Perhaps my description of Ross’s views of life issues could have been better worded, I certainly don’t believe he’s callous. Instead, he sees the problem of abortion as just one of a host of important issues, which can be prioritized or subordinated to other issues as politics dictates. (Although it should be noted that the question of when human life begins really is one for scientists, not political analysts.)
Yet I’m not fully persuaded by Ross’s reassurance that socially liberal conservatives would advance the pro-life by favoring the same kinds of principled, non-activist judges that pro-lifers themselves would nominate if they could.
The immediate stumbling-block is that such appointments haven’t always aided the pro-life cause in the past. Both Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter would fit the criteria Ross submits — they were appointed by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, respectively, who probably looked for the same attributes in a justice that Ross would. O’Connor and Souter proved to be obstacles for the pro-life movement.
It’s possible, perhaps likely, that today Reagan and Bush would be more aware of the circumstances and nominate different justices. That’s a risk pro-lifers can’t run, though, given their experiences with the likes of O’Connor and Souter. So they are left to require all kinds of litmus tests and demonstrations of loyalty from possible GOP nominees to make sure they would nominate a very specific kind of judge.
One ramification of this strategy is that it makes the pro-choice wing of the GOP (to the extent that it exists nowadays) useless to the pro-life movement. Any faction that would allow a candidate to scrape together enough support for the nomination without meeting the pro-life base’s demands is an unacceptable liability — again, because pro-lifers have no recourse. So the most promising course of action for the pro-life movement is not to accomodate social moderates within the GOP, but to make a pro-life stance an absolute prerequisite for any Republican candidate (by the way, it’s project well on its way to completion). The next step is to establish a viable contingent of pro-life Democrats — as in, Democrats that are authentically anti-abortion, and not Democrats who vote for the most significant pro-choice bill in a generation. That way, they have at least a 50-50 shot at inflluencing the most important political space (the Supreme Court), and can shape the larger cultural environment by making support for abortion the stance of hard-left Democrats alone.
Can Republicans like Ross live with that scenario? I believe so. But even if it seems less than ideal, the bottom line is that establishment or socially moderate Republicans need pro-lifers more than pro-lifers need them.
Update: See Jim’s comments also.