Ever since Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia governor’s race last year, there’s been speculation about what he might set his sights on next. He’s regularly touted as one of the party’s fastest-rising stars, and for good reason: Mr. Youngkin was able to shift Virginia more than 10 points to the right and did so without much of the squishiness that typifies most Republican candidates in blue-to-purple states.
He leaned into anti-wokeness, gender sanity and parental rights, helping to usher in the current (and remarkably successful) era of the culture wars. More than just talk, he’s governed as a conservative as well. Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Youngkin’s administration published new regulations forbidding schools from transitioning students without parental knowledge or consent.
It’s no wonder, then, that his name is regularly floated as a potential presidential or vice presidential candidate down the line. On nearly every issue, his record is superb — every issue but one. Unfortunately, Mr. Youngkin has articulated a position on abortion that would, as of now, effectively disqualify him from a Republican primary and make him completely unviable on the national stage.
Mr. Youngkin professes to believe that federal law has no role to play whatsoever in preventing the killing of unborn children. Citing his mistaken belief that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs remanded the issue exclusively to the states, he recently likened Sen. Lindsey Graham’s 15-week minimum national standard on abortion to a typical federal “overreach.”
This position, to put it mildly, will not fly should he ever run for higher office. There are a few must-have policy positions for any national Republican candidate, and being strong on the pro-life issue is one of them. It’s not without reason that nearly every Republican campaign’s website has “100% Pro-Life” somewhere on it in big, bold letters. Anyone who wants to be the nominee needs the support of the pro-life movement, and the pro-life movement is not going to rally behind a leader who vows to do absolutely nothing about abortion on the federal level.
Mr. Youngkin is wrong about the constitutional question, too, of course. The court sent the issue to the people’s elected representatives, in the states and Congress. And in fact, the 14th Amendment empowers Congress specifically to pass legislation protecting the right to life.
It’s also a morally bankrupt position. Politicians in states like New York and California, pumped with millions of dollars in donations from the abortion lobby, are declaring open season on an entire class of people. Unborn children in states like these can be legally killed just minutes before they would be born, and in some cases for a short while afterward. To say that the federal government should be powerless to prevent such a thing is absolutely ludicrous.
Mr. Youngkin vaguely points toward President Thomas Jefferson in support of his view, but in reality, his position more closely aligns with Stephen A. Douglas, who famously declared his indifference to whether slavery was voted up or down, so long as it was being voted on solely by the states. If Mr. Youngkin hopes to lead the party of Lincoln, he is going to have to come up with something better. Some things should not be allowed, even in California.
Whenever the next competitive Republican primary for the presidential nomination might be, someone is going to endorse a minimum national standard for abortion, whether it be set at 15 weeks, six weeks or elsewhere. Anyone less ambitious — who will promise only to defund abortion — is going to have to get on board, too, or face the political consequences.
Opponents of Mr. Graham’s minimum national standard are acting like controlled opposition. Candidate Donald Trump destroyed Hillary Clinton on abortion by going after her extremism, despite hundreds of millions of dollars being spent against him on the issue by Planned Parenthood and the like. In the absence of Mr. Trump’s fortitude, the odds would likely have been insurmountable. Leaving massively popular bills like Mr. Graham’s off the table just abandons Mr. Trump’s winning strategy for no reason. Without a national standard, Republicans leave the issue to be decided forever by activist courts in the states, the bottomless pockets of the abortion industry, and any potential Democratic majority in Congress down the line.
It’s time for folks to come to terms with reality. If we have learned anything in these few short days following the 2022 midterm elections, it is that shying away from abortion has no place in the political arena. The candidates who clearly articulated their support for defending life and called out Democrat extremism, such as Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen.-elect J.D. Vance, Gov. Brian Kemp and many others, came out victorious — while those who refused to go on the offense went home with a participation trophy.
Anyone who declares that there is “no federal role on abortion” will not be taken seriously as a viable leader of the Republican Party. This logic stands for races in the House and Senate, and the same is true for the president.
Mr. Youngkin has done great work in catapulting parental rights to the national stage — anyone who opposes federal legislation protecting the rights of parents probably wouldn’t make it through a primary either — but it takes more than that to be president. There’s still time to fix his mistake, but it’s one that never should have been made in the first place. Other presidential hopefuls should take note.
• Frank Cannon is the chief strategist for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.