A national abortion ban won’t pass on its own, Republicans should make a deal

Alex Thompson By Alex Thompson Jun11,2024

The pro-life movement is at a crossroads. Nearly two years after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, activists continue to demand that Congress pass a national abortion ban — a policy that has no chance of passing on its own, especially after widespread outrage over Arizona’s reinstatement of an 1864 abortion ban.

We can either continue to advocate that failed strategy, or we can try something that may work. Those of us who care about saving unborn lives and protecting mothers should support a political exchange, giving politicians who support abortion something they want in exchange for the pro-life progress we want.

The abortion debate cannot be separated from America’s red-versus-blue political divide, with Republicans broadly supporting abortion restrictions and Democrats demanding abortion on demand. Since Congress is almost evenly divided, the only way to pass anything is by giving both parties a political victory.

Pro-life Republicans have never taken this approach. Instead, they’ve introduced stand-alone legislation. That includes Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children bill, which would outlaw abortion after 15 weeks, and Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and James Lankford’s (R-Okla.) Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which protects children born during botched abortions. The pro-life movement rightly says that a clear majority of Americans support these policies, based on years of polling.

But polling is no guarantee of passage, and on the rare occasions that stand-alone pro-life bills come up for votes, they inevitably fail to pass one or both houses — to say nothing of what would happen at the president’s desk. If anything, the chances of a pro-life bill becoming law have decreased in recent years. Democrats think abortion is a winning issue for them, based on the growing number of purple and red states that have voted to protect abortion.

Republicans can’t stick with the same old strategy. Nor should they abandon the pro-life cause, as Democrats and even some GOP strategists want. Rather, they should approach abortion the same way they tackle other policy issues — as a chance for horse-trading.

What liberal priority should the right offer in exchange for, say, a 12-week abortion ban? Since Democrats frequently accuse Republicans of ignoring life after birth, the GOP should start with a liberal humanitarian priority. Perhaps that means more funding for mental health, homelessness or general anti-poverty work. More likely, Democrats would only consider something much more substantial — say, amnesty for the estimated 2.3 million “Dreamers” or even for the 10-plus million illegal immigrants living in America.

Some Republicans may balk at exchanging amnesty for an abortion ban, but it’s also true that many Democrats would oppose giving up any abortions for the sake of illegal immigrants. That’s exactly why the bargain could work — because neither side gets all of what they want. Compromise is the proven path to passing a law, and without it, neither amnesty nor an abortion ban stand any chance of advancing.

There are other reasons pro-life Republicans could support this approach. Since Democrats wouldn’t be doing amnesty alone, newly legalized citizens would be less likely to support them at the ballot box, benefitting the GOP politically. Republicans would also be spared the indignity of continuing to demand that millions of illegal immigrants — many with families and children — be rounded up and sent home, a logistical impossibility. And the pro-life movement would be setting itself up for further progress. Illegal immigrants would continue to come to America, while abortions would continue to occur across the country. The next time Democrats call for amnesty, Republicans could trade it for even stronger restrictions on abortion.

If Democrats reject a bargain, they’d only hurt themselves. They’d prove to Americans, who overwhelmingly support restrictions on second- and third-trimester abortions, that they’re far outside the mainstream. They’d come across to voters as pigheaded, which is how Republicans seem when they demand stand-alone abortion restrictions. The GOP hasn’t benefited politically from that perception. Democrats would likely suffer, too.

Does any Republican have the courage to call for such a compromise? The opposition would be fierce from some quarters, especially on the fringes of both parties. But the pro-life movement has no other conceivable path to a federal legislative victory. If saving babies and mothers is as important as we say it is, we should be willing to trade something equally important to get the votes in Congress. Or the pro-life cause can continue down its current road — a road of defeat that’s littered with lost innocent lives.

Tim Busch is founder of the Napa Institute.

Alex Thompson

By Alex Thompson

Alex is an award-winning journalist with a passion for investigative reporting. With over 15 years of experience in the field, Alex has covered a wide range of topics from politics to entertainment. Known for in-depth research and compelling storytelling, Alex's work has been featured in major news outlets around the world.

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2 thoughts on “A national abortion ban won’t pass on its own, Republicans should make a deal”
  1. The pro-life movement is facing a crucial decision. As someone who believes in protecting unborn lives, I think it’s time for Republicans to consider a different strategy. We should be open to making political compromises with pro-choice politicians in exchange for advancing our pro-life agenda. This is the key to making progress in a divided Congress.

  2. The pro-life movement is at a crossroads. Nearly two years after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, activists continue to demand that Congress pass a national abortion ban — a policy that has no chance of passing on its own, especially after widespread outrage over Arizona’s reinstatement of an 1864 abortion ban. We can either continue to advocate that failed strategy, or we can try something that may work. Those of us who care about saving unborn lives and protecting mothers should support a political exchange, giving politicians who support abortion something they want in exchange for the pro-life progress we want. The abortion debate cannot be separated from America’s red-versus-blue political divide, with Republicans broadly supporting abortion restrictions and Democrats demanding abortion on demand. Since Congress is almost evenly divided, the only way to pass anything is by giving both parties a political victory. Pro-life Republicans have never taken this approach. Instead, they’ve introduced stand-alone legislation. That includes Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children bill, which would outlaw abortion after 15 weeks, and Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and James Lankford’s (R-Okla.) Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which protects children born during botched abortions. The pro-life movement rightly says that a clear majority of Americans support these policies, based on years of polling. But polling is no

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