For now Todd Akin is sticking it out in his quest to become a senator. The great irony is that the most anti-abortion Senate candidate may undo the progress of pro-lifers for a generation.
Missouri is a must-win for Republicans trying to regain the Senate. If Mitt Romney becomes president he is going to need a majority to confirm a conservative appointee to the Supreme Court, especially if he is replacing a liberal member.
I’ve often worried about the political strategy of pro-lifers. They insist on trying to make the presidential candidates of one party obedient to them, and to elect a Senate to confirm that president’s Supreme Court nominees in the hopes of overturning Roe and initiating more dramatic legal moves against abortion in the states. Officially they want to ban abortion through a Constitutional amendment. I tend to think that social movements like this one are much more successful when they exist within (and outside of) all major parties. And I severely doubt that a Constitutional amendment will pass in my lifetime.
At the same time I often wonder if pro-lifers aren’t being more successful by just barely failing at their strategy. The Supreme Court and the rest of the judiciary are just hostile enough to abortion rights that abortion access is slowly being diminished in many states and the culture is changing with it. There are some states where it is extremely difficult to get a surgical abortion. The exceptions are notable; surveys showed that in New York City nearly 40 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion.
But there is a reason for hope. In general American culture is getting much more liberal on sexual and cultural questions. In 2003 liberals thought that Vermont was being surprisingly and admirably progressive by instituting same-sex civil unions. Now elite opinion holds that the whole country is woefully behind the times by not having full marriage equality.
Yet at the same time anti-abortion sentiment has held remarkably steady or even grown in the past decade. I couldn’t be more pessimistic about these issues and so this is a surprise to me.
So even with my doubts about the pro-life political strategy, I’m still interested to see if a future Republican president has the guts to make the Supreme Court an anti-Roe Court. And Akin’s continued candidacy may make that impossible for a decade or more.
And for the record, I don’t think we should be applauding Akin for his bravery. There are plenty of politicians willing to take a tough pro-life stance, and are willing to do so without using offensive junk science as their reasoning.