Conservatism Without the Right to Life?

A Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is not only something we should press for, but also pray and fast for.

Howard Chandler Christy, “Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States,” 1940
Howard Chandler Christy, “Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States,” 1940 (photo: Public Domain)

In light of the Supreme Court nomination, Fox News personality Tomi Lahren recently issued a monologue offering this advice to conservatives: “Pressing for a Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade would be a big mistake.” Since she expresses a viewpoint shared by many people, it’s worth addressing her arguments.

Lahren asks: “Do we really want to fight for this, alienate Democrats, moderates, and libertarians, all to lose in the end anyway?”

Lahren perhaps has the best of intentions when she pontificates to conservatives, but I would suggest that she does not know the first thing about conservatism. Because the first thing about conservatism—the foundational belief of conservatism according to Dr. Russell Kirk—is that moral truths are unchanging. Kirk, who literally wrote the book on conservative thought, says the belief in an “enduring moral order” is the first principle of conservatism.

And the first political manifestation of what Kirk called the “enduring moral order” is that governments should recognize the right to life. Not only did the founders of America declare the primacy of the “unalienable” right to life, they affirmed it with their signatures in a rather famous document.

This is perhaps why Thomas Jefferson didn’t stand up at the Second Continental Congress and say, “Do we really want to fight for this (and by ‘this,’ of course, I mean ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’), alienate British, moderates, and mercantilists, all to lose in the end anyway?”

In her diatribe, Lahren employs the terms “winning” and “losing” several times, as though the issue of protecting tiny babies with tiny heartbeats is a game, akin to football. Thus, the argument is that you don’t score touchdowns by advancing the pro-life political football. But it’s not scoring six points that concerns us; it’s the loss of sixty million lives. That’s the number of babies who have been surgically aborted since the Roe v. Wade decision. Sixty million. And with the first glimpse of victory in sight in forty-five years, Lahren suggests—to continue her sports analogy—that we take a knee and run out the clock.

What Lahren misses—or chooses to ignore—is the fact that if conservatives abandon the pro-life position, they are surrendering the animating principle of their own cause. If the movement refuses to stand up for innocent life, conservatism would be nothing more than pedantic rhetoric about tax rates and voter ID cards—a zombie philosophy that might have a body, but lacks a soul.

Lahren might call that “winning,” but it’s the worst form of losing.

We don’t say that someone is “winning” when he obeys every Commandment except the Fifth; can we call it “winning” if conservatives achieve victory on every issue except life?

After rejecting the first principle of conservatism in her monologue, Lahren goes on to reject a principle of logic. She says: “I believe the way to encourage someone to choose life is to treat her with compassion, understanding and love, not government regulation.”

Lahren’s statement is a textbook example of the fallacy known as false dilemma. In this case, either someone treats people with compassion or he is in favor of making it illegal to kill babies—but he cannot do both. This argument has been a talking point of abortion advocates for decades, and whether that argument is made on MSNBC, Fox News, or Pravda, it’s nonsense.

Years ago, I met a man who had an open-door policy for unwed mothers. Though he was comparatively poor, he and his family welcomed unwed mothers into their home, where these mothers received financial support, compassion, and understanding; they found a warm house and a warmer home. This man simultaneously campaigned for pro-life candidates.

Yet, in the Tomi Lahren worldview, this man did not exist.

Of course, my friend was not alone in his compassionate treatment of pregnant mothers and their unborn babies. In the past five decades, for instance, Catholic pregnancy centers—staffed largely by volunteers who work for free—have sprung up all over the country. Their goal? To help pregnant women in trouble know that they have a friend. To help their sisters know that they and their babies are loved by God. To hold hands with a fellow child of God and laugh, and cry, and laugh again. To see another smile—truly smile—for the first time in a very long time. To help a new friend discover that happiness and joy and fulfillment often have a tiny face.

My wife was a volunteer at one such pregnancy clinic. She hoped to be paid—not in dollars and cents—but in the sound of a baby’s coos and giggles. For her, that was the greatest paycheck.

And she, just like thousands of others across America, simultaneously campaigned for pro-life candidates.

Those who exhibit the most compassion toward pregnant mothers and those who campaign the hardest for pro-life laws are, very often, the same people. An argument to the contrary is not only offensive, but inaccurate.

In the coming months, I would suggest—counter to Lahren’s advice—that a Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is not only something we should press for, but also pray and fast for. We should pray that our leaders have the wisdom and courage to overturn a terrible decision.

We must declare to the world, just as Jefferson declared many years ago, that this is America—and in America, we protect the right to life.