Have pro-lifers become the GOP’s second-class citizens?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 10, 2016

Hadley Arkes, who has been an effective pro-life battler in Washington’s trench warfare for years, is worried that Pro-lifers Settle for Dhimmitude these days. His argument is, I think, unanswerable.

The only serious discussion of abortion in this year’s presidential race swirls around Donald Trump’s promise to appoint pro-life judges. (As Arkes illustrates, Mike Pence, despite his pro-life credentials, clearly does not understand the current state of the argument.) The Democratic Party has fully embraced the cause of abortion on demand. But the Republicans, while putatively pro-life, have essentially given up on the possibility of legislative action. Arkes observes:

And yet there is nothing new here, for what is reflected here runs back to the time even of Reagan and the first Bush, and it is conveyed in this way: The political leadership tells the pro-life leaders that their interests will be covered by making better appointments of judges. In this way, the political leadership resigns any responsibility to speak to this issue.

So now some pro-life activists instruct us to work tirelessly for Trump, despite any reservations we might have, because he would appoint good judges to the Supreme Court. (Hillary Clinton, they add, would certainly appoint judges hostile to the pro-life cause. On that point there is no argument.) But if the only hope that pro-lifers have for a Trump presidency is the prospect of good Supreme Court appointments, the realization of that hope requires several things:

  • Trump must win the election.
  • As President, Trump must keep his promise to nominate only solid “originalist” judges.
  • When these judges are nominated, they must be approved by the Senate, where Democrats will be united against them and Republicans (many of whom have already broken with Trump) may be inclined to compromise.

Right now all three of those possibilities look to me like longshots. But it’s not enough for one or two hopes to come through. For pro-lifers to profit at all from supporting Trump, they’d need to hit the trifecta.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Oct. 11, 2016 9:16 PM ET USA

    The Republicans have, for far too long, paid lip service to their principles and platform. Mr. Trump is the only beacon of hope on a horizon where, even up close, it's far too often difficult to tell who is who. No. 3 on your list would be a problem with or without a President Trump because the Republicans have largely sold out (Tea Party Caucus the notable and despised exception.) I'll work for number one taking my chances on No. 2 'cause the alternative is unacceptable.

  • Posted by: loumiamo - Oct. 11, 2016 7:41 AM ET USA

    I disagree Phil. We didnt get into this mess by one bad election, one bad cause, but a series of bad happenings which have forced us to give up conquered territory & put other valuables [the Hyde amendment] at risk. So one person, one election is not enough to reverse everything. It is merely a new 1st step forward as we begin again to hold the line & make progress. We can't get to the goal if we continue retreating, eventho we know we will ultimately fail & we be sayin Armageddon outa here.