When talking about Nancy Mace, the Republican congresswoman from South Carolina, perhaps it is best to begin with the disclaimer that wise men should not take advice from women who share bedroom details at a prayer breakfast. This, I think, should go without saying.
But there are not very many wise men in the halls of power between Constitution and Independence Avenues in Washington, D.C. As Mace continues to push back on what she calls the “extreme” abortion position of the rest of her party, silence from her fellow Republicans on the issues is telling just how popular her position is.
Let us begin at the beginning. Republicans in Congress have considered a handful of back-office ways to regulate the abortion industry this summer, most of them through the budgeting process. This approach already marked a major step back from the federal abortion ban which so many politicians promised before Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022. With the exception of the senior senator from Alabama’s one-man stand against the military’s abortion tourism this summer, most of these attempts have either failed or have been practically microscopic.
Nevertheless, Mace is convinced her fellow party members are still “walking the plank,” risking their electability in 2024 by their opposition to abortion. She may be right, but not for the reason she thinks.
“As a Republican woman today in 2023, this is a very lonely place to be,” Mace told CNN’s Dana Bash in a Sunday interview. “Because I feel like that I’m the only woman on our side of the aisle advocating for things that all women should care about.”
Mace’s angle on abortion is a little fuzzy, as she attempts to style herself as both “staunchly pro-life” with a “100 percent pro-life voting record” and also the cutting edge of the moderate center, anchoring her party against those extremists who believe a child should not be murdered for the crimes of their father. Mace’s regular pushbacks seem to be that Republicans need to make exceptions for rape and incest, as well as cases when the health of the mother is at risk (a misleading designation in its own right). She is also opposed to banning interstate abortion tourism, to requiring girls to report rape to the police, and has introduced legislation to increase easy access to birth control without a prescription.
At one level, a self-styled centrist Republican saying the party needs to be more moderate is just doing what she was hired to do. In real terms, however, there is nothing moderate about Mace’s position. Moreover, despite her lone-wolf language, the broader hesitancy of her fellow Republicans to make a substantive move shows they have been cowed by the argument, advanced most aggressively by the mainstream media, that abortion is a losing battle at the ballot box.
Yet a closer look suggests it’s not the pro-life extremists who are costing the right the battle for life. Abortion continues to increase as a key deciding factor for all voters, with one 2023 Gallup poll finding a mere 14 percent of participants for whom abortion was not a relevant factor in how they’d vote. But within this increase in abortion relevancy, it is the pro-abortion extremists, who have become more aggressive about their cause, who have succeeded in moving the needle. The same Gallup poll found that those refusing to vote for candidates who are not pro-choice have increased by 7 percent, while those refusing to vote for candidates who are not pro-life decreased by 3 percent since 2020. In other words, as Republicans have piped down and feminists have piped up, the Overton window has shifted, moving the “moderate” position to the left.
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Of course, a moral argument for true abortion moderation would find the same thing. There is nothing moderate about making an unborn child pay for the rape or incest of his father. There is nothing moderate about advocating for killing a child to save an adult woman, even if such a case were a statistically significant occurrence among pregnant mothers, rather than a medical anomaly. Even a congressional 15-week or 20-week abortion ban, like those which Senator Mitch McConnell has let die in the halls of Congress in 2018 and again in 2022, cannot be described as “moderate” by anyone who has seen a 20-week ultrasound—or a 10-week ultrasound, for that matter. If Republicans can’t muster the courage to stop the murder of a child at such maturity, they cannot be counted on to stop it at any point.
If the pro-life side is losing the battle, then it is losing it at the messaging level by projecting hesitancy. The moral commitment to centrism, unlike a genuinely moral argument for life, can never win lasting political battles. True, ours is not a moderate era, and yes, it will likely take an incremental approach to ultimately end the United States’ legal support of infanticide. But the question of legislative tact is a separate one from movement marketing, and nothing says “push here” like an apparent lack of belief in the justice of your cause.
The way forward for Republicans, then, both at the ballot box and in office, must be one that depicts abortion in real, honest terms—the death of a premature child by way of poisoning, dismembering, and suctioning from a woman’s uterus—rather than the false language of centrism for centrism’s sake. Until that message is heard loud and clear and Americans understand what exactly is at stake here, the needle will continue to move left until the only “moderates” in the room are those who hold that abortion should be restrained anywhere, in any way at all.