Moving Past the Midterm Challenges

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: The temporal struggles related to abortion will always be with us, and after the particularly disappointing midterm, we need to redouble our efforts to convert people’s hearts.

The US Capitol dome is seen from the base of the Washington Monument as the sun rises the day after the midterm elections on November 9, 2022 in Washington, D.C.
The US Capitol dome is seen from the base of the Washington Monument as the sun rises the day after the midterm elections on November 9, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (photo: Samuel Corum / AFP/Getty)

From a pro-life perspective, there is no denying that the results of the midterm elections with respect to abortion were deeply disappointing. For Catholics, this political outcome is no reason for despair. Instead, it’s a reality check. 

This moment highlights something we’ve known for months now. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision did not deliver a permanent victory for the cause of protecting unborn life. In fact, the 2022 elections show just how immense a challenge the post-Roe political landscape poses for our nation’s pro-life movement.

The outcome of ballot measures related to abortion is the biggest case in point. California, Michigan and Vermont have now enshrined abortion in state constitutions. Kentucky voters failed to pass an amendment to the state constitution declaring no constitutional right to abortion, and Montana voters narrowly rejected a measure to protect babies who are born alive after attempted abortions. 

The pro-life path forward will continue to require renewing legislative efforts, electing pro-life officials and challenging perverse laws. However, more importantly, Catholics and other pro-lifers must join together in converting the hearts and minds of many more Americans to the dignity of every unborn baby and the obligation of society to protect every life from premature death in the womb via elective abortion. Touching the hearts and minds of Americans on this won’t be easy, but over time it can and must be done. Only in this way can we secure lasting political victories that make legalized abortion unthinkable. Until then, abortion-related political struggles will continue for the foreseeable future. 

That’s because in returning abortion to the authority of the states, Dobbs didn’t guarantee that individual states would opt for less permissive abortion laws than the flawed Roe v. Wade decision dictated. Dobbs also didn’t preclude a pro-abortion Congress from passing a new and even more permissive national pro-abortion law, or preclude a pro-abortion president from signing such a law into effect — as President Joe Biden has notoriously promised to do, if one crosses his desk in the Oval Office. 

And, in the immediate aftermath of Dobbs, it was to be expected that pro-abortion activists and their political allies would mobilize massively, as they have done. That’s because, for these abortion zealots, it’s utterly offensive that individual states have regained the democratic right to ban or restrict elective abortions. The only “democratic” outcome these extremists will ever accept is the permanent imposition of an abortion-on-demand legal regime. In fact, because of the leak of a draft of the decision at the start of May, this mobilization in support of the abortion movement’s cult of death actually began more than a month ahead of Dobbs’ release.

Over the succeeding six months, flagrant lies and misrepresentations have been the indelible hallmarks of the abortion lobby’s activism, as is always the case. According to them, state laws banning abortion, or sharply restricting access, will prevent women experiencing ectopic pregnancies and other life-threatening complications from getting the lifesaving medical care they might require, if this care would also result in the unavoidable death of their unborn babies. 

This is categorically false. Post-Dobbs, pro-life states haven’t banned or restricted the availability of such treatments at all. And there is no reason why they ever would, given that providing such medical care to a mother does not represent an elective abortion. The goal here is to save the mother’s life, not to kill the baby in her womb.

But while false, these claims had a significant impact on voters — especially in light of the fact that many secular news outlets disseminate the abortion lobby’s talking points with little or no questioning. Indeed, these media misrepresentations undoubtedly contributed directly to the pro-life defeats in all five of the abortion-related measures that were on state ballots. 

A notable example of the one-sided media treatment was evident in the case of the Montana referendum, which sought to recognize the legal personhood of a baby who survives abortion and to require that doctors provide these living babies with medical care. On its website reporting the outcome of that vote, The New York Times ludicrously claimed, “Doctors say they are concerned that the law will limit palliative care for infants who are born but will not survive.”

Since Dobbs, sympathetic media have similarly collaborated in disseminating another and perhaps even more influential abortion-lobby falsehood: the canard that most Americans are united in support of reinstating the permissive abortion framework that was in place prior to Roe’s downfall. In fact, multiple recent polls have confirmed that a broad majority of Americans are opposed to allowing abortion until “viability” occurs at around the 24th week of pregnancy, the standard that applied with Roe. But, misguided by the abortion industry’s comprehensive misrepresentations about what Roe actually mandated, large numbers of voters endorsed pro-abortion candidates and ballot measures in the mistaken belief that they were supporting a much more restrictive abortion framework.

All of this demonstrates that education continues to be a critical task for the pro-life movement at this moment. The first step here is to expose the lies of the abortion lobby to the light of truth. 

But that’s only the beginning. The sad fact is that even though the majority of Americans oppose abortion in the final weeks of pregnancy, a majority also back access to abortion during the earlier stages of an unborn baby’s life. Equally sadly, such voters generally believe that denying access to abortions during this period harms women more than it helps them.

Not surprisingly, younger Americans are particularly susceptible to these claims, given the one-sided deluge of pro-abortion information that the news and entertainment media have directed at them throughout their lives. It’s imperative to supply our nation’s youth (as well as older generations, of course) with alternative life-affirming narratives, intelligently and creatively articulated at every available opportunity. 

This shouldn’t happen only at the level of the media and other major social institutions either. All of us can play a part in carrying this message of truth to those who we encounter in our own lives, whenever the opportunity arises.

It’s even more imperative for pro-lifers to redouble their comprehensive efforts to support women and families, most especially those who are experiencing crisis pregnancies. Nothing could ever be more persuasive, in terms of rebutting the claims of abortion activists, than providing this service of love to these vulnerable souls. Our Catholic faith demands nothing less; as followers of Jesus, we must be eager to emulate his example of self-giving sacrifice with respect to this critically important need.

Turning back to the political arena, it’s important to note that the midterm results were by no means entirely negative in the case of the U.S. Congress. While control of the Senate still remains in the balance, the Republican Party appears poised to take over control of the House. If so, this means that President Biden will be denied any opportunity to implement his profoundly immoral promise to push forward legislation codifying abortion on demand nationally. 

It’s also extremely important to note that some politicians who have unapologetically championed the pro-life cause had midterm success. Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Brian Kemp of Georgia and Greg Abbott of Texas all signed pro-life legislation into law, and all won decisive victories. This proves political success remains eminently achievable when pro-life candidates don’t hide their convictions and focus attention on their opponents’ pro-abortion extremism.

The pro-life movement has its work cut out for it, but as with the decades-long effort to overturn the legacy of Roe, it will require peaceful and prayerful zeal in every state, district and especially in the halls of Congress. This is no time to lose faith or confidence in our cause and our commitment to the unborn and to their mothers.

Every election is important. 2022 was no different, but we also know that as Catholics our hopes are not dependent on passing moments in politics. 

Rather, we boldly proclaim Jesus Christ and seek to transform our time and our culture with the Gospel. 

Let us continue to pray for our newly elected leaders, that they might be guided by prudence, authentic justice, and a dedication to the common good of the nation. 

God bless you!