Abortion Defeats About More Than Politics

EDITORIAL: In response to the dismal election results this month, we must be prepared to work even harder and more creatively than we did in the past to proclaim the gospel of life.

Attendees pray during a Rosary Rally on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023, in Norwood, Ohio.
Attendees pray during a Rosary Rally on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023, in Norwood, Ohio. (photo: Darron Cummings / AP)

This year’s election season was one that pro-life advocates would rather forget, but the string of disappointing losses it produced ought to serve as a reality check about where we are as a country right now when it comes to protecting the lives of the unborn.

Headlining the list of defeats was the passage of Issue 1 in Ohio. By a decisive margin, voters in the Republican stronghold approved an amendment to the state Constitution that guarantees that “every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decision,” including, but not limited to, “abortion.”

In Virginia, supporters of legalized abortion are celebrating after Democrats gained control of both houses of the state Legislature, spoiling Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s plans for a 15-week abortion ban.

The Democrats’ strategy of staying laser-focused on framing abortion as basic “reproductive health care,” while portraying pro-life Republicans as “MAGA extremists,” worked to perfection. Sadly, many voters appear to care more about destroying innocent life in the womb than they do about stagnating wages, rising crime, woke indoctrination in public schools and soaring food prices.

Meanwhile in Kentucky, a state that already has a 15-week abortion ban, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who featured a 12-year-old rape victim in one of his campaign ads, held off a challenge by Daniel Cameron, the state’s pro-life attorney general. Toss in for good measure the election of a pro-abortion Democrat to Pennsylvania’s state Supreme Court, and you have the makings of a perfectly dismal Election Night for the pro-life cause. By perpetuating the pro-life movement’s losing streak in state ballot initiatives since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs case last year that overturned Roe v. Wade, the Ohio defeat lends further credence to the view that Dobbs didn’t go far enough by not recognizing children in the womb as legal persons with an unalienable right to life — or worse, that the decision would prove to be a Trojan horse by allowing individual states to impose even more destructive legal frameworks than what Roe had mandated.

In the coming days and months, there will be a lot of talk about confusing ballot language, media bias and the pro-abortion side’s decisive advantage in campaign spending. Beyond a doubt, these factors tip the scales in favor of abortion supporters, but to suggest that if the scales were balanced the outcome in Ohio would have been dramatically different presumes that voters there are more pro-life than they appear to be.

Bigger campaign war chests won’t change the fact that legalized abortion enjoys wide support in both the inner cities and affluent suburbs of Ohio and Virginia and around the country. This is less a reaction to Dobbs than the result of Roe, which for nearly half a century, by judicial decree, inculcated an abortion mentality in our laws, schools, workplaces, news and entertainment industries, domestic and foreign policies and even many of our nation’s faith communities.

It’s important to recognize that powerful forces — political, economic and spiritual — are aligned to maintain abortion’s hold on American culture. Not the least of these are willful ignorance of the basic facts of human life and self-centered indifference toward the fate of the most vulnerable members of society. As Catholics we need to acknowledge these contemporary realities. Ultimately, as Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati reminded us after the Ohio vote, the remedy isn’t more money or better messaging: What’s required is the personal witness and public engagement of our Catholic faith, to promote a renewed culture of life.

“The passage of Issue 1 shows that there remains a desperate need for conversion of hearts and minds to a culture of life in our country, one that respects the inherent dignity and sacredness of every human being from conception to natural death,” he said. “This conversion will come about only through earnest prayer and the witness of our compassionate care for the most vulnerable among us — immigrants, the poor, the elderly, preborn children, and women in need.”

Fortunately, one of the enduring legacies of the Roe v. Wade era was the creation of the strongest pro-life movement in the world, led by Catholics. So the foundation for meeting this national challenge is already in place. But as this month’s election results have shown, going forward, we must be prepared to work even harder and more creatively than we did in the past to proclaim the gospel of life.