Answering Tomi Lahren On Abortion

Screen grab. Comedy Central.

Joshua Wester Research Assistant, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
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Tomi Lahren is a 24-year-old conservative firebrand. She has risen to stardom in recent years by producing political and cultural commentary that is biting and aggressive. Her social media accounts boast upwards of 4 million followers and you have likely seen one of her viral “final thoughts” monologues from the program, Tomi, which she has hosted for TheBlaze since November, 2015. Lahren’s message has found a receptive audience among millions of right-leaning Americans who have embraced her as a young and fierce conservative media icon. But in the last few days, she has faced intense scrutiny from many supporters for controversial remarks she made concerning abortion during an appearance on The View.

In the course of her appearance, the hosts of The View engaged Lahren on a series of difficult topics. To her credit, she deftly addressed President Trump’s executive order on immigration, the problem of radical Islam, and her decision to support Donald Trump’s presidential bid despite disparaging and inflammatory remarks he previously made about women. But toward the end of her segment, the conversation turned to the topic of abortion. To the astonishment of many of her supporters, and seemingly to a number of her hosts, Lahren acknowledged that she is pro-choice. She went on to offer a brief defense of her position, which was well received by many members of the audience and the women seated at the table.

According to Lahren, she is a “constitutional” conservative and “someone who is for limited government.” She explained to her hosts that it would be hypocritical for her to advocate for limited government while opposing abortion and she stated that her position sometimes brings criticism from her conservative supporters. That was indeed prophetic. Within a few hours of her appearance, the video of her segment was making the rounds on social media drawing mass amounts of criticism from social conservatives. However, it is not the case that Tomi Lahren is being subjected to such criticism simply for holding a position that is out of step with conservative orthodoxy. Instead, this backlash is the result of her decision to trot out tired arguments against the pro-life position in front of a liberal audience whom she rightly predicted would be receptive to that particular brand of red meat.

Most conservatives are well-prepared to find points of divergence with even the closest of political allies. Even in the case of abortion, we can muster the strength to disagree agreeably. However, there is a peculiar sense of betrayal that comes from hearing “one of your own” join the chorus of those who misrepresent and unfairly criticize your position, especially with an issue so paramount. And it is exactly that feeling of betrayal that has caused Ms. Lahren to spend the weekend defending herself from a deluge of opposition.

With regard to her remarks, she was wrong on at least two counts. In the first place, she plainly advanced the argument that a person cannot consistently advocate for limited government and oppose abortion. The fact is, this is a lame argument. Despite its strength as a rhetorical flourish, it is simply low hanging fruit that does nothing to address the real issue of abortion. But to this attack, there is a simple rejoinder: a government too weak to defend the vulnerable is no government at all. Whatever the proper function of government may be, there is no question that its primary and indispensable role is to protect life.

This introduces the second error. Lahren’s remarks show a callous disregard toward the reality of abortion. She claims that it would be hypocritical to advocate for limited government while opposing abortion, but this could only be true if she were willing to deny that the occupant of a mother’s womb is something less than a human life (which she has previously intimated she does not believe). No one believes that the prohibition of homicide is beyond the proper scope of government. But even so, Lahren’s remarks suggested that social conservatives who oppose abortion are guilty of such hypocrisy–though she has since backpedaled via Twitter claiming that she only intended to speak for herself. Frankly, this is profoundly irritating.

The abortion debate is about the occupant of the womb. If the occupant of the womb is “just a fetus,” “a clump of tissues,” or “the product of conception,” then by all means there is no reason for government to prevent the termination of a pregnancy. But this is not the case. The life in the womb is a human life. It comes complete with its own DNA and the inherent dignity afforded to every human person. At least this is the sincere belief of opponents of abortion. So, if a liberal wants to attack social conservatives using dated arguments, let them. But don’t talk to me about “faith, family, and freedom” and call it hypocritical to object to the slaughter of the innocent. For Tomi Lahren to dismiss and belittle the beliefs of her supporters, and especially to do so in order to secure the temporary approval of a hostile audience, was not courage but cowardice.

One need only review Ms. Lahren’s Twitter feed to discover the toll this backlash has taken upon her. Interestingly, in an effort to defend herself from criticism she stated, “I speak my truth. If you don’t like it, tough. I will always be honest and stand in my truth.” Perhaps she would appeal to her status as a millennial, but it is curious that someone who positions herself as a staunch conservative would embrace such a subjective stance toward truth when one of the central tenets of conservatism is that there are objective moral truths which apply to all people in the same way.

In any case, I can accept the fact that Tomi Lahren is pro-choice. But she can do better.