February 05, 2018
How badly does the Left want to retake control of Congress? Not badly enough to rethink its strategy on abortion, apparently. If Democrats' obsession with the issue is costing the party elections, they don't want to hear it. Even from their own.
Late last week, New York Times columnist David Brooks tried to wake liberals up to the dangers of their abortion fixation -- and became a punching bag instead. The Left unleashed on Brooks for focusing on the party's greater good, responding with all sorts of vile, profane-laced tirades for committing the unforgiveable sin: questioning their abortion orthodoxy. Tracing the pro-life movement back to the years before Roe v. Wade, Brooks reminds Democrats that the fight for unborn rights used to be led by their own party. "The first pro-life rally on the National Mall was organized by the National Youth Pro-Life Coalition, which a co-founder described as 'an extremely liberal group,'" he points out with some irony. Now, he writes, liberals don't just fight for the unrestricted killing of unborn children, they subordinate their entire agenda to it.
"How much is our position on late-term abortions hurting us?" Brooks asks in a nod to the growing clamor for legal limits. "How many progressive priorities are we giving up just so we can have our way on this one?" The life issue, he argues, was probably single-handedly responsible for electing Donald Trump. "Do we want late-term abortion so much that we are willing to tolerate [this president]? Do we want it so much that we give up our chance at congressional majorities? Do we want it so much that we see our agendas on poverty, immigration, income equality and racial justice thwarted and defeated?" It's time, he warned Democrats, to take a step back.
"We need to acknowledge our vulnerability here. Democrats support the right to choose throughout the 40 weeks of pregnancy. But babies are now viable outside the womb at 22 weeks. As Emma Green wrote in The Atlantic, scientific advances 'fundamentally shift the moral intuition around abortion.' Parents can see their babies' faces earlier and earlier. I'm asking us to rethink our priorities." But that request didn't just fall on deaf ears -- it fell on angry ones. Feminists, militant abortion advocates, and other fringe Democrats unloaded on Brooks with a fury that's largely unprintable. Tamer liberals called his column excrement, "rubbish," a "waking nightmare," or "lazy as ****." Some called for a ban on his columns. One even offered a cash reward to anyone willing to lock Brooks out of his office.
The message was simple: dissent over abortion won't be tolerated. It was a telling, but not altogether surprising, response. Since 2016, the days of the centrist Democrat have been numbered. From overturning the Hyde amendment to supporting abortion right up to birth, the party's platform language reads more like an eviction notice for heartland voters than a statement of policy. No wonder Middle Americans think Democrats are "out of touch with mainstream America," relying on "too much identity politics" where "winners and losers are picked by their labels." "If we call ourselves a big tent party," one Indiana pro-life Democrat told Politico, "then we should act like it."
Rather than respond to a warning from their own or pausing for a moment of political introspection, Democrats are digging in deeper, firing back at Brooks that what America needs is actually looser laws on abortion. "Make it easier to get [one]..." Dawn Laguens fumed. "Make it more affordable... Repeal the Hyde Amendment." Otherwise, the Planned Parenthood executive told Brooks, "Take a seat."
In between, she was trying to prop up phony arguments about female voters. "...[C]onsider that one in four women in the U.S. have an abortion, and that women are currently the most potent political force in this country." It might surprise her to know that a majority of these women regret their decision. Not to mention that women from both parties are some of the fiercest supporters of abortion limits. Even if we left morality out of the equation, you'd see that Brooks's advice is backed up by national trends. Three in four Americans want stronger restrictions on abortion – including 60 percent of self-identified "pro-choicers!" Then there are millennials, who are "more likely than other age demographics to support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks' gestation." Brooks's warning isn't ideological betrayal; it's good political sense.
That doesn't matter to feminists like Jessica Valenti, who made the most sexist argument of all when she said that Brooks's advice didn't make sense because, he's "never been pregnant." So now you have to be pregnant to understand the difference between right and wrong? Give me a break. Abortion is one of the weakest links in the Democratic Party. And until it stops letting a small core of radicals drive them, Brooks is right: it's a political suicide mission.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.