For anyone who has spent time in rural America, the notion that the pro-life movement is going to disappear in the near future is completely ridiculous. It is well funded, well organized and as culturally acceptable in red states and rural areas as gay marriage is in San Francisco. However, the movement faces a very real problem moving forwards given its deep ties to the Republican Party that has long used pro-life Christians to swing elections.
In a thoughtful and frank essay in The American Conservative, pro-life advocate Gracy Olmstead outlines why the election of Roy Moore to the Senate in Alabama could undo the entire movement for years to come:
Why are so many Alabamans determined to vote for a man who allegedly harassed a 14-year-old girl? The simple—yet frightening—answer is this: Roy Moore votes pro-life. And if Moore were elected, as Pat Buchanan recently pointed out, there’s a chance (slim at best) that Roe v. Wade could be overturned. Other Republicans have urged conservatives not to let Moore’s bad character prevent them from voting—he’s not a moral leader, they argue, just a political pawn. To them, the ends justify the means.
But in this battle for an illusory Supreme Court victory, other vital components of our political and cultural moment are being set by the wayside. From a political perspective, as Georgi Boorman recently pointed out, voting for loathsome politicians will distance swing voters from the GOP—and, more importantly, from the pro-life cause most often associated with it.
“Independent voters hate hypocrisy a lot more than they hate abortion,” Boorman writes. “Conservatives of the party of ‘family values’ fall harder and farther when they sin than liberal Democrats do.” Roy Moore may win Alabama, but his unpopularity (as well as the widespread disapproval of Donald Trump) could result in a momentous swing to the left in future months and years, thus erasing any possibility of congressional victory for the pro-life cause.
But the problem with Moore is also cultural and social. It lies in the distrust and suspicion of pro-lifers that is likely to result from his election. Leaders in the pro-choice movement—particularly Planned Parenthood—have successfully billed themselves as the pro-woman side in the abortion fight. Imagine how much more clout and power their argument will have if men like Moore dominate the “pro-life” side. How can pro-lifers say they care more about women and their welfare when they vote for child molesters and sexual harassers?
This long term thinking is extremely rare on the right, evidenced by the election of Donald Trump and the fact that Roy Moore is still in a high profile political race. Just as George Bush gave us Barack Obama, the dramatic swing to the right in 2016 will no doubt cause a reaction just as powerful. And if Alabama is going to elect an accused pedophile to the United States Senate in the name of Christian values, Evangelicals and the pro-life movement should expect to become politically irrelevant for decades to come, no matter how well organized or how well funded they still are. As Olmstead writes:
The politicization of the religious right has led to a dangerous cultural blindness, in which Christian conservatives often ignore societal and even moral warning signs in order to make tiny political gains. Many seem completely oblivious to the long-term ramifications of their actions. Unless and until pro-lifers realize their battle is first and foremost a cultural one, they will turn the entire nation against their cause—and likely lead to its doom, for at least the next few generations.
Amen to that.