Conservative Candidates For Federal Office Should Continue To Support Babies, Mothers, And Life

Woodman. DailyWire+.

This is the first part of an edited speech delivered by Michael Knowles at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Who exactly are our friends? It’s getting trickier to tell. More precisely, who are our political allies? If this speech had taken place a month or two ago, I would have had a pretty clear answer. Today, it’s a little less clear — and that’s thanks to one issue in particular: abortion. 

Over the past few weeks, some conservative politicians have started moving to the Left on abortion. They’re doing so because they fear that taking too strong of a pro-life stance will cost them their elections. And it’s a fair concern. In order to accomplish anything in politics, one needs to win elections. To quote Mitch McConnell, “Winners make policy, and the losers go home.”

President Trump made this point recently when he unveiled the abortion plank of his platform. Just a week or so ago, President Trump reaffirmed that he’s pro-life and that he favors exceptions in the case of babies conceived in rape or incest as well as in the case of a threat to the life of the mother. He went on to say that he opposes the regulation of abortion at the federal level and sides, instead, with the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which declared abortion an issue for state legislatures to decide

Some pro-lifers have criticized Trump for this stance. They wish, in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s reversal, that he would go further. They wish he would come out in support of a national abortion ban — or even an additional Court ruling that would ban abortion on the basis of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Some have gone so far as to claim that President Trump is not a pro-life candidate. 

This, I think, is unfair. Deeply unfair. Because President Trump is the only reason we’re even having this debate. President Trump is the reason Roe v. Wade was reversed in the first place. There have been six Republican presidents since Roe v. Wade invented a national license to abortion. Six Republican presidents since the first March for Life in 1974. President Trump is the first one to address the March. Nixon didn’t show up. Ford didn’t show up. Not even Ronald Reagan or either of the Bushes showed up. Just Trump. 

And of the six Republican presidents since Roe, President Trump’s platform is at least as pro-life as that of his predecessors. In some ways, it’s even more so. Some forget that President Reagan actually legalized abortion in the state of California when he was governor. Now, I certainly do not mean to besmirch the memory of the Gipper, a great man who came to regret that decision and who later campaigned on behalf of the pro-life movement. I just mention it to point out that some pro-lifers are holding President Trump to a far more exacting standard than any to which they have held his predecessors — a standard that seems particularly unfair since President Trump has done more than any Republican president or presidential candidate in history to protect babies in the womb. 

I am as pro-life as they come. I observed in a speech a few weeks ago at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that abortion is intrinsically evil and that legal abortion is a historical aberration in America. That for most of American history, when the issue was addressed at all, abortion was simply outlawed. I observed that, until the Sexual Revolution of the mid-20th century, abortion became even more restricted the more scientists discovered about the origins and development of human life. If you’d like to hear more of the moral and historical arguments against abortion, I encourage you to watch my University of Wisconsin-Madison lecture on YouTube or read part one and part two via The Daily Wire. I would happily return to America’s historical norm, which protected all innocent life. 

WATCH: The Michael Knowles Show

But that’s easy to say and harder to do, which is President Trump’s point. He recognizes, as political philosophy has recognized since at least Aristotle, that prudence is the chief political virtue. We have to take the wins we can get today so that we can score even more wins tomorrow. We have to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 

So, I’m all for prudence. But some Right-wing politicians are going much further than President Trump prudential calculation. I’m sorry to say that’s what conservative Senate candidate Kari Lake has recently done. Kari Lake, whom I’ve always liked, put out a new abortion platform. 

She said that abortion “is such a personal and private issue. I chose life, but I’m not every woman. I want to make sure that every woman who finds herself pregnant has more choices so that she can make that choice that I made.” 

As I said, I like Kari Lake, and she is, of course, far preferable to her liberal opponent, who describes the murder of babies as a “sacred right.” So please consider this in the spirit in which it is intended: as a fraternal correction from someone who wants her to win, who hates to see her campaign torpedo itself, and who would especially hate to see other conservative campaigns torpedo themselves by following suit. 

What’s wrong with the statement? Everything, pretty much. It begins by calling abortion “a personal and private issue.” It is not. A personal and private issue is an issue that affects only an individual. “Will I have a hot dog or a hamburger for lunch?” is a personal and private issue. “Will I murder my child?” is not a personal or private issue because it affects someone else — namely, the child. That makes it a political issue. Abortion is obviously a political issue. Politicians and voters have been debating it for more than 50 years. 

“I chose life, but I’m not every woman.” 

Right, you’re not every woman: You’re a candidate for public office articulating your position on public policy. Would we ever accept this kind of rhetoric on any other political issue? “I choose not to commit rape, I choose not to burglarize people’s homes … but I’m not every man.” Does that mean we ought to permit other men to rape and burgle? I don’t think so. 

One chooses not to do those things because those acts are wrong. They’re so obviously and egregiously wrong that we pass laws against them. Why did she choose not to abort her child? She chose not to abort her child because she knew it was wrong; she knew her child had a right to life. Is it good for some women not to murder their children but not for others? Is it good for some children to be allowed to live but not for others? Of course not. 

To say, “I would never personally have an abortion, but I think other people should be able to,” is tantamount to saying, “I would never snuff the life out of my precious progeny, but I don’t really care about yours. Throw him in the trash, for all I care.” I don’t think this is what the people who hold this view intend to say, but that is what they’re saying. That’s what the statement means. 

“I want to make sure that every woman who finds herself pregnant has more choices so that she can make that choice that I made.” 

Come again? That sentence is the nearest in the platform to being defensible. And it still misses the mark. If the sentence read, “I want to make sure that every woman who finds herself pregnant has more … resources … so that she can make that choice that I made,” that would be perfectly fine. It would be quite good actually. “I want to make sure that every woman who finds herself pregnant has more … support, love, opportunity … so that she can make that choice that I made” — great! I’m all for it. But “choice”? How does having a greater “choice” to kill your child improve the odds that you won’t? By definition, the expansion of such “choice” would greatly decrease the odds that a mother chooses life. 

So, as I said: I like Kari Lake a lot, I hope her campaign corrects course and that she wins. So I want to be constructive here. What should her campaign say? Beyond the Arizona race, what should conservative candidates for federal office across the nation say about abortion in a hotly contested election year when the pro-life side has been losing at the ballot box? 

It seems to me they should keep saying what they’ve been saying that has scored us lots of wins. That is, they should say that they support life, they support babies and mothers, and they respect the Supreme Court precedent established in Dobbs that abortion is a matter for the states rather than the federal government. 

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