When pro-life candidates who support the Personhood of the unborn child are pressed by the media or their own constituents to defend their beliefs, there's a temptation to go deer-in-the-headlights and back away from solid, principled positions.
DON'T BE THAT GUY!
When you take a principled position on any controversial issue, your political opponents and media gossiphounds are going to make it sound like an extreme position. "Why would you hold such an extreme position?!" they ask. There are two reactions, of course.
You could back away and say I don't hold that position -- distance yourself from the issue. And this is typical candidate behavior, isn't it? But what it does is leave the media and the general public with the conclusion that it WAS an extreme position (or you wouldn't have backed away, right?) and YOU once held it!
DON'T BE THAT GUY (or GAL)!
What's worse, many of your supporters probably support you because you once held that position. What are they to think when you back away? You've not only compromised on the principle which was their reason for supporting you, but you've also, by implication, called THEM extreme for holding the position you've backed away from!
DON'T BE THAT GUY!
The best reaction is to calmly and reasonably explain to the voter, or the media, why it's NOT an extreme position.
Ronald Reagan didn't back away or "run to the center" when challenged with tough questions about dearly held principles. He stuck to his guns, explained why the position was mainstream common sense, rather than extreme. And more often than not the public came to view his position as mainstream!
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund has recently illustrated this, in a fundraising letter. Referring to Tea Party nominees for the U.S. Senate, they charge, "They want to outlaw all abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. Friend, their position was considered fringe and their candidates ludicrous just a few months ago. Now, they're mainstream." (ht Jill Stanek)
Planned Parenthood is simply recognizing the changing playing field. Five years ago, only a few pro-life activists knew what Personhood meant, and a majority of Americans supported a "right to choose." Two years ago, more than 50% of Americans (including women) identified themselves in polls as pro-life. Today, a broad range of voters and mainstream political candidates around the country are saying "I support the Personhood of the unborn child, and I believe abortion should be banned!" Pro-Life Personhood is now a mainstream political movement.
Because it's such a new concept, candidates who aren't carefully educated in how to respond to tough questions about rape/incest exceptions or birth control are tempted to run away from the issue, even if they once espoused it.
DON'T BE THAT GUY (or GAL)!
Colorado's U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck made this mistake recently. I'm still not 100% convinced he's changed his mind about anything (his campaign spokesman correctly explained his position to 9news.com recently, saying, "Buck believes life 'begins at conception,' so birth control methods that don't impact that (i.e. condoms, some forms of the pill) are fine with him. Others that would keep a fertilized egg from implanting like hormone-based birth control methods, some other forms of the pill, IUDs, RU-486 and what's known as the morning-after pill, are not supported by him." (Source: E-mail from Buck spokesman Owen Loftus to 9NEWS, Aug. 26)).
But the press said he'd changed his mind about supporting Colorado's Amendment 62 (the Personhood Amendment) and the best he could do was clarify that he supports Personhood in concept but hasn't taken a position on any state ballot initiatives. By not jumping on the accusation full-force, Buck allowed some voters to believe he's changed his mind, whether he really did or not. It's not helping with supporters, and it's not helping with moderates or independents, either, because whether or not he still holds that supposedly "extreme" position, everybody knows he once did.
Buck (or his campaign) blinked when he should have stood firm.
DON'T BE THAT GUY!
Simple talking points on Personhood:
1) Arguing for the Personhood of the unborn child is not extreme. Arguing for the continued deaths of 4,000 unborn children every day is extreme!
2) If abortion is murder (i.e. kills an unborn human individual with his/her own unique DNA), as I believe it is, then why would I support an exception just because that child was conceived as part of a rape? You can't punish an innocent Person for a crime committed against somebody else. The inalienable Right to Life for an innocent Person, as guaranteed in the Constitution (the 5th and 14th Amendments, and the Declaration of Independence too) applies, no matter the circumstances.
3) Only 1% of abortions are for rape or incest -- it's extremely rare. Almost every mom who has an abortion is traumatized or depressed by the experience. Adding an abortion to the crime of rape doesn't "comfort" the victim -- it only adds another trauma on top of the first. In cases of incest or date rape, the abortion often serves to shield the criminal from prosecution by covering up the crime. This allows the rapist (the child's father or relative) to continue an incestuous relationship instead of exposing the criminal.
4) No form of birth control would be affected unless it actually has the potential to kill a developing child after conception. If a candidate (or even a voter) believes that life begins at conception, and that all human life should be protected, then they should not have a problem with this. The amendment deals only with living human Persons, not with sperm or eggs before fertilization. Therefore, it cannot logically or legally affect anything other than an abortifacient form of birth control, whether that drug acts as an abortifacient as its primary purpose or has that effect as a secondary side effect. This would affect some forms of birth control, but if a form of birth control is properly called a "contraceptive" (i.e. meaning it acts by preventing conception) then it would not be affected.
5) In Vitro Fertilization would not be banned, but "surplus" embryos (developing human children) could not be "disposed of" -- they would have to be cared for and adopted out through programs such as the Snowflake Children.
I know this isn't something your typical candidate training prepared you for. I even know this may not be the "focus of your campaign." I know politicians have a gut instinct to run away when a voter or reporter accuses you of being extreme because you're 100% pro-life.
DON'T BE THAT GUY (or GAL)!
Being 100% pro-life, supporting Personhood, opposing abortion even in cases of rape or incest or for health** reasons is NOT extreme! It has become a mainstream position, and it is the position increasingly held by voters across the United States! Every month that passes and every year that passes, more Americans are coming to hold this very same principle as their own.
I work as a part-time political consultant and campaign consultant on a contract basis. I am happy to offer my time for 20 minutes free to any pro-Personhood candidate in any state who needs help on messaging for these issues. I'd also be glad to contract my time for $35/hr to anyone who needs more assistance in running or preparing a pro-life campaign (I'll work with anybody who pledges to support Personhood in their campaign). If you want to meet in person, or would like for me to speak at an event or engagement, let me know and we can make arrangements for time/travel, etc. Contact me via e-mail with your contact information: Coloconservative (at) aol.com (please put "Personhood Question" in the subject line).
Please also consider donating money to support candidates who hold a principled pro-life position (i.e. pro-Personhood), through my political website: ColoradoConservative.org.
Ed Hanks is a former speechwriter for the Governor of Colorado, a former Press Secretary in the Colorado House of Representatives, and has also served as a campaign consultant and constituent contact director.
**A note on "life of the mother exceptions": Many pro-lifers get stuck on the “life of the mother” exception, because it’s the most compelling of the “hard cases” exceptions some regulations are meant to address (how many times have we heard politicians recite the line, "I oppose abortion except for rape, incest, and the life of the mother"?). But we need not fall victim even to the life of the mother objection. The Personhood movement cares deeply about the lives of both, mother and child, especially since if the mother dies before the baby comes to term, the child will obviously die too. However, that doesn’t mean we need a “life of the mother exception” in law. Instead, the anti-abortion statute should be absolute. The life of the mother is saved by a doctor trying to save both lives (and thereby “do no harm”), not by a doctor trying to kill one patient in order to save the other. It’s the same concept as separating cojoined twins. The goal should always be to preserve both lives. This is not always possible, because of relative viability, and so sometimes one of the patients dies. The measure of crime or not is intent. If ever the doctor attempts to kill one patient, rather than save him/her, that’s where it becomes homicide. -- Ed Hanks