Alabama redefined pro-life

Alabama election results made clear that anti-abortion no longer is the equivalent of pro-life.

The professional number-crunchers will have their say in the days to come, tweezing out drilled down demographics. But the campaign strategy embraced by Roy Moore and his allies reveals new insights into an ongoing cultural shift, one expedited by religious conservatives’ embrace of President Donald Trump.

In a nutshell, dire warnings about candidates’ stances on abortion don’t hold the weight they once did.

Millions of dollars — $1.1 million from one pro-Trump super PAC alone — were pumped into the Alabama special election to remind voters that Democratic candidate Doug Jones favors abortion rights. The warnings were issued within ads on social media, television, newspapers and direct mail.

“Jones is so liberal he supports abortion even at 20 weeks,” chided one.

Pro-Life - Democratic Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones holds his granddaughter as he celebrates with supporters at the election night party in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S., December 12, 2017.
Democratic Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones holds his granddaughter as he celebrates with supporters at the election night party in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S., December 12, 2017. (Marvin Gentry/Reuters)

A television ad said, “Jones supports abortion in even the most extreme circumstances.”

As Republican candidate Moore faced women who said he molested them as teenagers, his wife, Kayla, took to the political stump. She claimed Jones was the real threat to children because he supports “full-term abortion,” and described in graphic detail an abortion procedure that does not exist.

All of this in response to a cable news interview in which Jones explained that he wants “to make sure people understand that once a baby is born, I’m going to be there for that child; that’s where I become a right-to-lifer.”

For perhaps the first time since the mid-1970s, the all out assault on perceived single-issue Alabama voters didn’t work — and not merely because Moore faced allegations of harming children.

People who long have clung to the moniker of “family values voter,” who have taken pride in brandishing “pro-life” credentials, have realized opposing abortion hasn’t improved life for America’s children — that maybe the rallying cry was always more about winning elections and keeping women in a certain place than about caring for children.

As 61-year-old Jennifer Greer of Birmingham, Ala., asked, “How is pro-life not funding health insurance for children?”

Although 9 million children across the nation get health insurance through CHIP, the GOP-held Congress — many members of which ran on “family values” — let the program expire in September. Since then, states’ reserves have quickly dwindled. Oregon is already out of money, and supplementing its program with limited Medicaid dollars. Utah announced it will end CHIP in January. Colorado families dependent on the program received letters saying their benefits will end after the first of the year. West Virginia can hold on through February, and Iowa’s money runs out in March.

But it isn’t just health insurance. Education has taken across-the-board blows where Republicans have come into power. The latest federal tax reform bill trades cuts for hedge fund managers with increased liability on graduate students. Many economists point to the need for more government cuts if the tax plan is approved — cuts to programs that directly improve life for children like food and housing assistance, Head Start and health programs like Medicaid and Medicare.

People, in Alabama and throughout the country, are realizing the responsibility and obligation of the pro-life label doesn’t end once a child is born.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on December 16. 2017. Photo credit: Marvin Gentry/Reuters