Let’s Talk About Roe.  And Georgia.

This week’s Courier Herald column:

When the Supreme Court made law from the judicial branch in January of 1973, I was 3 years old. Let’s stipulate for the record that the men and women who remember times before Roe vs Wade are well into their AARP years.

I am old enough to remember, however, when Roe wasn’t a settled topic within the Republican party – even in Georgia. I recall in the mid-1990’s the GOP was trying to shake the Country Club Republican image. 

Let’s be clear here.  In most public conversations the term “country club” meant well to do folks from Atlanta. The more subtle intra-party meaning implied folks who sent their daughters to a doctor in order to avoid a family embarrassment. 

Sometime between the Pat Robertson running to be Ronald Reagan’s successor in 1988 and Georgians taking the Governor’s mansion in 2002 the intra-party skirmish was settled.  Republicans would be the “pro-life” party.

When I was involved in campaigns in the mid-1990’s, the battlefield was defined by different talking points.  The Dems, having switched at least locally from rural southern conservative to being the pro-choice option, argued abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”  Republicans, at that point in time, had coalesced around the idea that abortion should be illegal except in cases of “rape, incest, or life of the mother.” 

Zealots doing what zealots do, extremists have pummeled these positons out of existence from both major parties.  The most vocal pro-life factions of the GOP now not only refuse to acknowledge exceptions, but want to outlaw in-vitro fertilization and have extended their reach into medical research. A bill was introduced in the Georgia legislature in 2015 to prohibit the creation of human and glow-in-the-dark jellyfish hybrids, in the name of pro-life.

If that sounds a bit extreme, then let’s look at the other side.  “Rare” is no longer in their vocabulary. “No restrictions” is the sanitized mantra, which sounds much better than the legal ability to kill a viable baby moments before a full term delivery.  Only seven countries allow abortions without restriction after 20 weeks.  “No restrictions” puts the United States on par with human rights abusers North Korea and China.

A reminder from introductory civics classes:  The judicial branch does not make laws, but interprets them.  Those who have been happy to watch the Supreme Court push the limits of activism in their favor are now suddenly apoplectic that the pendulum could swing the other way. 

The underlying problem is that despite Roe being a rallying cry for both sides to campaign on for a half century, Congress has neither codified nor overturned the ruling.  All the while, activists and zealots on both sides have continued to move the goal posts on the issue.  This has furthered the divide while keeping lucrative grifts alive.

You rarely hear the phrase “winning the hearts and minds” anymore, but that used to be the open slogan used to explain the pro-life path to victory.  It’s hard to win over people while generally referring to their positions as evil incarnate.

Presuming the leaked opinion becomes the ruling of the court, Roe will again become an active campaign issue that will now likely get the attention of Congress and state legislatures.  It will no longer be about “firing up the base”, but about winning and holding the middle.

Republicans who want this victory to last should listen closely to those concerned over legitimate medical issues.  They should understand terms like ectopic pregnancy.  They shouldn’t tell rape victims that the crime committed upon them was “God’s will”.  Righteous anger needs to give way to empathy and compassion.

Democrats, meanwhile, have already forgotten that just a couple of weeks ago a Supreme Court nominee refused to define what a woman was. Some, per the usual script, are demanding men stay out of this debate.  The term “birthing person” seems to have been shelved for now.

I’m not going to pretend to tell either side how to win or not-lose an election over this issue.  I will suggest this to my earnest pro-life friends who remain outside the issue’s grifting operations but remain dedicated to the cause:

Talk less.  Listen more.

There are real concerns that must be addressed here.  Purity tests don’t win hearts and minds.


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