Another Pyrrhic Victory for the Pro-Life Movement

Well, the Massachusetts Miracle (or Massacre, depending on who’s talking) is history, and the Abortion-Care Behemoth (and quite possibly Obama’s presidency) is finished, by all reports. So now, as pro-life victory celebrations over the election of Rudy Giuliani with a Pretty Face wind down, I’d like to vent a bit.
Look at this chart, helpfully provided by Massachusetts Citizens for Life (MCFL) so that good pro-lifers would know how to vote. Nice comparison of the positions of Scott Brown and Martha Coakley, no? But what it doesn’t do is compare the positions of MCFL in 2009 with those of MCFL in, say, 2000. If you did that, you’d discover that they, like so many in the pro-life movement, have been quietly willing to shed their commitments to core issues in order to accommodate the demands of the Party that Pretends to Care about Abortion Every Election but Wishes It Didn’t Have to Keep Up the Pretense Forever.
Mysteriously, MCFL’s core issues keep dwindling away. In 2000, embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) was a critical item. In 2004, it vanished (of which more in a moment). This year, opposition to Roe v. Wade and legalized abortion likewise went poof. Why?

In 2008, blogger Lydia McGrew
chronicled the devolution of the pro-life movement’s continual willingness to define deviancy down in order to accommodate the needs of the Phone It In on Roe v. Wade Day Party. Time was, back in 2000, the National Right to Life Committee insisted we all needed to get on board and support George W. Bush and the GOP because, if we didn’t, then the hideous John McCain with his odious support for ESCR would be nominated (see the 2000 NRLC article “Fetal Tissue Harvesting: An Ethical Free-Fall“).
So pro-lifers got in line and did what we were told. Hooray! Bush was elected. The pro-life movement scored a victory.
Then Bush caved on ESCR.
No matter. We still had to support him and the GOP, because they were holding the line and keeping America at sub-Carthaginian levels of respect for human life, much as the GOP had lackadaisically done for 30 years. Meanwhile, pro-lifers needed to play ball and support a disastrous war and fiscal policies normally associated with drunken sailors. So we saluted smartly and chased the carrot again. That’s why ESCR mysteriously vanished from that list of core issues in 2004. Pro-lifers again gave in to the compromise offered by the GOP, which consisted of, “You abandon your principles for us, work hard and campaign on our behalf, and we’ll pretend to care and give you an illusion of a seat at the table. Now run along.”
Then 2008 came. Shazam! Suddenly McCain was not the bad guy but the good guy. We all had to support McCain, and ESCR was not an issue anymore. Oh sure, in some ideal world it was unfortunate, but practical politics and all that clearly meant that we have to cannibalize some eggs to make an omelet. Besides, what do you want? Obama?
In short: Shut up and vote GOP or the baby gets it. So pro-life organizations complied with docility.
Thus McGrew, like a growing number of pro-lifers, noticed that the GOP seemed much more interested in exploiting the pro-life movement than ever making any serious efforts at enacting its agenda. They’d had, after all, 20 years of control of the executive branch, with an additional bonus of eight years of control of the legislative branch, but remarkably little to show for it besides a couple of token efforts that, as is their custom, left the United States at sub-Carthaginian levels of respect for human life. And pro-lifers were mostly fine with that.
As it happens, the GOP lost rather badly in 2008, and the gods of the copybook headings with terror and slaughter returned. The party broadcasting the twin messages to pro-lifers “Vote GOP or the Baby Gets It” and “Yes, I’ll pose with you in the photo op, but please don’t stand so close to me,” went down to defeat still spending like drunken sailors, being asleep at the switch while the economy crashed, presiding over a bungled war, and ever more deeply committing themselves to the proposition that torture is a positive good. And pro-lifers let them. Cheer-led for them. Went to the mat for them. And followed them down to defeat.
Of course, at the time, pundits were talking about the GOP wandering in the wilderness for a generation or so. But the 40 years got cut short by the fact that the Democrat leaders are clueless nitwits who are as contemptuous of their base and the American people as the GOP is of pro-lifers. So the GOP is, once again, poised to be a power in the land — and neither they nor the pro-life movement seem to have learned a thing.
In particular, the pro-life movement still keeps letting itself be played and exploited while dropping one principle after another to accommodate the Party. Indeed, with the election of Brown, the pro-life movement’s ongoing metamorphosis into an organ-grinder monkey for the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism comes to a pass so fraught with depressing irony that only a brilliant writer like Tom Kreitzberg can sum up my exasperation with it in a post that deserves quotation in full:
Scott Brown (R, MA) is pro-abortion and pro-torture. Why wouldn’t Massachusetts Citizens for Life endorse him?
Too catty?
Scott Brown (R, MA) is pro-choice and pro-enhanced interrogation techniques. Why wouldn’t Massachusetts Citizens for Life endorse him?
I’m not among those who insist an advocacy group ought to endorse only those candidates who endorse the group’s whole platform. I get that the least bad choice is better than the greatest bad choice. I get that, in a place like Massachusetts, the least bad choice is likely to be pretty bad, and anything even approximating an electoral victory for a right-to-life group is likely to be pretty rare.
What I don’t get is why you’d be giddy over the least bad choice’s electoral victory. MCFL is daydreaming about the dreamy signs they’ll bring to the March for Life tomorrow. Tomorrow, as in the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which MCFL’s dreamy new senator endorses.
During the last presidential campaign, Zippy argued that political endorsements corrupted pro-life groups; he particularly had in mind how embryonic stem cell research disappeared from the list of life issues when a pro-life group endorsed John McCain. The same thing happened with MCFL in its endorsement of Scott Brown. What are the odds?
It’s worse in the latter case, of course, since MCFL couldn’t even bring itself to list “legal abortion” as a life issue.
Nor did it mention “constitutional amendment,” even though just last month MCFL president Anne Fox wrote that being pro-life “implies support for a constitutional amendment” as a reason for not endorsing Jack E. Robinson — who calls himself “personally pro-life” and agrees “that the law should protect the right to life of each human being from conception to natural death” — in the Republican primary.
Anne Fox has asked for ideas for signs to carry at the March for Life. Here’s mine:
Now With 10% Less Evil

All it Costs is Your Soul
You’re Welcome!
Too catty? How about this:
37 Years In & Brown’s The Best We Can Do

We’ll Keep Trying
Or, as one of Kreitzberg’s readers put it in his combox:
I do appreciate the irony of taking a detour after the right-to-life march to demand a pro-choice senator be seated.
So it’s come to this: the Big Thinkers of the Thing that Used to be Conservatism at NRO are commending Massachusetts voters for not being held “hostage to extremists who would rather lose than support a pro-choice candidate” while simultaneously concluding that the takeaway message from Brown’s victory is “Waterboarding wins.”
Translation: Elect pro-aborts — as long as they’re also pro-torture.
Incredibly, the election of a man who posed nude and supports torture and the damnable Roe is gushed over as a pro-life victory by multiple pro-life talking heads, while the buzz on Drudge and other “conservative” sites on the day he is elected to the Senate is about the feasibility of packing the guy off to the White House. And all just in time for Roe v. Wade Day!
“Scott Brown for President: Support Torture or the Baby Gets It!” Has a nice ring, don’t you think?
King Pyrrhus, pray for us. If the pro-life movement has many more such victories, it will be undone.

Mark P. Shea


Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He was a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and is a former columnist for Crisis Magazine.

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