By David N. O’Steen, Ph.D.
“Top anti-abortion leaders are continuing to lobby Donald Trump on a 15- week ban they believe should be the standard for Republican Party” began a story in the May 18 issue of Politico.
A similar story ran in the same day in the Washington Post.
These are not publications sympathetic to pro-lifers. How happy are they that a 15-week “ban” on abortion is supposedly the standard position for the Republican Party and its candidates? That is a far cry from what the grassroots pro-life movement in the states has worked for during the last fifty years.
National Right to Life has not been part of this strategy of making a pledge to support a fifteen week “ban” as a litmus test for pro-life political support. There are several very good reasons.
First, a 15-week “ban” is really no “ban” at all. According to CDC figures about 95 % of all abortions are already performed by 15 weeks. An additional significant portion of the 5% that occur later would be for life of mother and medical-emergency reasons or conditions incompatible with life in an unborn child discovered late in pregnancy.
So a 15-week ban would do little or nothing to protect unborn babies from elective abortion.
Second, the national 15-week-ban strategy becomes even more puzzling since such a ban cannot be passed in the foreseeable future. It would need 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a certain pro-abortion filibuster. Right now it would have at most 48.
No one can reasonably expect the pro-life movement to have a net gain of 12 Senate seats in the next election or even during the next presidential term, especially if pro-life candidates are being publicly bashed for not hewing to a national 15-week-ban pledge.
Third, attacking, threatening, or not supporting pro-life Republican candidates is sure to get press attention. The pro-abortion and pro-Democrat press likes nothing better than to promote and publicize damaging attacks on Republicans, and on pro-life candidates, in particular.
Democratic strategists together with their counterparts at Planned Parenthood and NARAL must be salivating at such a prospect. We know that their research and polling shows that running against a “national ban on abortion” is the ideal strategy for them. To quote the New York Times in a November 10, 2022, post-election piece,
“Soon after the decision in June, Democratic party committees invested in detailed polling, hoping to drill down on what exact messaging worked best. There was a clear conclusion:
The most potent messaging for Democrats was to keep the conversation broad by casting Republicans as supporting a national ban on abortion and avoid a discussion over gestational week limits.”
We can be sure that the press will be happy to again accommodate Democratic strategy by zeroing in on a national ban on abortion whenever they can tag a pro-life presidential or congressional candidate with it, while leaving the details fuzzy and ignoring the fact that it can’t be passed.
So why pursue such a goal and make it a litmus test for pro-life candidates?
Rather than promoting a politically damaging 15-week national ban on abortion that cannot be achieved, the right to life movement should seek real lifesaving goals at the federal level that are politically wise and realistically achievable in the foreseeable future.
At the same time meaningful limits and restrictions on abortion should be passed wherever possible at the state level.
The Hyde Amendment and other current protective federal laws save many lives. They must be preserved, and the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” is a more realistic goal that would save even more lives while being politically popular.
And it is far more important to elect a president who will reverse the numerous pro-abortion administrative acts of the Biden administration and use their administrative powers to save lives, than to elect one who gives lip service to a phantom national 15-week “ban” that would leave abortion intact and unborn children abandoned.