: primaries. At the end of the day, most politicians understand only the stick and the carrot. If the carrot will not do, there must be a stick. Pro-lifers cannot become bipartisan — the Democratic Party is too unremittingly hostile to the cause.

That leaves the next-best option. Within the GOP, the pro-life movement is respected, but it is not feared. It brings in money and votes and moral gravitas. But, as the Tea Party has shown, only when it collects a few scalps will it start to be feared.

The time has come for fear. And that means the pro-life movement using the primary process to remove from office any Republican who fails to support our cause.

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