The pro-life movement should take a page from a playbook that it perhaps has not thought to open. I believe we could learn a thing or two from gun rights activists. More specifically, we could learn one thing: never, ever, ever compromise.
It's truly remarkable to notice how the gun rights people always win. They win in that they successfully shut down most of the attempts to pass anti-gun legislation, and they win in that they successfully convince a vast number of Americans, and certainly every conservative, that their cause is essential to the very existence of the United States. And it is essential. But the pro-life cause is essential, too — quite a bit more essential — yet we have not been able to convince very many people of that fact.
Even many so-called "conservatives" treat abortion like a minor issue. They see that our right to defend our lives is crucial. They do not see that our right to have a life is crucial. And of course there are plenty of conservatives — prominent conservatives, in some cases — who are avowedly pro-abortion. Any spokesman or spokeswoman for the Right who came out anti-gun would be hogtied, dragged into the wilderness, and shunned forever (metaphorically). But they can come out anti-life and still find acceptance and admiration on the Right.
And we should note that the news cycle does the gun rights crowd no favors. The Left has, sadly, a never-ending stream of tragedies to throw against them, but to no avail. In fact, gun rights folks are able to not only withstand these attacks but turn them around. They can convincingly show how the shootings and tragedies are a reason to protect the Second Amendment, not abolish it.
What about pro-lifers? The news media doesn't do us any favors, either. But we did have hours of video footage showing Planned Parenthood officials haggling over the price of human organs. What did we do with it? Not much. Planned Parenthood still receives 500 million dollars a year in tax funding, even with a Republican Congress and Republican president. The NRA can point to a mass shooting to prove why guns are good. Pro-lifers can't even point to Planned Parenthood selling baby livers to prove why Planned Parenthood is bad.
We are left begging for crumbs. We ask just for limited bans on certain kinds of abortions and we don’t get it. We say, “Okay, well, will you then at least maybe stop funding the abortion industry?” And still we don’t get our way. We have made some progress here and there, but still abortion is legal across the land, still hundreds of thousands die, and still Planned Parenthood makes half a billion dollars a year directly from our wallets.
I have heard some delusional pro-lifers claim that we are "winning" in spite of all of this. If this is winning, what does losing look like? I have heard them say that the young generation is "the pro-life generation." Really? 65 percent of people between the ages of 18-29 think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. You may as well tell me that the defenders of traditional marriage are "winning," too.
We call this stuff winning because we are compromisers. We are crumb eaters. We are satisfied with scraps. We should not be. And I tell you the main reason why we should never compromise: because compromising undermines the seriousness of the issue and the severity of the evil we are fighting. It is hard to argue that abortion is an intrinsic evil, and then in the next breath ask for a 20-week abortion ban. If it’s an intrinsic evil, why are we satisfied with a ban that does not address the majority of abortions, and which, with the broad and unprovable “life of the mother and rape" exceptions, actually probably would not prevent a single abortion at all? But, of course, we don't even get that much. Even with the "pro-life" party in control.
The gun rights movement has a different attitude. They won't give an inch. Ever. At all. They treat even the most mild gun restriction as a tyrannical assault on our way of life. They won't agree that any gun should be banned. They won't allow for any exceptions. They aren't just in favor of gun rights. They are radically, absolutely, unequivocally in favor of gun rights. They are extremists about guns. And I don't say that pejoratively. We ought to be extreme in our defense of our principles. Every gun rights advocate ought to be an extreme advocate. Every pro-lifer ought to be an extreme pro-lifer. That is the lesson here, I think.