In this election, record numbers of Catholics and young Evangelicals,
the nation’s traditional pro-life base, voted in unexpected ways. They
voted to elect our second pro-choice President. Rather than induce
reflection in staunch pro-life groups, they have instead reacted with
denial and yet more extremism.
First the numbers. The New York Times reports that Obama
inspired an 8% jump in Catholic supporters compared to those who voted
for the Catholic John Kerry in 2004. And Obama doubled his support
among young white evangelicals (those ages 18 to 29) compared with
Kerry. The increase was almost the same for white evangelicals ages 30
The Times reports that young evangelicals were persuaded by
"a broader agenda" than abortion. In the case of the pro-life movement,
that broader agenda included rolling back access to contraception, and
backing abstinence-only programs despite mounting evidence of its
failures. They oppose contraception, stem cell and IVF treatment, all
issues that find strong support even among self-described pro-life
voters. Pro-life campaigns targeting these issues clearly alienated
otherwise sympathetic voters; helping propel Obama into the presidency.
This election provides further evidence that the pro-life movement
has lost resonance with voters. Oddly, pro-life groups have responded
to defeats by redoubling their efforts – usually the exact same efforts
– on behalf of this extreme agenda.
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Three days after his election, for example, one anti-abortion
group took aim at President-elect Obama’s leadership on expanding
access to contraception. The organization, the Population Research
Institute (PRI), is best known for its mission to stop family planning
in the poorest regions of the world. On Friday the group attacked Obama
for having been the sponsor of Prevention First, legislation that would dramatically expand access to birth control in the United States. The organization’s press release stated,
"Obama has pledged to pay for abortions with Americans’ tax
dollars, such as in the Prevention First Act which he co-sponsored in
the Senate. The bill will "increase funding for family planning and
comprehensive sex education that teaches both abstinence and safe sex
methods. The Act will also end insurance discrimination against
contraception, improve awareness about emergency contraception, and
provide compassionate assistance to rape victims." According to PRI,
this language disguises the "ugly reality" that the legislation would
"force insurance companies to fund, doctors to prescribe, and
pharmacies to dispense, abortifacient contraceptives."
Despite the fact that the Prevention First legislation does not fund
or expand access to abortion, PRI presses ahead with its transparent
misinformation campaign claiming contraception can act as an abortion.
They do this despite the evidence that such tactics helped drive many
self-described pro-life Americans (those that know the difference
between contraception and abortion) to vote for Obama. His
proven-to-work prevention policies enjoy wide public support.
PRI is not the only pro-life group ignoring the writing on the wall.
Those behind Colorado’s Amendment 48, which was handily defeated, have
only been encouraged by their spectacular failure. No less than seventy
five percent of Coloradoans, including many prominent pro-lifers like
Governor Bill Ritter, rejected the thinly veiled attack on
contraception. After such a resounding defeat, you might think that
campaign strategists would reconsider such an approach. Instead, one
day after the election, Amendment 48’s team apparently took this lesson
from the failure: if it doesn’t work once, try it again (and again).
One day after the election the amendment’s sponsor announced the launch
of the same exact effort in 17 states. According to Life News,
"Keith Mason, one of the Personhood Amendment organizers, says his
group plans to take the measure to every state where citizens can put
proposals on the ballot and to submit them over and over again until
Such obstinacy in the face of public consensus appears to be trying
the electorate’s collective patience. In South Dakota, for the second
time, the state’s deeply religious and conservative voters rejected the
ballot initiative that would have banned abortion. How did Leslee
Unruh, the abortion ban organizer, respond? Like a stalker. She told
the LA Times, "Third time’s the charm. We’re coming back. We’re not going away."
The electorate may need a restraining order.