Since the emergence of politically active Evangelicals in the late 1970s, the Republican Party has presented itself as the pro-life/anti-abortion political party. For the past thirty years, a pro-life stance has been essential for Republican candidates. So much so that Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, both of whom previously held pro-choice positions, were forced to morph themselves into pro-life candidates as they entered the 2008 Republican presidential primaries. The Republican Party, however, is not truly pro-life.
Pro-life advocates argue that life begins at conception and that abortion brings that life to an unnatural end. They argue that the inherent and intrinsic value of human life requires state protection for those who cannot speak for themselves. The fact that the value of human life is “inherent” means the value of life does not arise from the age, wealth, status or character of the human – not even the character of one accused of a capital crime.
Most Republican candidates and elected officials support imposition of the death penalty for heinous crimes such as murder, rape, and arson. Thirty-five states agree with them, arguing that defendants convicted of those charges have forfeited the right to live or that the punishment acts as a deterrent to future crime. Many Republican candidates who voice support for an end to abortion adamantly support the death penalty. And therein lies the contradiction that robs the pro-life argument of power. If life is inherently valuable, then the right to live is one of those inalienable rights we hold dear and, being inalienable, it is a right which no one can surrender – willingly or unwillingly.
In truth, most Republican politicians are not interested in ending abortion. They merely want to campaign on the issue, using it to raise money and motivate their voter base. If they were interested in ending abortion they would actually use their elected positions to do something about it. Republicans have held a majority in Congress for most of the last 30 years, yet unfettered access to abortion on demand remains the law of the land. Conservatives hold a majority on the U. S. Supreme Court, too. Yet all of the justices support the Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.
A consistent, authentic pro-life position would argue not only for the life of the unborn but for the life of the elderly, the infirmed, and those accused of crimes for which they face the death penalty. That the accused are currently left out of the right-to-life equation belies the political nature of the Republican Party’s pro-life position. It’s not about life, it’s about getting candidates elected to office.