This week’s Republican presidential race showed three kinds of pro-life candidates: Regular, Reluctant, and Responsive.
I call the first kind of pro-life candidate “Regular” because that is the most basic kind (and it starts with an “R”). Regular pro-life candidates are ones who just take a pro-life position.
The pro-life movement has always had a challenge with regular candidates who turn out not to strongly believe in the pro-life cause and not to push the pro-life movement’s goals.
These disappointing candidates are the second kind, “Reluctant” pro-life candidates. We saw two this week in Chris Christie and Lindsey Graham who is a Jeb Bush supporter. Both of them attacked Marco Rubio (and Ted Cruz) for being too pro-life because they believe babies have inherent dignity even if they were conceived in rape.
The pro-life movement swooped in to counter this attack. Marjorie Dannenfelser, the brilliant leader of the Susan B. Anthony List, wrote an open letter telling them to stop attacking pro-life candidates for being too pro-life.
Marjorie went further: she told the candidates what they should be saying about abortion instead. “[K]eep the pro-life movement on offense by focusing on exposing the extreme position held by the other side: Abortion on-demand, up until the moment of birth, for any reason, paid for by the taxpayer. This is the winning message.”
What followed gave us an example of the third kind of pro-life candidate, one who is Responsive to pro-life leaders.
Marco Rubio responded to the attack exactly how Marjorie suggested. He not only said he would not “apologize” for being pro-life, he went on offense: “Hillary Clinton is an extremist on this issue. She believes there should be no such thing as an illegal abortion — even on the due date.”
The amazing thing about this statement is not just that Rubio takes this strong pro-life position–though that is impressive–but that his campaign followed the message that Marjorie gave him, almost to the letter, saying Hillary doesn’t believe in making abortion illegal “even on the due date,” which as Marjorie said, is “up until the moment of birth.”
That is a candidate who is not just pro-life, and not just very pro-life, but who listens to the pro-life movement’s goals and strategies and applies them. That is the kind of candidate the pro-life movement values the most.