How to Deal With Abortion and Other Off-Agenda Social Issues

Brace yourselves, folks, for a rant, because that’s just the mood I’m in.

I am oh so ever annoyed with the way many conservatives are painting the party into a corner by constantly beating the drum of several less-than-popular social issues that, quite frankly, aren’t important at the moment and likely won’t be until after 2016.  I’m just spit-balling, but I think it’s pretty evident that ObamaCare, the economy, and maybe education will be the top (and virtually only) issues in 2014.

I’m going to tackle an issue I happen to be fairly knowledgeable about: abortion.  But the general rules outlined in this post could also apply to other hotly-debated social issues like gay marriage.

abortion social issues

The Facts

Join me for a quick hop over to Gallup, the nation’s top public opinion research company, and see what they say that we say.

Hm, well, look at that.  According to study after study, year after year, Americans as a whole are NOT pro-abortion.  In Gallup’s in-depth review, they even state that the all-or-nothing terms ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ are inadequate and misleading.  Here are the facts:

  • The country is not split on abortion.  The media quote stats that indicate about 1/2 the country is ‘pro-life’ and half is ‘pro-choice.’
    What they don’t tell you is that half of that ‘pro-choice’ group is:
    1.  Against 2nd and 3rd trimester abortion.
    2.  Against abortion except in cases of rape/incest/life of mother.
    3.  Against partial birth abortion.
    4.  Less than 3% of abortions are due to rape/incest/protecting the life of the mother.
    That means roughly 75% of Americans are against 97% of abortions.
  • Republicans are reliably pro-life by about 70%.  Democrats actually vary widely from 19% to nearly half, depending on demographics…curiously, under-educated and poorer democrats are actually more pro-life, hm…
  • It’s not the young and frightened teen getting most of the abortions - they’re only 17% of the equation.  The majority lies with unmarried 20-something white women who cite ‘financial stress’ or not wanting to be a single parent as their reason.  A surprisingly high number are repeat abortions and abortions for women who already have a child (or children), again the vast majority unmarried.
  • There may be something to this Black Genocide theory.
  • 1 in 6 voters hold abortion as a ‘make or break’ issue in winning their vote, nearly half view it as one of several important factors.

The Point

There are a gazillion more statistics I could throw at you, and this may all seem irrelevant to your political campaign, and maybe it is, but you need to know it anyway.  Because someone will ask you.

If you’re running for Congress it matters because abortion is a classic national level public (a.k.a. media) agenda issue.

If you’re running for mayor, city council or a county wide position and there’s an abortion clinic in your district, it matters.

It matters most for a state senate or state representative seat because state legislatures are the true battleground for the pro-life/pro-choice debate.

Not to mention, there’s always the potential for you to progress up, and it may come into play in another race.

The Problem

You might be wondering why I feel the need to write an in-depth post about this topic.  For the record, I’m pro-life.  And I’m constantly ripping my hair out because some ‘staunch pro-lifer’ in a committee in some state legislature has killed a bill that would have curtailed abortions by some percentage on the grounds that it wasn’t ‘strong enough.’

As if that isn’t enough, I rip out whatever hair I had left because some promising new candidate gets caught off guard and says something religious/sentimental/fundamental on the topic that the media then happily takes out of context and over-plays on every newscast from now until election day, and a would-be ally doesn’t get elected at all.

There are some things that pro-life candidates (and current politicians, too) need to keep in mind:

  • This is a war.  We are not going to win it in one sweeping battle.  It will take incremental changes to peel back the over-reach of Roe v. Wade.  It will take a great deal of sly cleverness to get any sort of pro-life legislation past the long and well-funded arm of the pro-abortion movement, namely Planned Parenthood.  They stomp on any legislation that’s even remotely pro-life, regardless if it’s damaging to greater issues like women’s health.  Inspect abortion clinics? Require basic health standards?  Let women see their ultrasounds?  Tell them about adoption?  How dare you!
  • Accept that Roe v. Wade is probably here to stay, at least in this lifetime.  If you take an all-or-nothing approach to your pro-life agenda, you will fail.  You should approach any and all pro-life legislation by asking yourself, “Can this save one life?”  If the answer is yes, support it!  For God’s and the unborn’s sake, don’t kill the bill yourself because it’s not stringent enough, and don’t change it to the point that no democrat will support it.  Saving one at a time is infinitely better than saving none.
  • There are other, more effective ways to curb abortions.  Think about the women who have them – unmarried, often already has one child or more, low-income.  How can you help these women to not fall into these categories?

The Rules

This delicate subject requires a complicated web of rules when it comes to addressing it publicly – or even privately – during a political campaign.  The last thing you want to do is scare away would-be supporters because you make an overly sentimental display of support one way or another – these candidates are (usually outrageously unfairly) labeled right-wing fundamentalist evangelical looneys.  And your words will be taken out of context and go viral online.  I promise.  So bear with me through what promises to be the most tedious – but potentially campaign-saving – post you’ve ever read.

For the sake of convenience, I’m going to assume anyone who’s tripped upon this post is pro-life and Republican.

  1. You do not need to talk about it.  If some one asks you, of course, you can simply tell them you are pro-life and are free to answer any follow up questions, but you don’t need to shout it from the rooftops, include it in your stump speech, or mention it in a bullet point on your palm card.  You should have a fleshed out issue stance about abortion on your website, as every other conceivably important issue.  Websites are for voters who really need to know you – typically independent-minded informed voters.
  2. When you do talk about it, especially when you’re on the record in any way, quote statistics, not Bible verses.  The liberal media wants you to talk about Jesus.  They’re dying for you to bring up Bible verses no average American has heard before.  That’s exactly the soundbite they need to make you look like a Bible-thumping, ultra-conservative, fundamentalist Christian with a close-minded and backward view, completely lost in these modern, free-spirited times.
  3. Use the opportunity to talk about other issues and initiatives that support women.  Show sympathy for the women who may find themselves in this situation.  Surely many feel like there is no way out.  What are you doing to help them out?  How are you making adoption an easier choice?  How are you making employment with kids easier?  How are you building a supportive environment for the nuclear family?  How about addressing the issue of fatherlessness head on?  That’s a good angle for a black Republican candidate in particular.  Show voters you love them both.
  4. Redirect, redirect, redirect.  Answer the question if you must.  But embrace the freedom to give an answer completely unrelated to the question.  Focus on the issues that matter, and most importantly, the issues that are already imbedded in your communications strategy.

Okay, so now that I’ve written it out, it isn’t really complicated at all.  So take it to heart, apply it to appropriate hot-button issues, and win.

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