Is it "anti-woman" to be pro-life?
That's the conclusion many have taken from the news this week. Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's embattled pick for the Supreme Court, has been publicly accused by three women of sexual assault. These concerns have become inextricably linked, in the minds of many progressives, to Kavanaugh's pro-life record. As one Yale law school student suggested, "You can't devalue a woman's right to choose and respect women."
It is still uncertain what the outcome of Kavanaugh's case will be. But at this point, regardless of the end result, it's obvious that this episode will be remembered as yet another mark against pro-lifers. The movement has become associated with hypocrites like former Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), the pro-life lawmaker who tried to convince his mistress to get an abortion, and Roy Moore, the pious GOP Senate candidate who was credibly accused of preying on several teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Then there's Trump himself, whose pro-life record is incredibly weak, but whose past bragging about sexual assault further stains the movement's image.
If the poll numbers are to be trusted, these associations are having a seismic impact on the nation's young people and their perception of what it means to be pro-life. Up until quite recently, pro-life sentiment had been growing among millennials, many of whom see abortion as a human rights issue. But according to a new PRRI poll from this year, although overall opinions on abortion have remained stable, "approximately one-third of young Americans say their views on abortion have changed in recent years, and nearly three times as many say their views have become more supportive of abortion rather than more opposed to abortion (25 percent vs. 9 percent)." It's hard to believe this trend is not tied in any way to the acceptance of Trump (and other unsavory male politicians) by the supposed pro-life party.
The ironic thing is that the pro-life movement I've long been a part of has always been predominantly a movement of women. Growing up, I watched women pray for, counsel, and mentor local teens who were facing unexpected pregnancies. They showed up at the hospital when a woman had her baby, walked with her through the long newborn months, and helped provide childcare, job counseling, and baby clothes afterwards.
The pro-life women I knew growing up were from every income level and ethnic background, but they were united in their passion for the unborn, and for the women affected by these pregnancies.
So why don't we see this diversity reflected in pro-life political leadership? The Republican gender gap in Congress is staggering. There are just six female Republicans serving in the Senate (versus 17 female Democrats), and 23 Republican women in the House (as opposed to 61 Democrats). That means women make up a mere 10 percent of Republican representation in the House, and 9 percent in the Senate. Meanwhile, Trump passed over Amy Coney Barrett, a United States Circuit judge who is also a pro-life mother of seven, to nominate Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
There are doubtless myriad reasons for this gender gap. But the best way to refute the argument that pro-lifeism is "anti-woman" is by supporting and upholding women who see this cause as their own. (And to stop stop reflexively supporting white Republican men like Moore or Trump just because they tack the words "pro-life" onto their platform.) If the Republican Party does not seek to diversify and mend its image in this #MeToo era, it could damage the pro-life cause for years to come.
We need more pro-life women (like Barrett) to rise to prominence in the political and judicial sphere, and more politicians (like former Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador, for one) who represent the racially diverse roots of the pro-life movement. According to a 2014 Pew poll, "whites (54 percent) are more likely than blacks (47 percent) and Hispanics (44 percent) to think abortion should be legal. Among all Hispanics, 51 percent think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, including 20 percent who think abortion should never be allowed."
Many young pro-lifers are increasingly unhappy with the GOP, and do not want to vote for Republican candidates. But in recent years, Democratic leadership has adopted an increasingly dogmatic and liberal stance toward abortion, and suggested several times last year that pro-lifers were not welcome in their ranks.
Unless another political party rises to prominence, pro-life voters will be forced into political homelessness if the GOP doesn't step up. Pro-lifers deserve political representation that reflects their principled, passionate stance on this issue. Perhaps replacing Kavanaugh with Barrett could serve as a start.