The Supremes overturned a Texas pro life law last week.
This law required that abortion clinics abide by the same health and safety regulatory requirements as other outpatient surgical clinics. This meant, among other things, that doctors who perform abortions had to have admitting privileges at a hospital within the geographic area of their clinic.
I had a discussion a few years ago with a high-ranking official at National Right to Life about pushing for this same type of law in Oklahoma. He cautioned me against it. His reasoning was that the Supremes would overturn such a law and that would harm the fight for life instead of moving it forward.
I accepted his judgement, because I trusted him. Last week, the Supremes validated his wisdom.
I sometimes wonder if we are spinning our wheels by trying to pack the Supreme Court. Pro life people have sold the farm to try to get a pro life court. We’ve been doing it for almost 50 years. But all we’ve gotten out of it is the court that gave us gay marriage. Most of the lives we’ve saved have come from our efforts to educate and convert the culture, not our political activities.
I know I’m going to be denounced for saying this, but there is only one route to political victory. To succeed, we must develop a strong pro life voice in both political parties, and it must trickle down to all the states. We have to convert the Democrats and we also have to convert the culture. Hardball partisan politics without conversion of the culture will only give us more of what we’ve already got: A stalemate.
Converting the Ds sounds like the longest of long shots. I’m sure to many readers it sounds as if I’m saying we need to throw a rock and hit the moon. I imagine I’ll be called a few names for suggesting it.
But no matter what I get called, it is simply true that we won’t win this with half the people. We need to convert this culture, all of it, including the Democrats. That is an obvious political fact, and an even more obvious part of our call as Christians.
All this leads me to another question. Are we going at this the best way? Would another tactic be better? Let’s say we succeed in getting a court that will overturn Roe. What would that mean?
It means that we will probably get a decision that throws the issue back to the states. That would set us on the course of unending political warfare on a state by state level. That’s a big win for politicians who raise money and get votes from the issue. The babies, the elderly and the infirm, on the other hand, would lose.
This reminds me of a historic fight over tactical approaches within the women’s suffrage movement. Women tried going to the Supreme Court, which ruled repeatedly that the 14th Amendment did not apply to women. So, they had to develop a legislative tactic and fight it out in the court of public opinion and the political trenches.
A strong contingent within the movement, led by long-term fighters for suffrage whose loyalty to the cause was unquestionable, wanted to take the state-by-state approach to women’s suffrage. Another contingent, led by relative newcomer Alice Paul, wanted to pass a Constitutional Amendment giving women the vote.
Alice Paul and her idea of a Constitutional Amendment carried the argument. If it had not, women’s suffrage would have been delayed, perhaps for a long time. Not only that, suffrage would have been a polyglot of limited rights that varied from state to state and region to region. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in a clear and decisive manner.
The pro life movement faced a similar rubicon in the early 1980s when the Republican Congress and president unexpectedly punted on the issue. This movement of political neophytes was so shocked by the betrayal that it fell into divisiveness and disarray. Pro life leaders saved the movement by uniting it behind the court packing tactic.
I know it’s a freighted decision to switch tactics after so long. I also know that good pro life people carry scars from the near implosion of the 1980s. But I still think we need to pause and re-think.
Let’s at least consider going for a pro life Constitutional Amendment. Let’s also dedicate ourselves to the work of re-evangelizing and converting all of America, including our political foes.
Our generation has the privilege of fighting for the noble cause of the sanctity of human life. We must construe with all our wits as to the best way to fight that fight.