In the Wake of Roe, Some Republicans Pioneer a Third Way on Abortion: Not Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, but Pro-Grift

By John Zmirak Published on April 30, 2023

I’m old enough to remember the phrase “personally opposed.” Allegedly Catholic Democrats such as Mario Cuomo, Geraldine Ferraro, and even Joe Biden claimed that status. It meant that they believed, really believed, that abortion was killing babies. But they favored keeping that legal anyway.

Which sounds on the surface … insane. If some white Southern minister in 1940 had claimed to be “personally opposed” to segregation or lynching, nobody would have believed him. So how did that generation of politicos get away with it?

Because what they really meant was that this abortion belief of theirs was an irrational, arbitrary fetish of their particular ethnic tribes (Italian or Irish). It wasn’t based on science, moral reasoning, or even the Bible. It was based on their need to stay connected to their ethnic immigrant voting base, who listened to the pope and their parish priests.

It’s a Catholic Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand

So when these politicians said, “I believe abortion is wrong,” they meant it the same way I would if I said, “I believe I’ll have another hot dog, thank you, ma’am.” It didn’t bind anyone else, because it wasn’t grounded in truth. It was an identity marker, like an Afro or a shamrock.

Now Democrats under 70 don’t say such things anymore, because the new party line is that abortion must be celebrated, even “shouted.” Bill Clinton would never again say that he wants abortion to be “rare.” Such a stance will get you canceled.

Seeds Fell on Rocky Ground, Where They Had Not Much Soil

The pro-life position, conversely, seemed to prevail at last among Republicans — a party which was largely pro-abortion before Ronald Reagan. But now in the wake of Roe, when things get real, we’re seeing how shallow the pro-life roots go in many candidates.

They’re talking up a new “third way” position that avoids the logical implications of either the pro-life or pro-choice positions. In fact, it avoids any logic at all, except for the calculus of naked, short-term self-interest. I wish that such candidates would simply say, “I’m personally hypocritical on abortion. I’m not pro-life or pro-choice, but pro-grift.”

If you’re a pro-grift politician, there are several ways you can ask for pro-life votes, while dog-whistling to pro-choice voters that you aren’t really serious — that this is all an act you put on to toss some red meat to the rubes. Here are some easy strategies.

Say Abortion Is Exclusively a Matter for the States

It’s one thing to say that we must work incrementally, convincing the people in each state as quickly as we can to extend greater and greater protection to unborn life, while pursuing federal policies that discourage abortion, and seeking the votes for a national ban. (Which is quite a distant prospect politically.) It’s quite another to say that abortion is exclusively a “question for the 50 states.”

It’s true that abortion laws before Roe v. Wade were largely state laws, just like murder laws. That’s because there was a national consensus on the subject, and the federal government had no reason to get involved. But when there isn’t consensus, then states come into conflict. For instance, now when Big Pharma companies ship chemical abortion pills (which didn’t exist in 1973) across state lines into places like Texas that protect unborn lives by law.

Who arbitrates such disputes? The federal government. (That’s kind of the point of having one.) If you say that the feds should play no role whatsoever in protecting unborn Americans, there’s only one good reason for that: because you don’t care if they get protected.

If You’re Serious, You Want the Feds Involved

If you really believe something is true and important, you will want the federal government to twist the arms of states that won’t get on board with it. Abortion fans today demand that the Biden administration make chemical abortions easy in 50 states. Slaveowners demanded via the Fugitive Slave Act that citizens of free states act as slavecatchers for black Americans who escaped through the Underground Railroad. Real pro-lifers today want the federal government solidly on the side of life, insofar as we can make that happen.

They don’t set out as their goal a patchwork America, with abortion clinics in LAX and JFK and O’Hare airports, and baby pesticide pills streaming through the U.S. mails. In such a country, the only people really affected by pro-life laws are women too poor or too off the grid. Their babies might be protected, but nobody else’s. Such a stance isn’t sincerely pro-life, or wildly pro-choice. It’s cynically pro-grift.

Lead with Your Exceptions, and Only Talk About Gross Abuses

Another pro-grift strategy is to constantly “nuance” your opposition to our current, abortion for nine months for any reason, regime by pointing to all the exceptions you’re happy to carve out. You slam the Democrats for rare outrages like nine-month abortions for sex selection, then equally hit consistent pro-lifers by pointing out the many kinds of unborn babies you don’t want to protect.

First, those conceived in rape. Make it clear that you don’t even support laws requiring women to report such alleged rapes to the cops, and cooperate with prosecutors, as the price of gaining exceptions. Nope, just the empty claim of “Rape!” should be enough, as Christine Blasey Ford thought that hers should be enough, too.

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Then throw in “incest,” just to be on the safe side, though nobody really knows what that means or even cares. Still, it has a nice ring to it, and suggests that America doesn’t need to protect two-headed babies with extra fingers. We abort such a high percentage of Down Syndrome babies, there’s clearly a political constituency for eugenics, as long as we don’t call it that.

Then (and this is crucial) throw in “the life and health of the mother.” This is the exception so wide you could march the Rose Bowl Parade straight through it, but it sounds so very reasonable. Most people don’t know that an outright abortion is never medically necessary to save a woman’s life — or that even pro-life doctors favor gently removing ectopic pregnancies intact. Such babies can’t be saved, but we make the effort anyway out of respect for their human dignity. 

Selling Your Soul in a Buyer’s Market

If you’re a pro-grift American, and you’re running for office, those are the talking points that should gull many pro-life voters, while reassuring pro-choicers, sufficient for you to squeak by in close elections that the Democrats don’t choose to steal.

But really, do you want to sell your soul in such a buyer’s market? There’s such a glut you’ll only get pennies on the dollar. You might as well hold onto it. It might come in handy someday.


John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”

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