The Pope, the GOP, and the March for Life

What with autopsies and rebrandings, and a new Pope decrying “obsessions,” you would think that tomorrow’s March for Life might not be such a big event. But on the anniversary this week of Roe v. Wade, the Pope is still Catholic, and the GOP is still Republican. The rebranding, if there is one, is to portray anti-abortion absolutism as mainstream, not extreme.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged “‘urged ‘all Catholics and people of goodwill to participate in the political process and advocate for the most just laws possible for the protection of human life from conception to natural death.’”

The Republican National Committee postponed its winter meeting so party officials can participate in the march. “We’ll be there to send a message: We are a pro-life party,” wrote RNC chair Reince Priebus. “Life is a gift, and it must be protected. That means advocating for our beliefs, embracing the right to life, and celebrating the blessing of adoption.”

When the RNC convenes for its winter meeting, it will take up a proposed resolution, CNN reports, “urging GOP candidates to speak up about abortion and respond forcefully against Democratic efforts to paint them as anti-woman extremists.” The “Resolution on Republican Pro-Life Strategy” calls on the party to only support candidates “who fight back against Democratic deceptive ‘war on women’ rhetoric by pointing out the extreme positions on abortion held by Democratic opponents.” 

Painting conservatives as out of the mainstream (at least for a state like New York) has caused a frenzy against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Charles Pierce:

The other day, Cuomo gave a radio interview in which he made the unremarkable point that the kind of Republican who wins elections in, say, Alabama, likely would have something of a tough row to hoe in New York.

“If they are extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York,” Cuomo said in a radio interview Friday. Cuomo defined “extreme conservatism” as being “anti-gay” by opposing same-sex marriage rights, opposed to abortion rights and favoring legalization of assault weapons. Cuomo officials later said the governor’s remarks were aimed at “extremist” conservative Republican candidates.

This, of course, has set the hair aflame.

Conservatives are pouting that they aren’t “welcome” in New York; Sean Hannity even had a tantrum about moving elsewhere. Cardinal Timothy Dolan writes a litany of St. Patrick’s activities “respecting life,” asking at the end, “does any of this seem ‘extremist’ to you?”

The March for Life is still a big deal. One of the nation’s two major parties supports it, and will later in the week that party will consider whether its candidates should be punished for being too weak in response to “deceptive” charges they are waging a war on women. Rebrandings, truces, lamentations about singular obsessions–none of that changes the Republican and the conservative movement commitment to making abortion illegal, and, barring that, to making it inaccessible.

The silly foot-stomping over Cuomo’s comments are from a defensive posture, but it would be a mistake to engage in much schadenfreude about the conservative position being weak. The foot-stomping is strategic: an opportunity to portray themselves as victims strengthens the resolve of their followers. (See, there is no war on women, only an elitist war on conservatives!) You’ll see that resolve tomorrow. The high temperature in Washington is forecast to be 15 degrees. But I’d bet marchers come out in force, and you’ll see more than a few signs, and hear more than a few comments, about Governor Cuomo. 

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email

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