To Speak or Not to Speak about Abortion; That is the Question

During a Fox News interview last Sunday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) suggested Republicans should “…leave the [abortion] issue alone, when we are in the kind of economic situation and, frankly, national security situation we’re in.”

It is true that the following issues are competing for Republicans’ attention:

  • The approaching edge of the fiscal cliff
  • The Obama administration’s unforeseen difficulty in implementing ObamaCare’s health insurance exchanges
  • The probable backlash in the Senate due to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s proposed revisions to filibuster policy
  • The war against Israel

Surely there is more than enough for Republicans to discuss that does not include abortion. Especially when some analysts cite the issue as a reason Republicans failed to secure women and young voters in the recent election.

Abortion is a controversial topic, and it doesn’t fall tidily along party lines. Prominent Republicans and Democrats alike profess to oppose abortion but support the rights of those who disagree. McCain confessed this nonjudgmental stance in his Fox interview, and Vice President Joe Biden closed his vice presidential debate with similar sentiments.

Given the inflammatory nature of abortion, perhaps McCain is correct and letting it take a quiet backseat to other prominent issues is the prudent choice. If Republicans avoid speaking about abortion, perhaps they’ll stop offending voters, recruit more support, and be more effective in a political game that is all about having the numbers on your side.

However, if Republicans follow McCain’s advice they will deflect a vital conversation and will miss an opportunity to stabilize the foundations of the Republican Party. When has ignoring a controversy gone well? It is a fundamental principle of conflict resolution that avoiding an issue does not resolve the problem.

Now is not the time for Republicans to “leave the issue alone.” What is needed is an honest discussion regarding abortion. Yes, key voters will be upset. Yes, even if Republicans manage to avoid the faux pas that occurred during the election people will be still be offended. Yes, pro-abortionists will speak poorly of the Republican Party. However, greatness is not achieved by avoiding difficult conversations.

In his Fox interview, McCain said Republicans must stand for something, rather than in opposition to things. What an interesting comment from someone who moments later suggested Republicans relinquish their vocal stand for life. To stand for something is to actively defend a position, and there is a large measure of integrity to be had in standing firm when the opinion you are holding is unpopular. Most Republicans have remained resolute in their dedication to end the holocaust of America’s children. Their steadfastness lends solidarity to the party, whereas McCain’s response smarts of moral relativism.

The discussion is already taking place, and it will continue to go with or without the participation of the Republican Party. The suggestion to leave abortion alone does nothing but defer a vital conversation. Avoidance is not a solution. Nor is avoidance guaranteed to earn the support of women who voted for Obama. Any attempt to ignore the topic will merely create in the background of the current political scene hills like white elephants1 that will stand as ever-present reminders of the thing about which not talked. Surely the more virtuous course of action is to persevere through the admittedly formidable discussion on abortion, and to continue a charitable defense of the unborn.

1 Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” (1927)

Maggen Elizabeth Stone About Maggen Elizabeth Stone

Maggen Elizabeth graduated from Hillsdale College with a history degree. A hobby philosopher, she works in education to cultivate an understanding and pursuit of virtue in America’s youth. Follow her on Twitter @maggenelizabeth.


  1. A pertinent article, Maggen; thank you. I hope more people like you do shine a spotlight on the truth of abortion.

    • maggenelizabeth says:

      TheStatelessMan You’re most welcome! I think as we go forward we will see more people at both ends of the spectrum, but I am optimistic about people being converted to Truth.

      • maggenelizabeth Good luck with that Maggen.  People aren’t interested in the truth.  Take a look at what television has gained so much popularity in recent years.  Jerry Springer and so-called “Reality Television”.  Society as a whole doesn’t much give a damn about anything near the truth these days.  They also don’t care much about any kind of morality. Anything goes, as long as it keeps them enteretained.  And we wonder why kids show up to school and try to kill all their classmates, or crash a midnight screening of Batman and see how many people they can massacre.  We’re on the verge of outlawing God in this country, and at the same time can’t understand why things have gotten so crazy. If people really were interested in truth, why did they re-elect a politician who has hidden his past, and made so many vague promises, but would never be pinned down on anything?  Apparently over half the country doesn’t care about truth, only empty promises.

        • maggenelizabeth says:

          @buzzy  I did not say I thought it would be easy.  I am not so naive as that. 
          Yes, many people live terrible shallow lives and do unspeakably horrible things. And I would wager given the option between an intellectual pursuit of Truth and what currently passes for entertainment that a painfully large percentage of people would reject Truth in favor of mindlessness.  Today’s culture is representative of a void in people’s lives which they are trying to fill with whatever is at hand.
          The very small glimmer of encouragement I took away from the past election is the number of Obama’s supporters who considered themselves to be voting for hope. Where there is hope for something better there is an element of desire and searching involved. It is in this search and desire that we will find the theater for our conversation and for conversion. It will not be easy; in fact, I am sure that it will be a long and difficult road. But it is a task eminently worth the work.
          As a country we have probably not yet seen our darkest night. But that does not mean that we should not have hope in the Truth of day, even when we can not yet see the approach of dawn.

  2. FergHodgson says:

    I’m not ashamed @EscoTony To Speak or Not to Speak about Abortion; That is the Question #prolife

  3. synergenetics says:

    Disclaimer: Male
    I think every woman has the right to make this decision with her family, her doctor and her faith. Republicans are  for less government intervention in a person life, but clearly you want to “use” the government to shove your beliefs down the throats of others. 
    its simple allow woman to make the choice of having abortion or not but then again in less time than you can imagine abortion will be moot. Do you know why? As birth control improves woman won’t need to have abortions because no one will be getting pregnant. In recent news more woman are opting out of motherhood altogether and woman are putting off pregnancy till later in there lives.
    This is were I found the link!

    • synergenetics There are plenty of good birth control methods/devices available now, yet abortions are at an all-time high.  Abortion, too often, is the method of birth control used.  Women aren’t getting pregnant because there aren’t any effective birth control methods, it’s because they’re careless, irresponsible, and promiscuous.   I honestly don’t believe any new technology is going to change that.  As for every woman’s right, therein lies the controversy.  Does the woman have more right to choose than the unborn child’s right to life?  At what point does it change from “a medical procedure” to murder?  Who has the right to make this decision?   I believe that if carrying a pregnancy to term will threaten the mother’s life, or if the child was conceived by rape, then yes, the mother should have the choice.  But the right to murder an unborn child because she had sex and then doesn’t want to accept respnnsibility for her actions? No.  Abortion will never be moot.  To think that these issues will disappear on their own is naive.

      • synergenetics says:

        @Buzzy synergenetics  
        If you acknowledge  that its up to a women to choose to abort in the case of rape or heath then your pro-choice. A women’s sexual history irrelevant in making an argument against abortion. It’s a completely arbitrary that a moral religious test needs to be set up that allows women her privacy in regards to abortion.
        A woman clearly accepts her responsibility of her actions by having an abortion. Once a woman has an abortion it’s over. We as a society will not be responsible for this child and we won’t be responsible of jailing this child because the mother is incapable or not interested in raising it. Considering the in this country it would be more prudent to spend your time on verify that parents know what they are doing when given the “privilege” of having children.

    • maggenelizabeth says:

      synergenetics You bring up several points in your reply and I would like to address them. 
      First, even with women postponing pregnancy and “improvements” in birth control, I disagree with your claim that abortions will be reduced to the point of their being a non-issue. Because we live in a society which does not promote personal responsibility and which encourages promiscuity, without a fundamental cultural shift in society it is doubtful that the demand for abortions will decrease. Furthermore, any abortions happening would be sufficient cause for discussion of the topic, regardless of how small the number may be
      Second, a careful reading of my article will show that I do not promulgate the idea that my personal views, or the personal views of Republican politicians, should at any time or in any way be “shove[d] down the throats of others.” The argument that I put forth is that there is an important discussion going on in the political and social spheres and pretending otherwise is not only imprudent but lacks integrity.  My suggestion is not that people force their beliefs on others but rather to encourage an honest, informed, and charitable discussion on the topic.

      • synergenetics says:

        maggenelizabeth synergenetics 
        My suggestion is not that people force their beliefs on others but
        rather to encourage an honest, informed, and charitable discussion on
        the topic.
        I don’t know what you consider to be  a charitable,  honest, informed discussion on abortion when using terms like “pro-abortionists and children holocaust”, it seems you just wish to inflame the issue even further. On pro-abortionists whether or not a woman has an abortion or doesn’t its none of my business. In a free society where women have the same rights as men in regards to her privacy its up to her and her doctor to make such choices.Using the term is not correct but pro-choice is because its up to whether or not to carry that child, not me, the not state, not fleeting public opinion, but its your choice.
        In considering children holocaust and this is not an example of inflaming the issue? Considering how much money is spent on our country the, the,0,6690557.story , the , and finally Republican candidates regarding god and,  as two examples, there is a disconnect between Republicans and the demographics shifts that occurring in this country. It isn’t that Republicans should or should not discuss abortion, because even if when they discussing the topic, its its not a discussion, its a command. pro-abortionistspro-abortionistspro-abortionistspro-abortionists

  4. When listening to McCain, keep in mind he’s a RINO. He’s a fine one to talk about standing for something, he doesn’t seem to stand for anything.

  5. I remember McCain during his debates with Obama.  When asked at what pint he believes life begins, he answered “at conception”.  So I suppose what he’s saying now is that it’s every woman’s right to decide whether it’s ok to commit murder.  No, you don’t go by the individual’s faith and moral standards.  Society can’t function that way.  Society is formed by people with similar beliefs, for mutual benefit and protection.  Leaving it up to the individual is like someone saying, “I think raping, robbing, and killing are fine pastimes, so I should be able to do what I want”.  The whole problem with the republican party is that they are so very afraid of offending anyone.  They should at least have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for what they believe.  I don’t think McCain’s beliefs have changed, it’s just one more case of him flip-flopping because he’s trying not to make waves, not to offend anyone.  Well, some people NEED to be offended, need to be opposed.  Just because they cry and whine doesn’t mean we should roll over for them.

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