Today is Election Day 2006, the day that political pundits and average Americans alike have been wondering about for months, because the faces of government are likely to look a lot different tomorrow than they do today. There has been a lot going on in light of this election, and conservative interest groups have a lot of election issues on their plates. But considering the significance of abortion to so many of these "pro-lifers," does it surprise anyone else that so few of these groups are talking about the abortion-related Supreme Court cases that begin tomorrow?
I feel like I've written this post before. (I did, sort of: "Where is the Pro-Family Lobby Now?") Conservatives have developed a reputation for sticking to talking points – they're on about gay marriage, abortion in South Dakota, and the "looming threat" of a second President Clinton – but it is still surprising that such significant Supreme Court cases would apparently escape their attention.
Family Research Council. Priests for Life. Focus on the Family. Even the Pro-Life Action League. None of them have said anything about these cases that is featured anywhere prominent on their websites (as of the time of this writing). Concerned Women for America released a long brief on the cases a couple weeks ago, but they have buried it on their website too. It appears that only smaller or fringe groups are making this a major issue for them, groups like "Operation Outcry" that gathered 180 women who have had abortions to file an amicus curiae brief ("friend of the court") against what they call "partial birth abortion."
If you want to learn about the case, major media outlets are talking about it. Check out NPR or the New York Times to start. These sources seem to think it's newsworthy. You can look at other posts in RH Reality Check's special series on these cases.
But why are the most dedicated "pro-life" groups not talking about it? Is it hauteur considering the makeup of the new Roberts/Alito Supreme Court? They may have decided they don't even have to put up a fight.
Or could it be that they are banking on gruesome descriptions of these procedures to suffice for inciting public outcry, and would rather keep quiet and avoid the conversations about personal liberty, federalism, and the doctor/patient relationship that follow such descriptions? Conversations like those usually leave Americans either siding against extreme social conservatives, or else thinking that conservatives are incredibly inconsistent. Pursuing a virulent federalism in some cases, and a federal abortion ban in this case? Individual liberty and freedom of religion on one hand, and federal judges making decisions about personal healthcare on the other? It's hard to reason those out in the public sphere.
The cases have yet to begin, and I'm sure we'll be hearing from all of these groups in the days ahead. But it is worth noting at the outset that these landmark cases just haven't quite made it into the "pro-life" talking points. Perhaps they are just dazed and confused after an election cycle that, if anything, is a referendum on the fact that government should pay attention to what governments are supposed to, like war, terrorism, natural disasters – and leave private family decisions to the beliefs and values of each American.