In The Fight for Life, Voting and Conversion Are Both Needed
COMMENTARY: If the pro-life movement is smart and focused, we can achieve great victories for the sake of mothers and children in our nation
The fight for life has entered a new and critical stage. Coming off the 2022 midterm elections, abortion activists have set their sights on socially conservative, pro-life states. They’re preparing ballot initiatives in the hopes of convincing voters to back unlimited abortions. Activists are close to putting a dangerous constitutional amendment on the ballot in Ohio later this year — surely the first of many.
It's no wonder why the abortion lobby thinks it can succeed. Last year, voters in three pro-life states surprisingly chose to maintain or even expand abortion. Kansans made this shock move in August, while Montanans and Kentuckians did so in the November midterms. These losses emboldened abortion’s defenders to set their sights on essentially any and every state.
Should pro-lifers be worried? Only insofar as anxiety sparks action.
Clearly, there needs to be an unprecedented effort to rally people to vote for life. We should take comfort in the fact that polling shows Americans broadly support limiting abortion and protecting life, especially after the first trimester. But such polls should not make us overconfident. Having all the supporters in the world doesn’t matter if too few show up on election day. If we don’t invest in a historic get-out-the-vote effort, with all the data and grassroots canvassing it requires, abortion activists may carry the day, from Ohio to Oklahoma.
Part of the reason why abortion activists are winning in unlikely places like Kansas and Kentucky is because pro-abortion voters are more motivated. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, was the biggest loss they’d ever experienced. They responded by fighting back. The pro-life movement, meanwhile, saw Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health as its greatest victory, which it was to date. Yet a victory is inherently less motivating than a loss, since it makes it seem like a lot of the hard work is done. Pro-lifers have to overcome the enthusiasm gap, reminding voters that the hard work is just beginning.
For my part, I firmly believe life will win at the ballot box in Ohio and other socially conservative states, so long as we put in the necessary effort on the front end. I feel the same way about our chances in states that could go either way on the life issues and even some socially liberal states. There’s no reason pro-lifers should play only defense. We can play offense, marshalling the resources and will to activate the majority of Americans who want to protect life.
History proves we can succeed. Think back to the state ballot measures that banned same-sex civil marriage in the early- to mid-2000s. Far from failing, they almost always passed — including in California! If the pro-life movement is smart and focused, we can achieve similar victories for the sake of mothers and children. Progress will surely look different in each state, but it will be progress all the same.
There’s another lesson we should learn from the same-sex marriage debate: This isn’t just a political fight. It is even more of a spiritual battle. Support for same-sex civil marriage began to rise as religious affiliation fell, reversing the hard-won gains at the ballot box. Those of us who care passionately about life must realize that our ultimate success requires religious conversion.
As anyone who has ever been to a pro-life march can attest, religion is the single biggest predictor of whether someone recognizes and supports the right to life.
Christianity in particular holds that each life is sacred and made in the image and likeness of God, which makes abortion unthinkable. Religious conversion is therefore essential to protecting life. Of course, as any religious believer would tell you, conversion is ultimately about your own soul and relationship with your Creator. The afterlife is always much more important. Yet becoming pro-life in the meantime is imperative.
Conversion is no simple process. It requires an ongoing and even more enormous investment from churches and missionary groups. It is also unlikely to happen on a massive scale between now and when people in states like Ohio vote on abortion constitutional amendments. By all means, the pro-life movement should focus on winning votes in the short term. Yet in the long run, and starting now, we should care even more about winning souls. In the end, voting and conversion are both necessary to winning the fight for life.