There is something especially suffocating about the redefinition of words in the political discourse over the past several years.

The constant push and pull for control of language to distill complex ideas into simpler political messaging is harmful to individuals who hold nuanced beliefs. These beliefs remain relevant and important, even amid increasing polarization.

Before the Dobbs decision which overturned Roe v. Wade, identifying as “pro-life” generally implied the held belief that there ought to be varying degrees of restriction on elective abortion. These uniting beliefs meant that this label encompassed both outright abortion prohibitionists, as well as those favoring restrictions like mid-to-late-term elective abortion bans and stopping taxpayer-funded elective abortions – but who also maintained the legality of elective abortion.

Political candidates who identified as pro-life enjoyed the support of this wide spectrum of self-identified pro-life voters, with those supporting the maintained legalization of elective abortion, (let’s call them “pro-life allies”), knowing that Roe v. Wade set a constitutional limit to any efforts to ban or severely restrict elective abortion.

The Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1982  enacted a 24-week limit, roughly the age at which babies can survive outside of the womb, ensured that late-term abortions were limited to cases in which the mother’s life was in danger, and prevented the funding of elective abortions by the taxpayer.

With the exception of the most vehement opponents of abortion, the general electorate in Pennsylvania was pretty ambivalent to the issue for decades with this compromise solution in place.

Then, in line with the patterns of recent political history, abrupt chaos ensued.

Roe v. Wade was overturned, “red” states like Kansas and Kentucky surprised the nation by rejecting pro-life constitutional amendments, the news blasted stories of women crossing state borders to receive abortions and clips of politicians citing religious texts to justify banning abortion, and women marched down the streets of Alabama in protest donning red cloaks à la The Handmaid’s Tale.

What a mess.

From an onlooker’s point of view, it seems like there are two groups of people simultaneously deliberately and passively responsible for this.

The first group is those with vested financial and political interests who ran to the bank, capitalizing on women’s fear surrounding abortion access after Dobbs.

The messaging, in essence was this:

  • Pro-lifers are going to make all abortions illegal
  • You will be forced to carry all pregnancies to term, even at the cost of your life
  • The government and fundamentalist pro-lifers are coming for your rights to your body, your financial independence, and your freedom of choice

With their bottomless financial resources and endless roster of nonprofits operating in and out of the Philadelphia region, special interest groups have continued to sound this alarm in every election from school board to President of the United States – and for suburban women, it is potent.

The second group is the most fervent amongst the pro-life camp. Legislators in states nationwide started proposing a slew of abortion restrictions from increased time constraints on elective abortions, to an outright ban of elective abortion and anything else in between.

Along with this has come escalated gatekeeping of pro-life qualifications, swiftly writing off anyone who believes in any form of elective abortion to be pro-choice or an abortion apologist. Which, if one believes that life begins at conception and that abortion is therefore the taking of an innocent life, is not a morally unreasonable position – nor is it one that is ideologically nor legally inconsistent.

It is, however, out of step with public opinion in the post-Dobbs world.

That said, the increasing exclusivity of the pro-life movement, compounded with the disintegration of the pro-life brand in the suburbs by the Left’s political marketing Death Star, has left pro-life allies feeling that they can no longer trust or identify with pro-life political candidates.

The women of suburban Philadelphia do not want to have to choose between all abortions or no abortions.

Here’s the thing – the women of suburban Philadelphia do not want to have to choose between all abortions or no abortions. Even pro-life allies view an outright elective abortion ban as especially unfavorable, or downright unacceptable.

The problem is, only one side right now is coherently communicating that they will not ban elective abortions in Pennsylvania, or will always maintain abortion exceptions, and that’s the Democrats. Frankly, nobody knows what the Republicans are doing (including the Republicans) – and this issue in suburban Philadelphia is hurting the party’s statewide candidates.

It boils down to this: pro-life allies are now faced with a different decision at the polls than they were pre-Dobbs.

Although they may still disagree with late-term elective and taxpayer-funded elective abortion, they no longer enjoy the constitutionally protected right to elective abortion – the access to which, agree or disagree, they view as essential to their personal and financial freedom.

Local Democrats are saying “they’re going to take your right to abortion away,” national Republicans are saying “yes we are,” and local Republicans are quietly confused, looking for a silver bullet.

Again, what a mess.

Pro-life allies who might otherwise support a candidate favoring limits on elective abortion to the first trimester, or even to only cases jeopardizing the mother’s mental and physical health, may now hesitate due to concerns that these restrictions will not stop there.

With the influx of national news from the most restrictive states, the fear-mongering political messaging, and the uninspiring, inconsistent patchwork of policy propositions from legislators on the Right, why wouldn’t they feel concerned?

Taking the usual approach, the Democrats are welcoming in any and all votes they can get, including disillusioned pro-life allies – the ones who are still inspired to participate in the election at all.

This, while the pro-life movement decides to what extent they are willing to work with these allies, or whether to forsake them in favor of ideological purity – weighing how important numbers at the polls are to protect their core initiatives beyond the restriction of abortion.

(Maintaining gestational limits on elective abortion, preventing taxpayer funding of elective abortion, supporting pregnancy resource centers for expectant mothers, etc. – initiatives which many of their pro-life allies support).

This doesn’t mean that pro-lifers must “abandon their principles” to win elections. But it does mean that the movement needs to seriously consider what is realistically achievable in suburban Philadelphia with the profile of voters who live there. If not, they risk finding themselves with no allies holding political sway in the region at all.

Olivia DeMarco is an Editorial Associate for Broad + Liberty. She previously served as a legislative aide in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She holds a Masters in Public Policy from Temple University.

4 thoughts on “Liv DeMarco: Suburban women are being displaced from the pro-life movement”

  1. The issues of abortion and gun control have been hijacked by the extremist on both sides of the issues. No reasonable solution to either can ever transpire as long as each side demonizes everyone on the other side. The media and the one-issue politicians are to blame.

  2. No; there is no nuance in the pro-abortion movement. For example, Democrats attacked Carluccio over abortion as vehemently as they attacked Mastriano.
    There are no – NO – leftist Karens who will vote for a 24 week Republican, but not for a 12 week Republican. They will vote for neither.
    Republicans must square their shoulders and state their pro life case. There is no other way.
    And they must mock the self absorption of the Karens in unattractive yoga pants who will vote Democrat; who will willingly let the country go to hell just so they can kill their babies.

    1. Lol, keep calling R pro-life women (who aren’t about banning it ALL) “leftist Karens” and watch how fast the real deal leftist Karens run the whole show in PA. You’re proving the writer’s point big time

  3. Delco Pops, know why the Kellys and Barbies are so extreme and bitter and yell so much about being allowed to murder their babies? Because they are terrified the Ken’s will use brute force on them. And they believed all the propaganda about birth control and not having babies until you are forty years old. They want instant divorces.
    These rich folk who rejected Lincoln
    Lord, knows they all just wanna have total control
    Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do
    And they don’t think you know but I know that you do
    ‘Cause your dollar ain’t sh*t and it’s taxed to no end
    ‘Cause of rich men who killed Abe Lincoln…

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