‘We Were Made For A Moment Such As This’: After Setbacks, Here’s How The Pro-Life Movement Plans To Get Back On Track

Following the loss in Ohio, pro-life advocates are looking for ways to “adapt” as the movement looks ahead to 2024, and activists who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation said they are focusing on messaging, closing funding gaps and communicating better with voters.

Pro-life activists have suffered losses in all seven ballot elections since their historic win at the Supreme Court in 2022, most recently after Ohio voters enshrined abortion rights into their state constitution Tuesday by nearly 60%, according to ABC News. Pro-life leaders who spoke to the DCNF said the movement is adapting, focusing on funding and united messaging for the upcoming ballot initiatives in other states during the 2024 election.

“The pro-life movement needs to be as direct as possible about what’s at stake when it comes to abortion,” Kristi Hamrick, vice president of Media and Policy for Students for Life of America, told the DCNF. “We need to be as well-funded as possible because we are being massively outspent. Some numbers I saw in Ohio were nine to one on the abortion side versus the pro-life side.”

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights reportedly raised nearly $40 million for the year, with one of the larger donations coming from the Open Society Policy Center, George Soros’ fundraising network, at $3.5 million, while Protect Women Ohio, a pro-life group, raised only $27 million, according to NBC4i, a local media outlet. As a result, pro-abortion advocates have indicated that they plan on taking the strategy “to the next level” in the upcoming elections in Arizona, Nevada, Florida, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Elections in Kentucky and Virginia also did not go well for the GOP, with the party suffering heavy losses. Virginia Republicans pointed the finger at misleading Democratic messaging following Tuesday’s election, while some in Kentucky felt that Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who was running for governor, failed because he was too hardline on abortion.

Stephen Billy, vice president of State Affairs for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, agreed that the movement cannot “continue to be outspent three to one or four to one or nine to one,” and said they must “adapt” in an interview with the DCNF. Billy said that for future elections they are working to create more direct avenues to communicate to voters what is at stake with these amendments and “close the spending gap.”

Both Hamrick and Billy pointed out that part of the reason fundraising was not successful was because the messaging for the pro-life side was unclear and confusing to voters. Logan Church, political director for Catholic Vote, told the DCNF that pro-lifers did not have a lot of time to prepare a unified and powerful message.

“One of the issues that you run into, despite the fact that we had the unity between a bunch of different groups, is everyone did have different ideas of what the narrative should be or what narrative would be best,” Church said. “When you’re on a campaign with that timeline, you don’t have the luxury of testing messaging or experimenting with messaging to see what sticks and what doesn’t stick.”

Church told the DCNF that the movement is already working to correct this by setting up the infrastructure and teams needed to test messaging and figure out what will more effectively get the point across. In future campaigns, it is also important for the messaging to meet the needs and concerns of the different demographics of voters since young college-aged voters did not resonate with the “parental rights” argument used in Ohio like older voters, according to Hamrick.

Billy noted that abortion activists pushed ads that suggested Ohio’s laws would make it illegal to get medical care for miscarriages and made claims that there aren’t protections in place to save the life of the mother, “when that simply isn’t the case.” Looking forward, pro-lifers must be clear about not only the consequences of the abortion amendments but what pro-life laws actually do, Billy said.

Hamrick also claimed that part of the failure in messaging was due to the “ambivalence” of the GOP and their campaign “consultant class” during her interview with the DCNF. Pro-lifers have always been the underdogs, according to Hamrick, but the lack of conviction on the issue from the elected officials and strategists hurts both the party and the movement.

“[T]hey’re the ones saying avoid it. They’re the ones saying don’t be direct. We are going to have to have our partners in this battle be more openly our partners,” Hamrick said. “We in the pro-life movement need to be as aggressive as we can in fundraising, to overcome, not just the advertising budget of a well-funded abortion industry, but the funding of the Democratic Party’s extremist messaging and the media support that will be free for the pro-abortion side.”

All of the leaders disagreed with the sentiment that life has become a losing issue for Republicans, and Billy pointed to the successful campaigns of Sen. J.D. Vance and Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and others as proof the success of the movement since the Dobbs decision.

“I think we went 12 for 12 with governors who signed strong pro-life protections and succeeded at the state legislative level,” Billy told the DCNF. “We increased supermajorities, we added more pro-life legislators in North Carolina … and were able to pass through protections at 12 weeks over the objection of abortion extremists. So to say that it’s a losing issue I think ignores the fact that strong pro-life candidates are able to be successful.”

Hamrick stated that the movement had also had to deal with instances of trial and error before overturning Roe and the “fact that we are having new conversations and exploring new options shouldn’t shock anybody.” She told the DCNF that the entire history of the pro-life movement has demonstrated its success and that “after 50 years of fighting to get rid of Roe, we are not discouraged by the fact that the [fight] is not completed one year after that happened.”

“I think that it’s easy to feel discouraged when we go through something like we did in Ohio,” Church said to the DCNF. “It’s easy to feel like we’re up against Goliath, but at the end of the day, we fight for what we fight for because it’s right, not because it’s always popular. I hope the message to pro-lifers everywhere is that we were made for a moment such as this, and if we don’t stand up and fight now, we’re gonna lose the country that we know and love.”

Kate Anderson on November 12, 2023

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