Andrew Sullivan has entered into the abortion debate, and he appears to be arguing that it’s mutually exclusive to be both pro-life (as we understand it) and conservative.
“I am pro-life, in as much as I find abortion deeply morally troubling,” Sullivan writes. “But I am also a conservative, which requires me to see what is actually practicable in a diverse and free society, where government does not, mercifully, have the power to control what happens inside our bodies.”
It is true that one could easily imagine a pro-life position being a liberal position (why aren’t the same folks who worry about child labor in the developing world — or “animal rights” — the same folks defending the right to life of the unborn?). On the other hand, there is nothing inconsistent about being a pro-life conservative. Government, we might agree, should play a very limited role in our lives, but it does have a few responsibilities — and among these are preserving our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In making his argument, Sullivan cites another post, which argues that abortion rates are actually higher in countries where it is banned. Assuming this is true, it wouldn’t persuade me to change my mind regarding pursing a moral public policy. But it would reinforce my belief that pro-lifers ought to spend at least as much time winning hearts and minds as attempting to change the law. People, of course, sometimes break laws, so creating a culture of life is crucial. Thatcher’s maxim that “First you win the argument, then you win the vote,” is not only smart politics — it sometimes even renders winning the vote a moot point.