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Is It Time To Reevaluate Pro-Life Strategy? ^ | January 08, 2003 | Paul M. Weyrich

Posted on 01/20/2003 6:51:27 PM PST by Remedy

The 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision arrives later this month and it represents a good time to take stock of where the pro-life movement and, by extension, social conservatism, now stand.

We have a President whose commitment to the pro-life issue surpasses that of Richard Nixon; certainly that of Gerald Ford and George Herbert Walker Bush; and most likely even that of Ronald Reagan. Certainly, in their first two years in office, President Bush and his administration have taken strong stands on behalf of pro-life legislation and the Justice Department has challenged Oregon's euthanasia law.

The GOP's taking control of the U.S. Senate in last November's election and its continued control of the U.S. House are developments that have certainly been welcomed by pro-lifers, but it is no guarantee that a pro-life agenda can be achieved in this session.

For one thing, the Democrats have the numbers in the Senate to frustrate the passage of key pro-life legislation and the confirmation of federal judges who are committed to interpreting the law impartially. Nominees who are neither activist-oriented nor in line with the litmus tests demanded by the pro-abortion lobby and those Senators that do its bidding are likely to face a tough road to confirmation.

But as I had emphasized in my February 16, 1999 letter addressed to the conservative movement, I believe that we social conservatives and pro-lifers should still harbor significant concern about placing all our chips in the basket of politics. The pro-life movement and social conservatives did place most of our chips in that basket back in the 1980s and I think it is fair to say that we came away quite disappointed with the results.

This reevaluation of the pro-life strategy is long overdue and has been taking place in fits and starts for some time. But a new collection of essays that will be published later this month should help to give added momentum to the rethinking of strategy.

"Back to the Drawing Board: The Future of the Pro-Life Movement" (St. Augustine's Press) is edited by Teresa Wagner, a dynamic, young pro-family spokeswoman who had worked as a lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee and as a legal and policy analyst for the Family Research Council. The reassessment examines each of the five crucial spheres that will determine the movement's future: the law, medicine and science, politics, religion and the culture.

Contributors include such respected names as Human Events editor Terence P. Jeffrey, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and my old colleagues in arms Phyllis Schlafly, James Dobson, and Dr. Mildred Jefferson. The range of contributors extends from Howard Phillips, the conservative's conservative, on the right to the thoughtful and principled syndicated columnist Nat Hentoff on the left. I'm pleased to see that former Boston mayor Raymond Flynn, a Democrat who served as Ambassador to the Vatican in the administration of Bill Clinton and who is now President of the Catholic Alliance, is one of the essayists.

My chapter discusses political engagement and in it I reflect upon my 1999 letter, making clear that the rush to interpret the letter as calling upon social conservatives to withdraw from politics was never accurate, but something promoted by the liberals in the news media. My point was that social conservatives had placed too much faith in politics and that we are no longer a 'moral majority' in the way that I had thought we were two decades ago.

There never was a call to have social conservatives stage a Dunkirk-like withdrawal from politics. The grassroots understood what I was saying about the need to develop counter-institutions not infected with the Politically Correct thinking now in vogue throughout much of society that maintains, for instance, it is not right to eat meat because a steer must be slaughtered but it is okay to abort a baby because the young child is only a "choice."

To this very day, many in the news media either miss or willfully turn a blind eye toward the developments taking place at the grassroots level that are in synch with what I had discussed and that provide hope that more and more people are dropping out of our PC society.

Social conservatives must stay politically active but we must also work harder to find new ways to change the culture. One idea in that vein is mentioned in passing in the chapter that I wrote but expounded upon in my recent commentary on "Social Marketing: The Next Frontier for Social Conservatives."

"Back to the Drawing Board" contains thought-provoking reading at exactly the right time that we should be thinking harder about how we can do more to protect life. More should be heard about this book in the coming weeks, and I hope Notable News Now readers and social conservatives will read it and give serious consideration to what the next direction of the pro-life movement should be in this new century.

(Paul M. Weyrich is chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.)

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: abortion; abortionlist; andjeangarton; book; catholic; catholiclist; drjamesdobson; drmildredjefferson; frrichardneuhaus; law; life; medicine; nathentoff; nhs; paulmweyrich; paulweyrich; phyllisschlafly; politics; prolife; rabbidaniellapin; repchrissmith; roevwade; science; strategy
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Politics and the pro-life movement

John Cavanaugh O'Keefe -- a 52-year-old Harvard graduate, Vietnam War conscientious objector, and longtime pro-life activist -- fervently believes legalized abortion in the United States will end. But not in his lifetime.

"The pro-life movement is going nowhere," says O'Keefe. "After 30 years of work, the movement is dead."

O'Keefe is not alone. "It would be both untrue and overly dramatic to say that the pro-life movement has lost," according to Teresa R. Wagner, former antiabortion lobbyist and editor of the forthcoming Back to the Drawing Board: The Future of the Pro-Life Movement. "But we are not winning. And the sooner we face it, the sooner we change it."

"The reason [the public is] ... not in favor of eliminating legalized abortion is that they also believe abortion somehow is necessary for the well-being of the mothers of those babies. We must break through this mother-versus-baby framing of the issue by bringing to public consciousness in every conceivable way the fact that abortion hurts women."

The memo continues: "Once the public is disabused of the notion that abortion is good for women, it will no longer face a conflict between two compelling claims. When the well-being of mothers and their babies is balanced only against the well-being of abortionists, then public opinion will be solidly behind our position. Litigation, research and even the legislative battles we choose should all be designed to show how abortion hurts women."

 Back to the Drawing Board: The Future of the Pro-Life Movement is an unprecedented collection of thoughtful and sometimes painfully honest essays, evaluating the pro-life cause thirty years after Roe v. Wade. Contributing writers are the movement's most respected leaders, including Dr. James Dobson, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Nat Hentoff, Dr. Mildred Jefferson, Congressman Chris Smith, Phyllis Schlafly, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Paul Weyrich, and Jean Garton, among others. They are statesmen, scholars, doctors, lawyers, judges, activists and mothers. They are Evangelical Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Jewish, and Catholic. They are men and women, young and old, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican - and third party. Many are veterans, some are new; but all have labored in the effort, and care about its future.

The book is intended for the next generation of pro-life leaders, who will learn from its pages of the movement's history and current predicament. The collection's many and varied views, about the future as well as the past, invite readers to go back to the drawing board and contemplate: What now?


Foreword: Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Editor-in-Chief, First Things

Introduction: Dr. Mildred Fay Jefferson, a Founder and Past President, National Right to Life Committee

Part I: The Legal Arena

1. The Legal Profession and the Law Schools: Should We Blame the Lawyers? by Charles E. Rice, Professor Emeritus, Notre Dame Law School, Visiting Professor, Ave Maria School of Law

2. The Judiciary: Only Liars Need Apply by Terence P. Jeffrey, Senior Editor, Human Events

3. Litigation Strategies and Democratic Deliberation: Let the People Decide by Clarke Forsythe, President, Americans United for Life

4. An Appreciation of Justice Byron White (1917-2002): Seeing the Dragon Cloud by John Manning Regan, Sr., retired Judge and Past President, St. Thomas More Lawyers' Guild (Rochester, New York)

Part II: Medicine and Science

5. The Medical Profession: Reflections of the Abortion King by Dr. Bernard Nathanson

6. A View from Clinical Psychiatry: Abortion Wounds by Dr. Philip Ney, The International Institute of Pregnancy Loss

7. Long-Term Physical Complications of Induced Abortion: Breaking the Silence by Dr. Elizabeth Shadigian, Clinical Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)

8. Pregnancy Help Centers, Abstinence, STDs, and Healing: Putting It All Together by Margaret Hartshorn, Ph.D.,President, Heartbeat International

Part III: Politics and the Movement

9. A History of Pro-Life Leadership: For Better or Worse by Dr. Jack Willke, President, Life Issues Institute

10. Political Engagement: An Honest Evaluation by Paul Weyrich, President, Free Congress Foundation

11. A Defense of the Republican Party: The GOP Must Do More by The Honorable Chris Smith, United States Representative in Congress (4th District, New Jersey)

12. A Critique of the Republican Party: The Republican "Lesser Evil" by Joe Sobran, Author & Columnist

13. The Party or the Movement?: Principle or Pragmatism? Phyllis Schlafly & Colleen Parro, Founders, Republican National Coalition for Life

14. The Democrat Party: Casey's Heirs and the Fall of Pro-Life Democrats by Mark Stricherz, Writer, and Raymond L. Flynn, President, Catholic Alliance

15. Another Party? Time for Constitutional Fidelity: The Constitution Party by Howard Phillips, Chairman, The Conservative Caucus

16. The Base: Letter to the Troops: The Grassroots of the Pro-Life Movement by James Dobson, Ph.D., President, Focus on the Family

17. The Liberal Voice beyond the Base: There's More to Abortion than Abortion by Nat Hentoff, Writer

Part IV: Religion

18. Religious Leadership: Where Are the Shepherds? by Jean Garton, Litt.D., Founder, Lutherans for Life

19. The Pro-Life Movement and the Jewish Community: LeChayim - To Life! Judaism Is for Life, How about Jews? by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, President, Toward Tradition

20. A Muslim Perspective: An Islamic View of Life Issues and the West by Dr. A. Majid Katme, Spokesman for the Islamic Medical Association, and Muslim Liaison for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (London)

Part V: The Culture

21. Hollywood: The Problem with Selling Half the Story by Barbara Nicolosi, Director, Act One: Writing for Hollywood

22. The Kinsey Culture: Sex-on-Demand, Abortion-on-Demand by Judith Reisman, Ph.D., President, The Institute for Media Education

23. Motherhood and the Movement: Crisis of Life? Crisis of Love! by Mary Hasson and Miki Hill, Mothers, Writers

Part VI: The Future

24. Bioethics and the Status of the Human Embryo: Two Traditions in Tension by John M. Haas, Ph.D., President, National Catholic Bioethics Center

25. A New Federation for Life: Learning from Our Adversaries by Chuck Donovan, Executive Director, Family Action Alliance

26. The International Scene: Dangerous Mischief at the United Nations: Abortion as the Law of the World by Austin Ruse, President, Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute Teresa R. Wagner is a former Lobbyist with the National Right to Life Committee, and a former Legal and Policy

Analyst for Family Research Council, both in Washington, D.C.


For bulk orders, call St. Augustine's Press at (888) 997-4994. For all other purchases, call either University of Chicago Press
distributor (800) 621-2736 or St. Augustine's at (574) 291-3500; or visit or email

Media inquiries, contact Teresa R. Wagner, Project Editor, at or at (703) 393-6804

72 posted on 01/20/2003 7:57 PM CST by Coleus (RU 486 Kills Babies)

1 posted on 01/20/2003 6:51:27 PM PST by Remedy
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To: Coleus
2 posted on 01/20/2003 6:52:26 PM PST by Remedy
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To: Remedy
Wow, You are fast.

Let's hope the "smart ones" can come up with a plan and end this aberration once and for all.
3 posted on 01/20/2003 7:01:04 PM PST by Coleus (RU 486 Kills Babies)
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To: 2ndMostConservativeBrdMember; afraidfortherepublic; Alas; american colleen; annalex; ...
Read this good book, ping.
4 posted on 01/20/2003 7:03:54 PM PST by Coleus (RU 486 Kills Babies)
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To: Remedy
The main thing wrong with the political aspect of the Right to Life movement is that they continue to believe that the Republican party means what they say in their platform. They don't.

"Putting all of our eggs in one basket" is not merely putting it in politics, but putting our eggs in the flawed basket of one party that does not mean it, and is not willing to expend any political capital to get the job done.
5 posted on 01/20/2003 7:12:22 PM PST by Ahban
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To: Ahban
I freeped mailed him almost the same message. What will republicans do if abortion is made illegal? They will lose a tremendous voting base including the Reagan Democrats. They'll give us bits and pieces but that's about it.
6 posted on 01/20/2003 7:16:44 PM PST by Coleus (RU 486 Kills Babies)
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To: Ahban
you have it exactly ackwards ... dont go for a third party. but make your party the dominant one and/or have both parties mouth your positions. look at civil rights for example.

Abortion is threatened mainly because the Democrats refuse to allow prolife judges on the bench.
That is where the battle is joined today.
7 posted on 01/20/2003 7:22:25 PM PST by WOSG
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To: Remedy
I think one of the most important points in changing people's minds is separating the message that abortion is wrong from other messages that many pro-lifers want to advocate. I spent most of the 80's in fundamentalist or evangelical churches hearing that abortion was wrong and should be illegal. People would say that the baby was alive, and we all know that the baby is biologically alive and unique. However, because the anti-abortion message always seemed to be mixed with the church's message that premarital sex is wrong and that kids are good and more kids are better, I always thought that opposing abortion was just a way to harass people who engaged in premarital sex or just didn't want kids. While I supported the church's teaching that premarital sex is wrong, I didn't agree with using the government to hassle people into doing what the church wanted.

Around 1990, I would have gladly supported someone who said that he wanted to make abortion "safe, rare, and legal." I didn't begin to change my mind until a proponent of abortion told of her own pregnancy. The long version of that story is at Abortion -The Moment of Truth. The short version is that she accidently made me an opponent of legalized abortion because she made me realize that the unborn child is a person.

Many pro-lifers don't seem to understand that some of us will never really want to be parents. If I ever find myself in that role, I will do everything I can to be a good father to my children, but the notion that children are a blessing to every person is nonsense. I oppose abortion because a child's not being a blessing to me is not an excuse to kill it. Until pro-lifers can separate the fact that killing an unborn child is wrong from their own positive feelings for children, their message will remain muddled. Until the message is clear, people will see the pro-life movement as nothing more than an attempt to force a particular lifestyle on others, and they will reject that effort.


8 posted on 01/20/2003 7:24:35 PM PST by WFTR
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I don't care if the Republican party had 70 seats in the senate, 300 in the house, and the Presidency. The people at the top are pro-choice all the way, and they are not about to let anything but mostly symbolic gestures make it through.

I know what I am talking about.
9 posted on 01/20/2003 7:29:49 PM PST by Ahban
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To: Remedy
From the article : "We must break through this mother-versus-baby framing of the issue by bringing to public consciousness in every conceivable way the fact that abortion hurts women." I would contend that establishing the notion of 'life support' over 'death expedience' is the key here. The notion of affirming individual human life from conception onward is within reach. The reality that it takes life support to continue any conceived individual human life is the logical next baby step. The concept applies to even in vitro conceived embryonic individual human life and is crucial in stopping the rush to cannibalise embryonic body parts and cloned fetal body parts.
10 posted on 01/20/2003 7:34:58 PM PST by MHGinTN (Manama na, meep meep maneemie, manama na, meep mee menie ...)
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To: Remedy
This issue is all about influencing public opinion and SCOTUS appointees (and any nominee that is viewed as likely to reverse certainly the progeny of Wade (and although often missed, it is the progeny that is now circumscribing legislative action on much of anything on this issue), much less Wade itself, seems unlikely. Weyrich seems to be missing that essential reality.
11 posted on 01/20/2003 7:38:45 PM PST by Torie
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To: Remedy
Paul Weyrich lost a lot of respect from many of us when he "surrendered" a few years ago. I find it incredible that so many people are navel-gazing when serious pro-life gains are being made and re-outlawing abortion is no longer such a distant dot on the horizon. The absolute frothing rage of our opponents should tell you that we're doing something right.

Rather than tearing everything down and starting from scratch, why not simply continue moving forward with what we've been doing, and augment it with new approaches.

I've seen some polls that have shown as many as 70% nationwide now oppose abortion on demand. We're winning the battles in the trenches. The next step should be to chase the hard-core pro-aborts out of the GOP and make "choice" a liability as a campaign issue for the Scum-o-crats.
12 posted on 01/20/2003 7:51:35 PM PST by Antoninus
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To: Antoninus

What did he do?
13 posted on 01/20/2003 7:57:34 PM PST by Coleus (RU 486 Kills Babies)
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To: Remedy
The key here to "change the course" is to "change the debate"... to "frame the debate"...

I can tell you from personal experience that Democrats and left-wingers are damn good at creating catch phrases and buzz words. Well, you Republicans gotta jump in the fray. You gotta go on offense. All of us with conservative hearts from both sides of the aisle have to speak out in terms that have a clear meaning.

Take "pro-choice" for example. From now on, we have to have the courage to say "anti-life" instead.

Take "reproductive health" next. That must be instead called "sexual irresponsibility".

Take "women's health care issues" and call it "abortion hot buttons" from now on.

Speak the truth. Left wingers hate it. They absolutely go beserk when you use common sense.
14 posted on 01/20/2003 8:04:21 PM PST by Ashamed Democrat
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To: Remedy
read later
15 posted on 01/20/2003 8:15:06 PM PST by LiteKeeper
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To: Remedy
Don't blame women.
16 posted on 01/20/2003 8:20:42 PM PST by Saundra Duffy
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To: Remedy
What is the saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

1. Most people don't care about unborn babies

2. Most people don't care about women with problem pregnancies

3. Most people care mostly about themselves.

Develop multiple plans that show Most people how they are hurt by abortion. Many, many times I've seen women march straight into the clinics even after hearing about the painful death of her unborn child but stop and turn around when they were told that abortion could hurt them. Appealing to the kind and gentle feelings of the general public by the pro life movement has had a less than spectacular result.
17 posted on 01/20/2003 8:46:59 PM PST by Deepest South
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To: Remedy
18 posted on 01/20/2003 8:55:44 PM PST by toenail
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More selfish nonsense!! When will you learn that a newborn baby is a person unto him or herself with an individual soul, mind and heart? Babies are not created to make you happy or unhappy yet they come from God with the right to grow in the light and life from which they were sent. I'm so sick of hearing supposed adults care more about their own needs and wants when it comes to children than the life they have just created with their lustful body parts. If you don't want children or feel that it will cramp your lifestyle---keep it in your pants!
19 posted on 01/20/2003 9:09:27 PM PST by For the Unborn
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To: Coleus
What did he do?

He basically declared the Culture War unwinnable. I hate that type of defeatism.
20 posted on 01/20/2003 9:15:22 PM PST by Antoninus
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