A story in today’s Washington Post reveals more about what’s wrong with the pro-life movement than anyone may have realized. William Wan reports:
Many at the rally cited the election of Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts as sign of a shifting momentum to conservative causes like their own.
“Any people from Massachusetts here today?” asked U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of several members of congress who spoke a the rally on the Mall. “Thank you Massachusetts. Thank you for helping us kill the anti-life bill,” he said referring to the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority in the Senate that will be broken once Brown is sworn in.
In other words, many at the March for Life are celebrating the election of a politician, Scott Brown, who believes Roe should remain the law of the land. He happens to oppose one particular bill that would make abortion more readily available. That’s important, and there’s something to be said for political realism. But this takes incrementalism to a whole new level, where it’s pro-life to be pro-Roe as long as you have an “R” next to your name.
The right-to-life movement has been impaled on the horns of a dilemma for 37 years. Republican politicians and conservative movement hacks have long wanted pro-lifers to keep their mouths shut and loyally vote for the party that throws them table scraps. Pro-lifers who want to be realistic think they have to settle for this, even to the point, apparently, of valorizing the pro-Roe Scott Brown. The pro-lifers who commit themselves to principle over partisanship, on the other hand, all too often run down the blind alleys of third-party politics (which isn’t politics at all, but is to politics what “Dungeons and Dragons” is to medieval history) and New Left-style protest theater. (The March for Life itself, of course, is modeled on the civil-rights and antiwar marches of the 1960s, whose successes are vastly exaggerated — if marches could end wars, we wouldn’t be in Iraq today.) Each side is feckless enough to serve as the other’s justification: the quietists, third partiers, and protesters can say, quite rightly, that the incrementalists will never overturn Roe. The incrementalists, on the other hand, can say just as correctly that their critics’ methods can’t even achieve the smallest victories, like enacting parental-consent laws.
If you want to be politically effective, you will probably have to use a major party — but you have to use it, not let it use you. Unfortunately, the people who have the purest motives, who are most habitually inclined to trust the honorable intentions of others, wind up as fodder for the likes of Scott Brown once they get involved in the bloodletting that is politics.