The third part of a three-part series on voting Pro-Life
Where being “single issue” leads
Should Roe v. Wade be overturned, massive pro-motherhood reforms will be essential. Without them, pro-lifers may face intense backlash following the likely repeal of Roe v. Wade as they are cast as heartless and cold to mothers in crisis pregnancies. Politicians may cave under the pressure. But we can make targeted, principled and urgent reforms that show we stand for far more than just birth, and that our movement is the only one truly looking to bring justice to motherhood.
We’ve looked at what we can change in our academic and economic institutions, along with where abortion is unthinkable in the world today. Now is the time to put those things in practice at all levels of society and to offer solutions. We can begin at the political level. A “Motherhood Movement” can potentially become a source of popular appeal in both major political parties, forcing a race to the finish where each party attempts don the mantle of motherhood advocate, and perhaps in their own way.
Unfortunately, few of the pro-motherhood ideas described in Part I and Part II are found in the platform of any political party. Because of that, many pro-lifers voters end up being half-issue voters. And yet the missing half is the one most likely to gain broad enthusiasm. So pro-lifers hobble on one leg without the ability to reach their full stride. The world at large ends up becoming skeptical about pro-life motives when we fail to offer a path of human flourishing alongside our legal goals. Therefore, lack of a pro-motherhood plank in any party must be seen as a political non-starter for pro-lifers in the future.
We can be full-fledged single-issue voters where prudent, surely, but we can never be half-issue voters.
The Republican platform details none of the wide-ranging, motherhood-based initiatives of the kind described in previous sections. Its efforts have often been incremental or generically family-oriented, rather than focused on the aforementioned targeted reforms. While this is good progress, it does not approach the full embrace of motherhood required for social change. Furthermore, conservative skepticism of government incentives, reliance on free market principles, and general promotion of individualism may slow any initiatives that require government participation. But the pro-life voting bloc of the party is enormous, and the evangelical and conservative Catholic presence is extremely vocal, meaning pro-lifers should not shy away from throwing their weight. No pro-lifer should be timid in demanding that institutional reforms for mothers and preborns become a plank in the GOP’s official platform. The question is one of momentum, not numbers; it’s one of radical and sweeping reform alongside incremental change.
We must push diligently for a pro-motherhood plank in the Republican platform, one that addresses the issues presented in Part I—and many more. Without it, the pro-life movement will be attacked as merciless and unthinking; with it, the pro-life movement can show it is not only charitable, but a truly justice-minded movement that brings pro-motherhood reform at every level of governance.
Some feminists and environmentalists of the Democratic Party have cooled to the idea of childbearing as intrinsically good; some popular progressive figures have become highly suspect of it. Nevertheless, the working class and minority voters of the party would likely be quite sympathetic to reforms addressing the plight of unwed mothers, as they are disproportionately affected by lack of opportunity and high rates of teenage pregnancy. While supporters of legalized abortion dominate the party’s politics, incremental changes over many years can help foster a groundswell of support for underrepresented communities that sorely need pro-motherhood reform.
Will single-issue pro-life voters aim to remake our nation in the image of motherhood? I believe they know they have no choice. But it has yet to be articulated well enough to convey to the nation.
When we do articulate the need for greater pro-motherhood policy, we will show how it requires perhaps an unprecedented restructuring of society. There is no way around it. It will simply not ever be a small undertaking; indeed, it will dwarf any social or governmental initiative we have experienced in our lifetimes. The cost will be an investment in motherhood by all corners of society, from business to academia to government to charitable and religious organizations. Portions of secondary schooling and college will have to be reinvented. Same with the workplace. Schools, clergy, and social workers will have to relentlessly pursue a clear motherhood roadmap, with a vast wealth of support dotting the path. But it will be hard to offer a credible roadmap without first achieving institutional reform that shines a bright light on what has made motherhood challenging from the start. Young mothers can’t simply be told to “be heroic” even if moral responsibility to their children is essential; idealistic moral demands can’t fully replace good policy and cultural reform. We are our sister’s keeper, and we can rebuild our own movement for their sake.
Hope from pandemic?
The era of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that, when pushed, we will restructure our academic institutions and workplaces to protect vulnerable persons. The pandemic has, indeed, shown us the love we are capable of, a preview of what we are willing to do with other overwhelming social problems.
And that is what we say, as pro-lifers: we must be willing to sacrifice everything—realign and revisit every institution in America—so that preborns will no longer face such a discriminatory and lethal mindset, and that no woman has to see abortion as anything but unthinkable. It’s been 50 years since Roe v. Wade has passed, and the pro-life movement needs neither innovative tactics nor cleverer strategies; it must tackle things without cunning involved, only justice and love. The pandemic should be seen as the sign that it is: it shows that we’ve always had it within us to radically change the world for the vulnerable. We proved our love in 2020.
Going forward with the lessons of 2020, we can renew the movement. The redemption of fallen institutions can be a new rallying point. Old pro-life slogans can take on new vitality. And as people come to realize the depth of problem, where abortion has left us feeling conned, we can raise pro-life peaceful protest to the same level of spontaneity and urgency as modern social movements. And we should keep our eyes forward: the day Roe v. Wade is overturned may be very near, and on that day we must launch a new annual march, one that rivals the already massive March for Life. It wouldn’t hurt to call it the March for Motherhood.
Finally, because our method of institutional reform is not so different than other causes—indeed, because we can borrow, wherever pertinent, certain principles of eliminating institutional biases as those battling racism do—we ought to lend a sympathetic ear wherever truth fortifies truth. True justice unites righteous causes, lifts all righteousness up; contrived divisions decrease the vigor of justice entire. Being a single-issue pro-lifer must only foster cooperation, because evil must be seen as noxious wherever it conceals justice, and motherhood and preborn rights are not sole victims of hidden injustice. We are not the sole proprietors of renewal, even if the magnitude and lethality of abortion make it the pre-eminent human rights tragedy of our age. We can be pursuers of justice when certain opportunities arise beyond the pro-life cause without diluting our own efforts; false dichotomies between movements must end. We can maintain strong focus on institutional issues, as previously said, but that doesn’t mean we have to forego all work on ending the higher-level systemic corruption that bleeds into all injustice. Creating sympathies and joint programs where movements overlap will, in the long run, help lead all of the oppressed out of the “structures of sin” that we mentioned previously. Of course, pro-lifers should be exceedingly cautious with certain Marxist and anti-family elements of other social movements. It is too easy to become ensnared in ideological fanaticism that has no end in mind but to sow division. But protecting motherhood and children is common to all, and all people of every background can work to end the structures that keep injustice in place.
Abortion is already horrifying enough from the legal and bioethical perspective. That its lethal horror is compounded everywhere by the very institutions meant to facilitate our prosperity makes it an unrivaled terror. So we will explore every path that the shortcut of legalized abortion has concealed—and continues to hide. And when we’re done, the world we’ll build will be flooded with far greater light and we’ll wonder how we ever navigated a world darkened by so many of abortion’s shadows.