by ASHLEY K. FERNANDES
On Nov. 7 in Ohio, the passage of Issue 1 dealt the pro-life movement another stunning defeat in a long string of statewide losses since Roe v. Wade was overturned.
It would be too easy for politicians and pundits on the left, and even some on the right, to jump on the “Being pro-life is political suicide” bandwagon and integrate that notion immediately into a long-term strategy to shape our American political life. We have already seen this in the days following Nov. 7.
But before we write the obituary of the “all life is sacred” mantra, it would be wise to consider why we lost in Ohio.
The Truth Was Blocked
We lost because the levers of power (the donor class, the media, and the ideological medical establishment) blocked the truth about Issue 1 at every turn, despite our best efforts. Somewhere near $50 million (most of it from out-of-state groups) was spent on pro-abortion advertisements, almost twice as much as the pro-life side.
Media outlets now refuse to use the word “heartbeat” anymore as applied to a preborn baby. They consistently alter public perception with phrases like “abortion care,” and they refused to “fact check” the glaring untruths about the ballot initiative.
A thousand doctors ignored the science of fetal medicine completely to claim a “pregnant person’s” (note: not “woman’s”) reproductive choices such as contraception, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy treatment were at stake (which they never were). Pro-life doctors in Ohio were doxxed, silenced, and harassed for their defense of human life.
We lost because we were outspent, and money can create and propagate purposeful inaccuracies and sow confusion. The majority of Ohioans do not want abortion to be legal up to the ninth month on the say-so of an abortionist’s judgment of the “individual’s health”; Ohioans do want parents to know when their own children make life-altering reproductive decisions.
Wednesday-morning quarterbacks will also say we lost because Ohio’s six-week ban on abortion (the Heartbeat Law), which allowed no exceptions for rape or incest, was “too extreme.” But rape and incest exceptions are not actually “exceptions” — these are human persons. No politician effectively made this point, or even tried to. So it is not “extreme” to hold fast to principles of science and medical ethics when pro-lifers say that the manner in which one is conceived does not eliminate one’s humanity or right to be born.
We lost because Ohio is one of fewer than a dozen states that allow a state constitution to be altered by a simple majority vote on a ballot amendment. Voters rejected a change in August that would have raised that threshold. States facing similar measures must look to their own constitutions and protect them as the first step against their mutilation by outside interests.
Pro-Lifers Need to Win the Narrative
We also lost because narrative wins in a post-rational age. People are moved not by science (which clearly shows the unborn child is not a “blob” and is a genetically distinct individual), nor by argument (when cancel culture or algorithms forbid it). Instead, people are moved by stories. And in Ohio, we pro-lifers did not tell our stories enough, or — for lack of money and insight — did not have the opportunity to do so, before it was too late.
There are women who have suffered immensely after abortion. Other mothers have given birth to babies on the cusp of viability who have survived and thrived. Were they only persons because their mother (and doctor) wanted them to be so? There are human beings who were conceived from rape. We should have told their stories and then seen if anyone says they still don’t count.
Such narratives would expose the real extremism: that there should be no limits to abortion; that the viability standard goes too far, as does only allowing abortion before the unborn feel pain; that asking for parental consent to a minor’s abortion is a violation of some fictious human right.
Finally, we lost in Ohio because we did not have an alternative to give the voters — and voters, when faced with a perceived binary choice, an “all or nothing,” chose one side. A state that wants to stay pro-life must give its citizens an alternative vision: a political, economic, and social culture that embraces human life from before the cradle to the grave and lays the groundwork to ensure abortion is never necessary.
For those worried that such abortion extremism is coming to their states, take heed of these lessons from Ohio. Fundraise now. Build, through legislation and moral action, a humane culture that supports pregnant women, mothers, and babies and punishes violence against women. Message early the truth that women’s lives will not be at stake with reasonable restrictions on abortion. Protect your state constitution from parasitic outside influences. Allow health care practitioners and crisis pregnancy centers to bear witness to the goodness of human life, free from harassment by the medical and legal establishment. And tell the pro-life stories of regular folks who experienced the life-altering joy and goodness in choosing life.