There are times when I'm embarrassed to be a conservative. Like for instance when Republicans began questioning the authenticity of the president's birth certificate or the time the Right began fretting about the possibility of Sharia law coming to the United States. Right now is one of them.
Last week, Republican Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri was asked about his belief that abortion should be banned even in cases of rape. Akin replied, "From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare ... If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that down."
Initially, Akin's comments made me happy. I strongly supported one of Akin's more conservative Republican opponents in that primary, and I thought that due to his moronic statements, Akin would drop out and my candidate would be running in his place. I was wrong. Akin decided to stay in, and the entire conservative movement was left having to deal with his stupidity. Few if any conservatives outside of Mike Huckabee have defended Akin, and many have urged him to get out of the race, but he has refused.
I can often gauge how damaging these sorts of events are by how much I hear about them from my non-political friends and family. I received multiple texts and various messages about that "crazy guy" running for Senate who didn't understand simple biology and wasn't exactly sure what rape was. Certain friends and family wanted to know what I thought, as a conservative. I though it was beyond idiotic, and I was embarrassed to even have to address it. I also thought it was a step backward for the pro-life movement.
In 2009, a Gallup poll showed "51 percent of Americans calling themselves 'pro-life' on the issue of abortion and 42 percent 'pro-choice.'" Gallup noted, "This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995."
The way to change public opinion on anything is to show how the issue at hand relates to everyday people in real terms, and then argue your own position on those terms. This has worked very well in the debate over gay marriage. In May, a CBS News/New York Times poll showed that "a solid majority of Americans support legal recognition for same-sex couples." Like the Gallup poll that showed a majority now describing itself as pro-life, the CBS/NYT poll represented the first time that a majority of Americans supported same-sex unions.
The continuing success of the gay rights movement in changing public attitudes has not come as a result of half-naked guys dancing on floats in Gay Pride parades. This shift happened because more and more Americans have friends and family members who live openly gay lifestyles, something that prior generations didn't experience. When something like "gay marriage" is a mere political choice, it is easy to take a stand against an abstraction. But when it becomes a referendum on one's friends or family members, this puts things in an entirely different light.
The pro-life movement's greatest strides are not due to the protesters who stand outside abortion clinics holding gruesome signs, but modern technology. Talking about a "woman's right to choose" is an abstraction, but it's difficult for normal people to post sonogram printouts of their unborn children on the fridge and still think abortion's OK. For all the grief religious conservatives get from liberals about being "anti-science," when it comes to the issue of life, science has been pro-lifers' greatest weapon.
Todd Akin's irresponsible and indefensible comments have taken the abortion debate back to the days of back-room abortion clinics and coat hangers. His comments are not going to win any converts to the pro-life cause. I don't know what he's thinking if he chooses to stay in his Senate race. He has become a liability for the pro-life cause, a threat to the Republican Party's chances of winning the presidency and taking control of Congress in November, and an embarrassment to the entire conservative movement.
Jack Hunter assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his latest book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse. He is also the official campaign blogger for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, and he co-wrote Rand Paul's The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz on 1250 WTMA.