Every election cycle, the New York Times and similar publications run op-eds or features discussing the ’emerging trend’ (always emerging, never quite emerged) of pro-lifers reconciling themselves to voting for the Democratic party. These articles vary widely in quality, and range from intelligent and provocative (if flawed) to embarrassing, but the most common feature is disenchantment with the current state of the Republican party. I will grant that the case has been easier to make this year given the widespread dissatisfaction with the Republican party (particularly among the chattering classes).
Nevertheless, I think the answer to the title of this post is that, yes, pro-lifers are stuck with, or at least would be best served by, support for the Republican party. Some points for consideration:
1) About 1/3 of the U.S. population supports overturning Roe, including over half of Republicans, 1/3 of independents, and about 1/5 of Democrats. Disentangling pro-lifers from the Republican party, as some have suggested, is impractical, unless the goal is to ensure a permanent Democratic majority. A party consisting only of pro-life voters would be politically impotent.
2) The Democratic party is unlikely to modify it’s support for ‘abortion rights’ any time soon.
3) Many Catholic Democrats believe that the Republican party’s preference for lower taxes and lower entitlement spending is in tension with Catholic Social Teaching. Assuming, arguendo, that they are correct, it means that both parties are deeply flawed. The next question from my perspective is: which party is more likely to be open to reform? It seems to me that the Republican party is a more likely to be open to new ideas than the newly-emboldened pro-choice Democratic party.
4) In general, entitlement spending is a one-way ratchet. Even modest proposals for means-testing programs such as Social Security or Medicare tend to come in for substantial criticism (Republicans want to take away health care from old people!). One lesson I take from this is that the Republicans will generally have to accept the expansion of entitlement programs (with occasional, narrowly targeted reforms). There is popular pressure for the expansion of entitlement programs many Catholics see as in-line with Catholic social teaching; there is insufficient popular pressure for overturning Roe. As conscientious pro-life voters are a distinct minority, it seems to me that they should apply pressure where it is most needed.
5) Any thoughts?
Note: I have used the term ‘pro-life’ in the popular sense, which I believe is the most useful sense. To be sure, the meaning of the term ‘pro-life’ could be expanded to include concerns ranging from health care reform, to military strategies in Iraq, to global warming, to animal cruelty, but I see no reason to take a simple term with a well-defined meaning and establish yet another synonym for the common good.