Troubling Results in Five States After Midterms
In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.
― John 16:33
As the dust settles on the U.S. midterm elections, one unfortunate fact is clear: in those states that voted on abortion in ballot initiatives, unborn children and women in need were the losers. In all, voters in five different states voted on amendments having to do with abortion: California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont. In all five cases, the pro-life position lost.
True, in some of these cases (e.g., the amendments in California and Vermont) the outcome was only to be expected.
That California passed Proposition 1, which adds a “right” to abortion to the state constitution, is a tragedy. Not only will this amendment prohibit state legislators from passing even the most common-sense pro-life legislation, it opens the doors to further radicalizing California law, allowing abortions up to the point of birth with taxpayer funding. However, while Californian pro-lifers valiantly fought this diabolical amendment, it was always an uphill fight. In the end, it passed 65-35%.
As Live Action reports, it appears that one major abortion chain is already set to take advantage of California’s new extreme position. DuPont Clinic is one of the few organizations willing to kill unborn children up to the point of birth. In October, apparently anticipating the passage of Proposition 1, they announced that they would be bringing their “model of all-trimester abortion” to California, opening a new facility in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, in Vermont, another one of the bluest states in the Union, voters approved an amendment to protect “personal reproductive autonomy” (read: legal abortion without restriction) in the state constitution in an overwhelming 77-23% vote.
Troubling Votes in Michigan, Kentucky, Montana
Even though pro-lifers and the Catholic Bishops of California gave tremendous effort in raising awareness and reasons to oppose Proposition 1, it was expected that hyper-liberal California voters would rally to support legal child-killing. The same was believed of voters in Vermont; however, some did expect that things might go otherwise in three other states: Michigan, Kentucky, and Montana.
Michigan is considered a purplish state that leans Democrat. However, despite a fairly large liberal population, pro-lifers hoped that voters in Michigan would reject the extreme Proposition 3.
Like Proposition 1 in California, the Michigan amendment adds a constitutional “right” to abortion and contraceptives to the state constitution – a devastating change that will prevent real pro-life legislative progress in the state. Sadly, Michigan voters approved the amendment 55.4-44.6%.
“There are no words to express our grief,” said Christen Pollo, the executive director of Protect Life Michigan, after the vote. “We don’t mourn because we lost a political battle. We mourn because we live in a world that has lost the ability to draw the most important moral line in the sand: the line that protects us all.”
Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit echoed these words. “We grieve for the many women who will continue to be harmed by abortion in our state,” he said in a statement. “And most importantly, we grieve for the lives who will be lost because of this unjust and perverse law.”
In conservative Kentucky, meanwhile, voters ultimately rejected Amendment 2, an amendment that would have made clear that the state constitution does not provide a right to abortion. The loss here is, in certain respects, less immediately devastating than the loss in states like California or Michigan. After all, Kentucky is currently one of the most pro-life states in the Union, banning abortion for almost any reason.
However, pro-lifers in the state fear that this vote may be the precursor to much worse. Kentucky’s Supreme Court is set to hear a case soon that could see the court “discover” a right to abortion in the constitution. This amendment was designed to head off any such judicial activism. Without the amendment in place, it is possible that abortion may yet return to Kentucky in a big way.
With that said, state officials are determined to prevent any such outcome. Attorney General Daniel Cameron noted after the vote to reject the amendment, “while this result is disappointing it does not change our belief there is no right to abortion hidden in the Kentucky Constitution and that the regulation of abortion policy is a matter that belongs to our elected representatives in the General assembly.”
The outcome that did take me by surprise, however, was the vote in Montana, where voters rejected a “Born Alive” measure, which made clear that medical staff must provide medical care to children that are born alive after failed abortions. One would think that protecting newborn babies from being left to die is the bare minimum, especially in a generally conservative state like Montana. But alas, this common-sense amendment was narrowly defeated, 52.5-47.5%.
The Silver Lining
While there is simply no denying that the outcome of the midterm votes on ballot initiatives was disappointing in many respects, there are other signs of hope.
Since Roe was overturned earlier this year, several states have made a push to outlaw most or all abortions, with the strong support of their governors. This is the case in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas. In Georgia, for instance, Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law a heartbeat bill that bans abortion after about six weeks. In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a law banning almost all abortions. And in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a heartbeat bill.
In each of these states, the pro-life governors were rewarded for their unapologetic pro-life stance by winning easy re-election.
One of the most impressive victories of the midterms happened in Florida, where Governor DeSantis defeated pro-abortion Charlie Crist with an unprecedented 20-point margin. Pro-life Marco Rubio also cruised to re-election. Gov. DeSantis has been consistently pro-life, and legislators in the state say they expect to pass further pro-life laws in the coming months.
Additionally, nine cities in Texas and Nebraska voted to become “sanctuary cities” for the unborn, outlawing abortion within city limits.
So, while it is true that voters in several states voted in disappointing ways, the midterms also revealed that taking a strong pro-life stance is not the losing proposition that the mainstream media or squishy Republicans would have us believe. Governors and legislators who are willing to unapologetically take a pro-life position, and to champion it with real, courageous leadership, were rewarded at the ballot box.
As Live Action President Lila Rose put it, “Strongly conservative, pro-life candidates performed well on Tuesday. Weak candidates did not. Be unapologetically pro-life. It won’t only turn out a passionate pro-life base to vote for you, it’s brave, moral leadership that wins respect from others.”
Another thing to keep in mind in analyzing the outcome of the midterms, is that in the battle over the abortion amendments, pro-lifers were hugely outspent.
In Michigan, for instance, pro-life activists mounted a major grassroots campaign, directly reaching over 600,000 voters at their homes and on the phone. However, whereas the pro-abortion campaign, Reproductive Freedom for All, raised over $40 million, spending $22.5 million on advertising, the pro-life campaign raised just $16.9 million.
According to Live Action, all told pro-abortion advocates outspent pro-life advocates 35:1 in the fight over the ballot initiatives.
Although money isn’t everything, the fact is that pro-abortion advocates made sure that whenever people in their states turned on the TV or radios, they heard messages warning them about all the horrible things that would supposedly happen if their state protected unborn life.
Furthermore, with Roe gone, pro-abortion activists needed these victories to create the impression that Americans support Roe, even if the polls consistently show that they don’t. Thus, they threw everything they had into the fight.
The Path Forward
The pro-life movement in the United States is facing a new era, with new challenges. At the federal level, the challenge for decades now has been to get the right man or woman into the Oval Office, in the hope that they would appoint the right Supreme Court justices, who would in turn overturn Roe.
At long last, the pro-life movement has achieved that goal. The reversal of Roe is already bearing good fruit, with recent data showing a significant drop in the number of abortions in recent months. Lives are being saved.
However, now that Roe is gone, the fight is returning to the individual states, and requires different strategies. As pro-life writer Jonathon van Maren explained in First Things last week, in politics if you’re explaining, you’re losing. The problem with the recent abortion amendments is that due to the huge pro-abortion spending advantage pro-lifers were often on the defensive, with pro-abortion organizations flooding the airwaves with ads making emotionally charged claims.
As Van Maren notes, over the decades, the abortion movement has perfected a simple, deceptive message: if you ban abortion, women will die. Never mind that this is untrue. The point is, it’s effective. It makes the abortion issue emotionally relevant to people. It inspires them to get out to vote.
The pro-life movement must respond with an equally simple message, i.e., if you legalize abortion, real living unborn children will die gruesome deaths. That is, people need to be reminded, constantly, of the humanity of the unborn child. What that child looks like. How the violence of abortion snuffs out a developing human life. This has to be the overwhelming focus of our messaging.
Furthermore, at this stage, we no longer need politicians who are willing simply to do the minimum of what the pro-life movement wants because they want our votes. We need politicians who understand the life issues, and who are able to persuade their constituents of the justice of our cause.
We need politicians who, when challenged during debates, respond with eloquent defenses of the humanity of the unborn, who demonstrate a convicted opposition to the barbarity of abortion, who understand the importance of the family and traditional morality to turning the tide against the culture of death, and who are able to articulate these things effectively.
Meanwhile, however, in states where pro-abortion amendments passed despite the best efforts of pro-life activists, those pro-life activists are already regrouping. “If Michigan’s laws won’t protect the unborn, we will have to convince people to protect them,” said Protect Life Michigan’s Christen Pollo. “So, yes – we mourn today. But tomorrow, we get back to work. It is now up to all of us to be advocates for the unborn. We are needed now more than ever.”
Every loss on the issue of abortion is devastating. However, there is no point in letting any loss get us down, particularly at a time when the pro-life movement is decisively winning. Children are alive today who would not otherwise be, because of these victories. Right now is the time to dust off, re-evaluate, and return to the fight, knowing that history and truth is on our side.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.