As thousands descended on Washington, D.C., last week for the annual March for Life, the Republican House of Representatives was busy watering down an anti-abortion bill that restricted abortions after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape or incest, with exemptions allowed only after a police report had been filed. A small group of moderate Republican female lawmakers challenged the bill and lobbied for a less restrictive measure.
Politics wins. Life loses.
It seems these moderate Republicans, fearing the bill could revive the Democrats’ phony “war on women” mantra, erred on the side of expedience so as not to, as the Washington Post wrote, “expose Republicans in swing districts to a barrage of attack ads in 2016 from women’s rights groups and Democrats.”
The symbolism behind such a bill on the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision is understandable, but if Republicans are serious about advancing protection for the unborn in the age of Obamacare, they will adopt a different strategy. They might start by looking back 50 years to the civil rights movement.
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People who are old enough to remember, or have seen the film “Selma,” recall how pictures and personal stories helped move the hearts and change the minds of many Americans in support of civil rights legislation. Pictures of blacks being beaten by white police officers or being denied service at lunch counters or forced to use separate restrooms – even murdered – shocked much of the nation.
As Black History Month begins next week, the Republican Congress should hold a series of hearings on the impact the elimination of 55 million unborn lives has had on our culture. They can begin with testimony from black women and men like J. Kenneth Blackwell, a former Ohio secretary of state and currently a policy board member of the American Civil Rights Union.
In a recent column for the Washington Times, Blackwell cited figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and wrote: “Black women continue to have the highest abortion rate of any ethnic group, with a gruesome 483 abortions for every 1,000 live births.” That’s nearly one black baby in every three, according to 2010 figures.
If “black lives matter” – and they do and should – they need to be protected in the womb, as well as in the streets.
Congressional hearings should also include people who survived abortions and are glad they did. Women who regret having had abortions can testify that if they’d had more information they might have made a different choice. I have met such women and heard their stories. They are legion and can be easily contacted.
This is the key to advancing the pro-life argument. Republicans should be about “empowering women,” giving them more information so that they will be fully informed before choosing whether to sustain a life, or end one. Sonogram technology is the best tool for providing that information. Some studies found that abortion-minded women changed their minds about having an abortion after seeing their children growing in their wombs. Others found the opposite to be true. Still, women should have the choice.
This is the smart way to advance the pro-life versus pro-choice debate and change the dynamic and direction from its current stagnation. Republicans will try it if they are smart. But that, too, could be debatable.
Cal Thomas, a columnist with Tribune Content Agency, appears in Opinion on Wednesdays.