The closer we get to November, the more high-profile Republicans are admitting it: Silence isn’t selling on abortion. From RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel to the head of the House’s GOP fundraising arm, the cry to get off the sidelines on life is echoing off the walls of campaign headquarters. Lt. Governor Mark Robinson (R-N.C.) is the latest to join the chorus of conservatives, telling candidates to “stop being cowards and stand up for what you believe.” But know this first: the problem is as much about how the GOP is messaging as whether they do.
“I’m tired of talking about abortion,” the candidate for governor told reporters. The “a-word,” as he calls it, is what sent the party in a tailspin to begin with. “I’ve changed what I’m saying,” he told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “Democrats, the leftists, they want everyone to say the word ‘abortion.’ They want our children to say it in schools. They want us to say it in our churches. They want politicians to say it on the floor of the House and on the floor of the Senate. They want me to say it. As the lieutenant governor, I’m bound and determined to stand up for what I believe in. And what I believe in [is] life — and it’s time for us to start using that word. This is an issue of life, about protecting life, and then about doing what we can to elect officials to make sure that once those lives come into the world, that they have life and have it more abundantly.”
His intentional shift raised the antenna of local media, who’ve started reporting that Robinson is trying to duck the issue now. Baloney, he replies. “They think that I’ve changed my position,” he said. “I have not changed my position.” Instead, he’s doing what he believes every pro-lifer should do: he’s changed the terms. “The subject is not abortion,” the lieutenant governor insisted, “the subject is life.” And that’s where conservatives need to debate.
Perkins nodded emphatically. The FRC president has also called for a shift in language, drawing America’s attention back to the unborn baby, not the procedure. Of course, that’s become more difficult, the “Washington Watch” host pointed out, since Republicans let Democrats define the terms when “so many were just silent.” Now, he shook his head, they’ve “started stuttering.” “We need to go out and tell people what we’re for. We are for protecting the unborn and preserving a culture of life in this country.”
Bringing the conversation back to life also extends an arm to women, Robinson wanted people to know. “… [W]hen I speak, I want to be that person who’s there, who’s understanding. I want to be the person who’s … not up on a platform telling the young woman why she can’t have an abortion. I want to be that person who’s coming down, putting my arm around that young woman who may find [herself] in crisis, and telling them why she doesn’t have to have an abortion… [and that] our folks as elected officials [are] going to fight hard to make sure that you can bring that child into the world — and not only bring that child into the world, but have a great life for that child, yourself, and your family.”
It’s exactly the kind of message he and his wife needed to hear when they were struggling with an unexpected pregnancy before they were married. “My wife and I chose the route of abortion years ago,” he admitted, “and I cannot tell you the immense pain, the solid pain that we went through for so many years over this issue. It was just this unspoken thing that hurt both of us very deeply. And we have always regretted it, almost to the point where we just couldn’t even speak to one another about it because it was so painful.” But the difficulty of reliving that choice hasn’t stopped Robinson from sharing what they’ve been through. “We want to tell those stories to young people.” In fact, “It’s because of this experience and our spiritual journey that we are so adamantly pro-life,” he’s said.
Since that conscious decision to open up about it, the Robinsons have been amazed to see “how God used that to reach so many people who felt the exact same way, to encourage them to keep going and to know the mistakes that they made are shared by so many of us.”
And the beauty of that, Perkins added, is that when you do share it, “Yes, there’s pain, there’s guilt — it still bothers you — but there’s forgiveness. And that’s the good news of Jesus Christ in the gospel message, is that we don’t have to carry that burden. We don’t want others to do it, but we don’t have to carry that burden any longer.”
That’s exactly right, the lieutenant governor agreed. “That’s one of the best things about giving your life to Jesus Christ, you know when Jesus forgives. It’s a forgiveness that you can feel down deep in your soul. … But I would definitely warn anyone, any young person out there, do not take this issue lightly. Do not take this issue lightly. It haunts, it hurts, and it causes deep emotional distress.”
But the abortion crisis didn’t start overnight, he pointed out, and Republicans can’t end it overnight. “Educating our young people is going to be crucial,” Robinson urged. “You want to empower a young person? Empower that young person to know the greatest thing that they can do for their future is hold control of their body and make sure that they’re not falling into those traps that popular culture is pushing so many of them into. That’s real empowerment. That’s real progress.”
That’s not a message North Carolina is hearing form its current governor, Perkins half-joked. Roy Cooper (D) has embraced the radical agenda of the Left on everything from abortion to transgenderism. And yet, his challenger says, “People love [my] message. They love it.” So what advice would he give conservatives who are running from the issue?
“The number one thing I would tell them to do is to stop listening to the bad reports of CNN, CBS, and ABC and all those news agencies that are using this issue to try to browbeat Christian, Bible-believing conservatives. That’s number one. The second thing that I would say is, quite frankly, stop being a coward and stand up for what you say you believe in. It’s time for the people of this nation to realize who we are.” Look, he said, “America’s survival is at stake” in this election. “We need to make our stands strong — and it starts with us standing up for what’s right.” Without apology.
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.
EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.
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