Republicans’ big win in Virginia proves yet again that the pro-life message is an asset to savvy GOP candidates, even in “purple” states.
Terry McAuliffe evidently thought the rallying cry of abortion on demand would unify Democrats at a time when they have little to boast about. He arguably made it the central issue in his campaign, spending millions in advertising which emphasized his support for unlimited abortion and bringing in high-profile surrogates like Barack Obama. Several of his most expensive ads, each of which aired more than 1,100 times, attacked Glenn Youngkin on abortion. When challenged on issues like education, he would pivot to abortion. Mr. McAuliffe even campaigned at an abortion center that carries out abortions up to 16 weeks of pregnancy.
In contrast, Mr. Youngkin slammed Mr. McAuliffe and the Democrats for supporting abortion on demand through birth and even infanticide while outlining his commitments to advocate legislation to limit late-term abortions when unborn children can feel pain and work to stop taxpayer-funded abortions.
As Mr. Youngkin landed counterpunches and exposed Mr. McAuliffe as an extremist, the gap began to close.
Mr. McAuliffe’s strategy failed spectacularly. Even in a multifaceted election with local and national issues in play, the pro-life vote by itself was more than enough to deliver the margin of victory. Exit polls found that as many as 8% of Virginia voters cited abortion as their top issue, and those voters backed Mr. Youngkin by up to 17 points. Additionally, among the 10% of women voters who said abortion was the most important issue to them, 51% voted for Mr. Youngkin. Pro-life Republicans not only swept statewide races but flipped the House of Delegates as well.
Ignoring the power of the life issue to reach middle-of-the-road, persuadable voters going forward would be a big mistake.
The upcoming Dobbs late abortion case is Republicans’ biggest opportunity yet to make the contrast between themselves and pro-abortion Democrats crystal clear. In this case, involving Mississippi’s 15-week abortion limit, the Supreme Court will consider just one question: whether any limits on abortion before viability, when unborn babies can survive outside the womb, are constitutional.
It’s a widespread misconception that Roe v. Wade placed limits of any kind on abortion. In fact, it struck down every existing pro-life law in the United States and put us in the company of seven nations – such as North Korea and China – that allow abortion on demand more than halfway through pregnancy, even up to birth.
We know that “viability,” which has shifted as much as six weeks earlier with advances in technology, has no bearing on the child’s humanity. Scientific advances over the last five decades make this undeniable. Unborn babies have beating hearts by six weeks, can kick and jump by 10 weeks, and by 15 weeks can feel pain. We see them make faces in real-time via 4-D ultrasounds, and doctors can even perform fetal surgery right in the womb.
Republicans should feel confident discussing this. When voters realize that children can legally be aborted at this point and beyond, they are horrified and more likely to support pro-life candidates.
The other central question is who determines abortion policy in this country: Unelected judges imposing their own preferences, or the people of each state speaking through elected representatives who can be held accountable at the ballot box.
In the best-case scenario, the Court corrects its past injustices, salvaging its credibility and removing itself from policy decisions that rightly belong to the people. Then our divisions can begin to heal, as the states finally get to have the real debate that has been stifled for two generations, find consensus, and enact laws that reflect the values of those who reside there. Any version of a yes answer, however, would be a move away from extremism.
The same rank elitism Terry McAuliffe displayed toward concerned parents pervades the Democratic Party’s approach to abortion. The last thing pro-abortion Democrats want is for the people to decide because most Americans want far greater limits on abortion than are currently permitted under Roe v. Wade.
Standing with innocent children and their mothers – and with the people – is not just morally right; it’s politically smart. The pathway forward for the GOP in the 2022 midterms is clear: Going on offense on life and refusing to cede the issue to pro-abortion Democrats is the key to victory.
• Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List.