The Political Versus Moral Realities of Abortion

While the moral case against abortion is clear-cut, the political issues surrounding it are less so.

So how committed to abortion are Americans really?

This seems to be the burning question haunting the minds of pro-lifers right now. If we go by the recent referendums on abortion in reliably red states like Kansas or Ohio, then it seems like a majority of Americans really want the freedom to abort their unborn children. Recent polls in deep-red Florida, which will have the abortion issue on the ballot this November, already favor keeping abortion as an option. 

As if on cue, former president Trump and senatorial candidate Kari Lake made statements to explain that they didn’t really care one way or the other how the abortion issue went—that it was a matter for the states to decide. Once more, the social conservatives were given the boot; but this time, it was the MAGA wing of the party doing the kicking instead of the Establishment.

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To those who claim that the Republicans of yore were more pro-life and better Christians, they should remember that this was an easier position to take when Roe v. Wade was still “the law of the land.” As the pro-life Lutheran pastor (and cousin of mine) Evan McClanahan presciently remarked after the Dobbs decision, 

It was assumed that the movement was fighting a losing battle so long as Roe remained in effect. Fund-raising, speeches, conferences, and legal action under the canopy of Roe had become familiar. What will all of that look like without Roe

Almost two years later, it looks more or less the same, except now the pro-life movement is being flattened by the multimillion-dollar juggernaut that the pro-abortion Left has now become.

Later in this same essay, McClanahan considers the arguments to come when states start creating laws to limit or prohibit abortion: What exceptions, if any, should be applied? What would be the moderate position if legislators are looking to keep all sides happy? How would any of these laws be enforced?  

We now see how this is playing out. When push comes to shove, most Americans, including many Christian conservatives, want some kind of abortion access. But, at least on a logical and moral level, abortion doesn’t really allow for this indecisive middle ground. Effectively, either a state will be pro-life and ban abortion or it will eventually allow for abortion at any stage of pregnancy and even post-birth.

Comparing Donald Trump’s “leave it to the states to decide” approach to Stephen Douglas making the same argument about slavery, The Federalist editor John Daniel Davidson concludes, “moderation on a question of first principles only goes so far, especially when you’re trying to court people who insist that the rights of an entire class of people must be denied to vindicate the rights of another.” In other words, this issue is going to be decided in the coming years whether Americans want it to be or not. 

So, what’s a pro-lifer to do in this case? Do we hold purity tests for our political candidates? Do we become more militant? Do we resort to violent protests? Or do we take the opposite tact and simply give up and keep our views private? Maybe we can virtue signal a little harder?

Honestly, these are not easy questions—even in the matter of virtue signaling. Many Republican voters want to protect the babies and encourage the pro-life cause, but they also want to win elections and not provoke fights with their neighbors. Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer to these questions, and it will always depend on the context.

If history is any guide, we need to meet the moment, hold our noses, and vote for the least-worst option for the time being. Meanwhile, it’s more important than ever to continue campaigning on the cultural and spiritual level. As Davidson recounts in his recent book Pagan America—which happens to dovetail nicely with his article on Trump’s position on abortion—the ending of slavery was the culmination of a widespread Christian revival across the northern states that was building up for decades. In order to end abortion, a similar movement needs to happen today; and no one is better positioned to lead this revival than the Catholic Church, which has always been on the right side of this issue. 

This is not as farfetched as it sounds. Beyond occupying the moral high ground and having logical consistency, the pro-life cause also happens to be strongest in states that are doing the best, like Texas and Florida (at least for now). And nothing is more persuasive than success. Even if the pro-abortion activists and leftists in general believe that might makes right, reality will inevitably assert itself and prove that right makes might. To paraphrase Christ, we will know who was truly right by their fruit.  Beyond occupying the moral high ground and having logical consistency, the pro-life cause also happens to be strongest in states that are doing the best, like Texas and Florida (at least for now).Tweet This

It will simply take time. Although most Americans may not see it yet, they will start to see how being pro-life is adopting a winning mindset. By contrast, championing abortion is the mark of a decadent community that has given up and now accepts failure. Communities that want to flourish and become stronger will need to reject abortion altogether. I am hopeful that the future will bear this out, but we need to internalize this fact going forward and stop relying on politicians who are fighting uphill battles to challenge what is now a financial, cultural, and political leviathan. 


  • Auguste Meyrat

    Auguste Meyrat is an English teacher and department chair in north Texas. He has a BA in Arts and Humanities from University of Texas at Dallas and an MA in Humanities from the University of Dallas.

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