In a 2017 appearance on The View, conservative commentator Tomi Lahren shocked right-wing audiences with her admission of support for abortion rights. “I’m pro-choice,” said Lahren. “I’m for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well.” Lahren’s statements sparked considerable backlash given of her status as a prominent conservative figure. More astoundingly, Lahren vocalized pro-life sentiments on her show just 3 months prior to her segment on the View.
Although her pro-choice comments may have cost Tomi Lahren her position at Glenn Beck’s network, TheBlaze, she hasn’t faded from popularity in the conservative movement. Lahren was a keynote speaker at Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit in 2017 and currently works as a contributor to Fox News. Lahren has defended her views from the perspective of a “constitutional” (her term), but from the perspective of many conservatives and libertarians, opposition to abortion is fully in line with a limited-government viewpoint. For most on the right, even the most limited of governments should still serve to protect the basic human rights of life, liberty, and property. The rise of pro-choice Republican public figures and elected officials undermine conservative principles and hinders the work of the pro-life movement.
In nearly all elected offices you likely won’t find a pro-choice Republican, but a statewide race in my home state may challenge the norms. Rep. Knute Buehler, running as a Republican for the governor’s seat in Oregon, has described himself as “pro-choice but not pro-abortion.” For pro-life and pro-choice voters alike, Buehler’s calls for abortions to be “safe, legal, and rare” are hardly convincing. If abortion is murder, why keep it legal, and if not, why make it rare? While Knute Buehler is admittedly more moderate on the issue than progressive incumbent Kate Brown, a Republican nomination of Buehler would leave pro-life Republicans without a voice in a state with the least restrictive abortion laws in the country.
Looking at the big picture, allowing Buehler to become the face of the GOP in Oregon would mean not only turning a blind eye to human rights abuses, but lowering the bar for what constitutes Republican values and surrendering the conversation on abortion in order to appeal to progressives and moderates. Pro-life Republicans should reject calls for a compromise on the issue of human life.
In the Republican party, Knute Buehler isn’t alone in his pro-choice stances. While the current GOP platform displays a strong advocacy for life, a recent Pew Research Survey shows support among 54% of Moderate and Liberal Republicans (34% party-wide) for abortion being “legal in most or all cases.” Overall, Republican opposition to legal abortion has increased from 48% to 65% since 1995, but more recent trends could send the party in another direction, with an AP-GfK poll showing Republican support for abortion increasing from 35 to 40 percent in 2015. The Democratic party, meanwhile, has only become more radical in their support for abortion, with the percentage of Democrats in support of legal abortion increasing from 78% to 88% between 2015 and 2017. Pro-life Democrats in elected office have become increasingly rare, and in 2016, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s calls for repeal of the Hyde Amendment—which prevents the use of Medicaid funds towards abortion—became part of the Democratic Party’s national platform.
In the end, defending life is a non-partisan issue. Americans from all across the political spectrum should be welcomed alongside pro-life citizens in the mission to protect the unborn and prevent another 60 million lives from being taken by abortion in the US. However, since much of the pro-life movement’s political power currently rests within the Republican Party, pro-choice Republicans represent both a contradiction of conservative values and a dangerous potential for surrendering ground on abortion. While the GOP can and should rethink its position or learn to compromise on some issues, abortion isn’t one of them. If Republicans like Tomi Lahren and Knute Buehler remain in the spotlight, the GOP runs the risk of only grows weaker in its support of pro-life values—and if neither of the two major parties will stand up for life in DC, who will?