Salvo 08.11.2022 4 minutes

No Surrender after Dobbs

Abortion Rights Activists in Washington DC

Giving in to the pro-abortion Left out of fear would be the real defeat.

How vigorously should Republicans counter pro-choice activists trying to enact or preserve sweeping abortion rights? My podcast cohost and I have been debating this question for weeks. The social Left and its activists, propelled by frenzied media support, says my interlocutor, seem to have captured the political momentum. Inflation, a bleeding Southern border, high crime, government-sponsored anti-white racism, and a disastrous foreign policy have all been overshadowed by the supposed degradation of women caused by restricting abortion. The overturning of Roe may have been a godsend for the Democrats. As a result of their manipulation of the abortion issue—which the Supreme Court and the pro-life movement handed the Left—the Democrats went from being well behind in the generic ballot to six points ahead in polls for this fall’s midterm elections.

This debate is not about the veracity of the social Left’s representation of the abortion question. It centers on what should be done by those who hope to keep the Democrats from holding on to control of the government. In the short run, at least, those in power have benefited from the hullabaloo over “women’s reproductive rights.” Whether the media or boisterous demonstrators are telling us the truth about the implications of overturning Roe is a different matter. But the Left, and more particularly the Democratic Party, have benefited by diverting public attention away from other far more pressing national concerns. Moreover, the recent overwhelming defeat of the pro-life side in a Kansas referendum brought home the perils of trying to limit access to abortion.

Despite these problems, I don’t think the social Right should surrender on abortion, or any other family issue. Those who do so are not making new friends on the left. Though the Republicans have generally defended the overturning of Roe, some in the House have joined the Democrats in voting to nationalize gay marriage. Recently, 47 Republican House members, after observing the media pile-on following the reversal of Roe, caved on the “Marriage Equality Act.” Justice Thomas already noticed that the same reasoning that was at work in overturning Roe could be turned against the tendentious Obergefell decision that mandated gay marriage nationwide, because this issue, like abortion, constitutionally is the province of the states. Congressional Republicans voting to preserve gay marriage hoped to win plaudits from the media and activists, but they got zilch in return for their cowardice. The establishment media continues to treat Republicans as homophobes, sexists, and racists.

The question then becomes what conservatives can do to escape unfair characterization by the one-sided media. Above all, they have to energize and expand their base and match the other side in determination and outreach. They must show they’re in the game by organizing their own demonstrations and boycotting obnoxiously woke corporations. Without such exhibitions of militant energy, the battle is lost. Piecemeal surrenders will get social traditionalists in and outside the GOP nowhere, other than being bullied to give up further ground. Even if the Right yields on all the social issues, its adversaries will still treat it as a punching bag. After all, the Left needs an enemy against which it can organize its forces. But the point has been reached where the designated enemy should stop retreating. Nothing substantive will be gained by surrendering, except defeat.

Finally, I would note that Justice Thomas is right about Roe and the entire chain of mischief cause by the misuse of Substantive Due Process to carry out a leftist social agenda. The Left can induce activist justices to enact on their behalf anything they want. Under contemporary jurisprudence, the Fourteenth Amendment can be stretched to “defend” any imaginable “right” beyond anything consistent with the original intent of the Amendment’s authors. As Thomas has observed, the “privileges and immunities” protected under the Fourteenth Amendment and the “due process” guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment have become a machine to spit out whatever new rights an enterprising judge cares to produce. Though not always the case, at least since the fifties only the Left have been allowed to play this game.

By now, however, the Left and their media enablers no longer need the ministrations of Sotomayor and other judicial helpers. They can unleash riots and the threat of violence on uncooperative justices to intimidate their stunned opposition. This is how what is left of our constitutional republic now decides questions of critical importance.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

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