Every election cycle, we are witnesses to the frustrating spectacle of candidates for public office who miss a great opportunity — to campaign as pro-lifers. Many of them avoid “the life issue” because they are operating under the misapprehension that it is a vote-loser. We can tell that the issue is important to many of them, but they just don’t seem to be able to talk about it.
Contrary to the received wisdom, the exit polls from previous elections clearly show that taking a pro-life position is a winner — it will gain more votes than it loses. For example, in the 2004 presidential election, the National Right to Life Committee documented that abortion affected the vote of 42% of the electorate, and of those people, the pro-life candidate had an advantage of 25% to 13%. (Original data is here).
What’s especially frustrating is that it really isn’t that hard to bring pro-life views into the political arena, and to persuade people to agree with them. Here is a simple script that anyone can follow:
First, avoid the labels — they don’t really mean what people think they mean. Most people who call themselves “pro-choice” actually disapprove of the current abortion laws, and favor virtually all the restrictions on abortion that are proposed by pro-lifers. So start off by saying that you’re not interested in labels, but in specifics.
Second, let’s talk specifics. Focus in on four issues on which there is wide agreement among the public, and highlight your agreement. Here’s how:
“Most people believe that parents should be notified if their 12-year old daughter is trying to get an abortion. I agree with that.
“Most people think that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for all abortions for low-income women through the Medicaid program, and that Medicaid should only pay for abortions in the extremely rare cases of rape or incest. I agree with that.
“Most people think that late-term abortions — abortions after the time when the baby is viable outside of the womb — should be outlawed. I agree with that.
“Most people think that women should be informed of all the possible side-effects of abortion (including psychological side-effects) and should be told about the stages of fetal development. I agree with that.”
You get the pattern. This script can be used for any other pro-life initiative — the partial-birth abortion ban, the born-alive bill, efforts to force Catholic hospitals to do abortions, etc. Note from Ed: I’m not saying that those are all perfect pro-life positions, but they’re illustrations of how you can argue the pro-life position in the public arena and be persuasive.
Finally, close by talking honestly about the sanctity of human life. Talk from the heart, maybe about how you felt when you saw your first child on the sonogram, or about the pain of a pre-natal loss. Show that you actually care about human life, and that you aren’t just some old meanie who wants to put women in jail.
Look, as disciples of Jesus we have to make our message attractive and persuasive, to offer as many people as possible the path to salvation. The culture of death is killing souls, just as much as it is killing unborn children.
So we have to learn from the culture and be as wise as serpents (see Mt. 10:16).