As support for Joe Biden continues to fall in the polls due to his failure to tackle the issues that most Americans are most concerned about (the economy, immigration, foreign aid, etc.), the Democrats have again decided to focus primarily on their default "core issues" in order to rally their base. At the top of those issues is, of course, the issue of abortion.

As a result of Roe being overturned by the Dobbs decision, each of the states has enacted their own unique law(s) in accordance with the wishes of their voting constituents. While the overturning of Roe was a tremendous win for the Pro-life camp, it was only a single victory in a larger conflict that remains contentious as the 2024 presidential election draws near. The Democrats are doing all they can to take control of the issue, which could involve another SCOTUS ruling (unlikely), federal law(s) (more likely), or possibly, an end-run around Dobbs, such as supporting the distribution of the drug Mifepristone by mail. If all else fails, they may simply rely on their historic tactics of demonizing pro-life supporters (as evidenced by recent campaign ads, one of which showing a woman being arrested for traveling across state lines to obtain an abortion).

The Republicans for their part, seem to be taking a less fanatical and more moderate approach to the issue. Recently Donald Trump posted a video on Truth Social sharing his campaign’s stance on abortion, in which he stated that from a legal standpoint, "the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both,” the issue of abortion such that, “whatever they decide must be the law of the land. In this case, the law of the state.” Shortly afterward, Arizona state Senate candidate Kari Lake, who has in the past called abortion “the ultimate sin,” came out against a recent Arizona Supreme Court ruling upholding an 1864 law which resulted in a near-total abortion ban for that state. Lake even went so far as to demand Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs find a “common sense solution” to the law, and Trump also chimed in saying that while he was not in favor of a federal abortion ban, he felt that the Arizona ruling went "too far.”

All of these statements drew both “cheers and jeers” from pro-life individuals/organizations, as well as a large number of conservatives and Christians. Many had previously viewed Trump and Lake as staunch (albeit imperfect) allies in the fight to defend the sanctity of life. Moreover, John Daniel Davidson at the Federalist saliently pointed out that Trump’s stance on abortion is “Popular Sovereignty” of the same kind that was hotly debated by Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas (over the issue of slavery) in the period just before the Civil War. But even without the benefit of hindsight, and looking back to a very different time, it seems there are some fundamental issues that we cannot simply “split the baby” over, with slavery and abortion being two such issues. Many believe that the moral dissonance is as inescapable today with the issue of abortion, as it was back then with slavery. Even a non-conservative like Bill Maher, in a rare moment of clarity and sanity, realized this when he recently quipped, “So murder is legal in some states but not others?”

Last week, our own Evan McClanahan penned a rather biting piece highlighting that despite the partisan bickering, “both sides like debt, open borders, and, apparently, abortion,” and that, “Americans are proving more than willing to kill their own children with no one to get in the way, especially historic 'pro-life' politicians and 'conservative' leaders.” As November rapidly approaches, it presently looks to be a time of great confusion and reluctance for Republicans, conservatives, and for a large number of Christians. Furthermore, now that the abortion issue has been returned to the states, it has become an up-close-and-personal fight that will allow no respite for those Roe-era fence sitters, who in the past may have argued that they had plausible justification for their inaction, so long as their hands were tied as a result of "federal" mandates (i.e., Roe).

While this is the shape of the fight that we have before us, we might also ask ourselves what the battle should look like going forward. For example, what balance of politics, pragmatism, and principles are we willing to work towards, but also, what are we willing to accept once the realities of our current culture of death assert themselves. With that in mind, we have asked our writers at The Everyman to ponder the recent words and sentiments of Trump and Lake on abortion, what those sentiments reveal, and what an ideal (but hopefully workable) pro-life platform should look like for Republicans.

People are People by Bradley Shumaker

Plain and simple, Trump’s (political) position on abortion to leave the issue up to the states makes sense. It is consistent with the former President’s past position(s) which led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Moreover, we should recall that the support and promotion of federalism/state’s rights is not by itself a moral argument, and thus should not automatically be considered a “morally neutral” position.

Because it is consistent with his past positions, arguing to defer decisions on abortion to the fifty states is the correct one for former-President Trump in 2024. As a result of this consistency, it is politically safe. Many in the Pro-life movement will be aware that just because you have not come out in support of a (limited) federal ban on abortions, this does not mean that you are in favor of abortion, or that you are against life (as many abortions would still be performed under a fifteen-week ban, for example). Where it runs into trouble is with those in the Movement who seek a federal ban as their preferred means to limit the practice of abortion. However, in considering the effectiveness of a federal ban, it should be noted that while a fifteen-week ban might limit abortions, it will not bring about an end to the horrific practice.

The hard fact is that individual state battles and limited federal bans do not address the fundamental (Constitutional) issue posed by abortion. Because the unborn/pre-born are both human and alive, they are no doubt people in a general sense. However, since they are not currently legally considered as “persons” under the Constitution, legal personhood resulting in Equal Protection of their basic rights is the key issue. The appropriate solution entails confirming that the pre-born are “persons” under the Fourteenth Amendment, and thus entitled to Equal Protection from a Constitutional perspective. Specifically, it would confirm that unborn/pre-born people, just like everyone else, have a right to live their lives (in addition to a right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness), as was originally declared in our Declaration of Independence.

Since Roe, our Supreme Court has never addressed this issue. The Dobbs decision did not address it. The Casey decision did not address it. While the Roe decision obviously did not find the unborn to be persons under the Fourteenth Amendment, it did concede that if it were to be established, “the fetus’ right to life would be guaranteed [emphasis added]” It is long overdue for the Court to decide the issue of Equal Protection for pre-born/unborn persons.

While federalism and state’s rights are no doubt important concepts, personhood/Equal Protection should be the main position for the Republican Party as relates to abortion. Most interestingly, it is similar to the Party’s historic position in the case of slavery (i.e., it was against it). The present goal is therefore to eliminate the labeling of yet another group of persons as “human non-persons,” and to ensure equal protection under the law for all, which hopefully someday soon can include those small, innocent, and defenseless persons who have only just come into existence, but under a mere technicality (and a trivial timing issue) have yet to be born.

The Wages of Dobbs by Gerhard Thielman

The Pro-Life movement owes much to former President Trump, as well as President Reagan and Bush père, along with President Bush fils and Senator McConnell, for preventing our Stasi Attorney General Garland from replacing the late Justice Scalia (a Reagan appointee). The Bushes brought Justices Thomas and Alito to the Supreme Court, along with Chief Justice Roberts, while Trump selected Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett, who together nailed the coffin shut on a “constitutional right” to elective abortions, with Scalia having laid much of the foundation by applying federalism to fight judicial overreach.

By temperament, I’m a cheerful pessimist. I expect Brandon to be re-elected and for deplorables to be exiled to the Aleutian Islands come next year, similar to how I had hoped Reagan’s election in 1980 would postpone Soviet conquest by a decade or so. My then estimation based that inevitability not on Soviet strengths, but on our Leftist elite’s intentional surrender. Now and then, we seem to get an unexpected and largely undeserved pleasant surprise – the demise of the ugly triumvirate of Roe v. Wade (1973), Doe v. Bolton (1973) and Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992) by the Dobbs v. Jackson (2022) decision.

As a reminder, although Roe technically permitted states to protect a fetus upon viability, its sister case Doe nullified this restriction on abortions on behalf of the mother’s “health,” up to and until birth. A child who survived the procedure for almost three weeks could receive no legal protection under Floyd v. Anders (1977), as decided by the South Carolina District Court.

Such an overturning of dysfunctional judicial precedent happens but rarely. Even “separate but equal” segregation that was notoriously sanctioned by Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) only gradually receded from judicial affirmation, starting with public school enrollment in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The Dobbs case ultimately removed abortion from pseudo-foundational fiat and its “privacy” moorings root and branch.

In the wake of Roe’s demise, some Pro-lifers caterwaul the reluctance of their fellow citizens to support legal protection for the unborn. Natural law, as advocated by the inestimable professor Hadley Arkes, would extend judicial recognition to all humans generally. However, absent fundamental principles in plebiscite societies, might makes right, and personal responsibility is a tough sell. We don’t have to like it, but feminazis (of both sexes) vote, whereas unborn children (also of both sexes) can’t (even in Chicago).

Moreover, the federal government has enumerated powers – to mint currency, declare war, ratify treaties, regulate interstate commerce, and so forth. By contrast, the sovereign states have plenary police powers related to the health, wealth and morale of its citizens. As such, each state can decide what criminal statutes to pass and enforce. Outside of laws pertaining to national authority, federal police powers are limited to districts or lands under direct control. For example, if Sacramento decides to legalize shoplifting or promulgate child mutilation, Californians must acquiesce to such edicts. And, if Austin declares that protecting the unborn promotes a state interest, then Texans will learn to accept that, decide to leave the jurisdiction, or advocate for changing the law.

The Fourteenth Amendment confers citizenship on subject persons, either born or naturalized. Although this does not preclude extending legal recognition to protect lives of children in utero, invisible humans in practice cannot so easily be recognized absent intrusive investigation that tends to invite tyranny. In principle, human life begins at “conception,” specifically at the moment a sperm cell fertilizes an ovum to form a zygote genetically distinguishable from both parents. However, modern instruments cannot inform us when this event actually occurs.

This leads to statutorily explicit but philosophically ambiguous rules based on when the state government has authorization to intervene to restrict or preclude the deliberate termination of pregnancy with prejudice. From that standpoint, resorting to natural law to protect the unborn more generally faces serious obstacles, even in jurisdictions where children are deemed to have intrinsic value.

This segues to the questions posed for plural contributions: (1) genuine middle ground, (2) electoral effect; (3) pro-life ramifications; and (4) preferred political path. Mr. Trump seems to have genuine political intuition, as shown by his post-courtroom visit to a Harlem bodega. He recognizes the serious political divide on the issue, and can appeal to voters to settle such decisions locally.

The “no exceptions” and the “only good baby is a dead baby” crowds stake out clear and unambiguous positions that few citizens will join, although when pushed they seem to lean towards the latter. Assuming Mr. Trump can articulate his position without media distortion, the electorate may grudgingly accept his advocacy of state-wide regulatory environment, provided monetary inflation mitigation and border security receive prominence for White House attention. However, ballot rigging could render such concerns moot.

An expectation to enshrine protection for the unborn under the federal Constitution has always been unrealistic absent the amendment process. Roe constituted judicial usurpation of state general police powers on circumscribing this “medical” practice. After almost five decades, Dobbs corrected this egregious error, but the courts cannot legitimately go further to require restriction under legal review.

Lastly, what political path should Pro-life pursue? Do we advocate for legal recognition upon conception, or rejoice that the issue is no longer under federal court dictat?  As for my own religious principles, I seek to protect families first, and expand from there to those unborn at large that are viable.  Once we can protect a few, those nuclei can be expanded to include more. To command crops to grow on barren rocks or sand dunes does not yield much fruit, while tilling the soil takes time and patience. So too will ending abortion, but with some help from an impending demographic collapse. Great calamities often benefit from impulsive advance, but political fortunes succeed better with gradual persistence.

Trumping Life by Vincent Weaver

It pains me to write this article. Many will assume my critique of Donald Trump’s words and actions on abortion and “life” means I’m somehow trying to support Joe Biden. Umm, no. Joe Biden’s track record on the sanctity of life is appalling. I can’t fathom the argument someone who is Catholic or “pro-life” could make to justify voting for this man.

However, the default from that observation should never be, “Biden is bad on life, so we shouldn’t criticize Trump.” My response is: why not? If politicians ultimately follow the voice of their constituents, and not the other way around, then we have a moral obligation to be loud and clear enough to help Donald Trump find his moral compass. Based on his recent statements regarding abortion and IVF, he is climbing the hill of perceived populism, while recklessly abandoning any sense of principles on this issue. He says, “It’s all about the will of the people.” He also says that the States should decide.

Really? No doubt, that applies to many issues, but life isn’t one of them. So, if a majority decides certain groups don’t have the right to live, do we go with that? If the voters of one State decide those who are depressed should be allowed to commit physician-assisted suicide, are we just supposed to accept that? Mr. Trump has repeatedly said, “Always go with your heart.” What about teens or pre-teens who are confused about their gender? Let 'em go with their heart? Should we let parents "go with their heart" by offering their kids puberty blockers and surgery to mutilate them? Didn’t we used to call this “child abuse”?

But what about those three SCOTUS justices Trump nominated? They were the ones who helped overturn Roe v. Wade, right? No doubt this was a big legal win for "doing the right thing." But thinking that abortions have diminished as a result is probably misguided. This move has shifted the emphasis from surgical to medical abortions (aka chemical abortions), many of which go unreported and undetected. As of 2023, chemical abortions now account for 63% of all abortions in the U.S, with complication rates being four times higher than with surgical abortions. In addition, since the Dobbs decision, many major corporations have added abortion travel costs as a benefit for their employees. (Translation: It’s a lot more convenient for us as a business to pay you to kill your child in another state rather than us having to deal with you calling in when little Johnny is sick or you need a few months off for maternity leave. I mean, who wants that?!?) But that’s the will of the people, right?

Well, at least Planned Parenthood (PP) has taken it on the chin since Trump became POTUS in 2017, right? Actually, federal funding for PP hit record heights multiple years in a row during his administration. Sure, he could’ve fought harder against this, but it wasn’t a priority. And private funding for PP? Trump’s presidency was used as a rallying cry for Big Abortion, resulting in private donations to PP increasing by $100 million during his first year in office alone.

But don’t get me wrong – Donald Trump did a lot of things well during his time as POTUS. He probably conducted the best foreign policy decisions of my lifetime – even better than Ronald Reagan. But if you’re voting for the guy because he’s “pro-life,” you’re going to be repeatedly disappointed. If abortion is wrong, it’s wrong. Let’s start helping him understand that. IVF is a more challenging issue, but it’s still fundamentally wrong. It’s not only morally illicit, it’s bad medicine. The battle isn’t over. But let’s make sure we’re clear on how we should engage.

Still the Best, even if Not the Brightest by J. Antonio Juarez

When Trump ran for president in 2016, I didn’t think much of him at first, but St. Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians came to mind about “jars of clay” within which was contained the “transcendent power” of God. Using that analogy, Trump was a rough-shaped jar with handles meant for tiny “vulgarian” fingers, which was filled with some rancid and unpalatable liquid. Yet when it came time to vote for him, even though I originally saw him as the lesser of two evils, I was not about to be complicit in giving “Kilary” a win.

Despite his many foibles and failings, it was clear to me that he had some deep-seated and well-grounded instincts that guided his actions. Instincts which lead him to declare during his first debates with Hilary that late-term abortions were “not okay” with him. Later those same instincts lead him to be the first president to appear at the National March for Life in DC, and to appoint the SCOTUS justices that tipped the balance in overturning Roe. The man was far from being perfected by grace, but he was in many ways like a modern-day Constantine, in that he had a respect for Christianity, and knew it was worth defending and embracing. In Trump’s case, this was especially true when it came to the issue of abortion.

So, what of his remarks? As I state in an article entitled “The Iron Law of Princes,” in our post-Christian and neo-pagan world filled with its own ever-growing myths and superstitions, I have given up looking to our elected leaders for any sort of moral leadership. Hence, I realize that Trump’s position that abortion policy should be made at the state level is not a moral position, but a pragmatic and political one. He is taking the middle and common-sensical ground, which strategically places the Democrats in the position of having to overrule either the “will of the people” or our "democracy” by imposing an extreme abortion policy which is not shared by large portions of the country, even among pro-choice people.

Does his position bother me? As a Catholic, of course it does, as it is contrary to logic and the natural law. Furthermore, the Federalist article concerning Popular Sovereignty is a fitting analogy of what Trump’s position represents. The concept failed to change the hearts and minds of Americans over the issue of slavery in the 1850’s, and it will fail on the issue of abortion today. Politically speaking, you are either for publicly-funded abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy (and a few hours beyond) for any reason whatsoever, or you are not. When it comes to federal vs. local policy, the stakes are all or nothing. Morally speaking, you are either protected under the Fourteenth Amendment (and all of our founding principles), or you are not.

This is the great debate that lies ahead for our nation, and one that our elected officials have ignored and kicked down the road for far too long now. While it won’t be definitively decided by the coming election, it is a crucial battle in the war Americans have continuously fought in order to live up to our highest ideals. Donald Trump may not be the brightest light to lead the way, but all else considered, he is still the best chance available. He has done much good in the past, and we should pray and exhort him to still do more.

Parting Thoughts from The Everyman

On a historical note, the idea of Popular Sovereignty not only didn't fly with Americans in the nineteenth century, it ruined the career of Stephan Douglas. No Southern state would back someone who would not openly and unapologetically support slavery, while the North distrusted him as a tool of the South that was used to expand slavery (and voting power in Congress) across the nation. As for Lincoln, he remained an insignificant figure until he was ultimately the last man standing for the 1860 election, and whose election served to jump-start the Civil War in earnest.

It was not until after the War that the Thirteenth Amendment was passed to abolish slavery, and the Fourteenth Amendment was passed to quash the ridiculous Dredd Scott decision (which ensured that freed slaves were made citizens of the United States and thus entitled to all the blessings and protections of liberty). Of course, the moral milieu of the country was not at the time ready or willing to accept such a change, and it unfortunately took another one hundred years for civil rights laws to be passed to strengthen the application of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In a similar manner, further actions will need to be taken at some point in order to clarify that the Fourteenth Amendment includes the unborn. Based on our country's history, where over time more and more people have achieved recognition and rights, this is an inevitability. The real question is how much longer will it take? Hopefully sooner rather than later, as our knowledge of life in the womb and our medical technology to care for the unborn continues to increase. Realistically though, it will probably take another hundred years to change the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans regarding the sanctity and the value of life, in or out of the womb.

So who knows. Perhaps in 2072 (one hundred years after Roe v. Wade) cellphones will have ultrasound capabilities for monitoring our health, and people will become accustomed to using that technology as part of their ongoing prenatal care from the moment of conception. Perhaps then, abortion will be as unthinkable as the notion that some races are inferior to others (and thus are fit only for servitude) is today. In the meantime, Christ and his Church (which I can remind you has outlasted every other human governmental institution on earth) are still the light of the world and the means of its salvation. Nevertheless, we should also remember our duty to render unto Cesar by obeying the government's laws, but also to have a modicum of civic responsibility by voting and getting involved in crafting those laws for the sake of the common good. As mentioned above, we are engaged in a series of small battles in a much larger conflict for the purpose of defending life and offering the blessing of liberty to all Americans. Let us not falter in this endeavor.

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