One of the primary arguments posed by supporters of Roy Moore to Republicans who feel uneasy about voting for someone who not only lacks the principles of a constitutional conservative, but who has said some incredibly offensive things, and who has been accused of unwanted contact, sexual harassment, and sexual assault by multiple women, is that Moore is the lesser of two evils.
According to the "lesser of two evils" argument being used by Moore supporters, there are several reasons one should vote for the Alabama Republican. The most prominent of these arguments, however, relates to abortion. Roy Moore, they say, would vote in favor of pro-life legislation, whereas his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, is ardently pro-abortion. This is true. Doug Jones’ position on abortion is morally abhorrent.
In 2016, the "lesser of two evils" argument was also made by Trump supporters. Their contention was that Trump would nominate constitutional originalists to the Supreme Court, whereas Hillary Clinton would nominate judicial activists. Again, this turned out to be true, and we got a fantastic SCOTUS justice in Neil Gorsuch following Trump’s win.
However, when assessing this type of argument as it pertains to Roy Moore, one must ask the following question: Would Moore’s presence in the United States Senate actually help move pro-life legislation forward? The answer is no.
There are several reasons why losing or maintaining a single Senate seat won’t have a significant impact on abortion.
Unfortunately, for Senate Republicans to pass a pro-life bill like the 20-week abortion ban that easily passed the House of Representatives in October, they would need 60 votes. With only a 52-seat majority, and several Senators who reliably vote against pro-life legislation on a regular basis, Republicans are lacking the manpower to get anti-abortion bills across the finish line.
In 2015, a 20-week abortion ban was defeated in the Senate by six votes. 51 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, with three Democrats also voting in favor (Senators Bob Casey, Joe Donnelly, and Joe Manchin). However, two Republicans voted against the bill (Senators Mark Kirk and Susan Collins), and one abstained (Lisa Murkowski).
There are always a few Republicans in the Senate who will either abstain or vote against anti-abortion legislation. Collins, along with former Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, even voted against the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003," which passed the senate 64-34.
To claim that losing this seat will deal some kind of death blow to the pro-life cause is disingenuous. Would such a loss be ideal? No, but if one feels uneasy about voting for Roy Moore, the "lesser of two evils" argument as it pertains to abortion isn’t convincing.
There’s another reason this line of thinking is specious. First and foremost, abortion is a cultural issue, and culture lies upstream of politics. The battle regarding the definition and sanctity of life can certainly be waged by lawmakers, but until a majority of our society is convinced that the practice is immoral, the evil of abortion won’t be vanquished.
A 2016 study conducted by Barna Group for The Institute for Pro-Life Advancement found that 53% of people ages 18-31 believed that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances (17%) or legal only in "extreme" cases (36%), while 17% said abortion should be legal under all circumstances.
Since 2001, the percentage of Americans who find abortion "morally wrong" has increased by four points (45% to 49%), according to Gallup. The pro-life cause is slowly gaining momentum, and the onus is on the people to push it forward. We cannot and must not rely on politicians to wage this war for us.
Not offering one’s support for the morally repugnant platform of Doug Jones doesn’t mean that one must, in turn, offer unbridled support to Roy Moore. The abortion-related "lesser of two evils" argument used by Moore supporters is aggressively unsound and shouldn’t be laid at the feet of Republicans who see a vote for Roy Moore as a blight on their conscience.