The radical anti-choice group Personhood USA has waded into the very public battle over the anti-choice movement’s strategy that is playing out in Georgia.
Over the weekend, a long-running feud among abortion-rights opponents broke into a full civil war when the National Right to Life Committee, the nation’s largest anti-choice group, cut its ties with Georgia Right to Life because of the Georgia group’s hardline, no-compromise strategy.
While all the major anti-choice groups share the same goal – criminalizing all abortions under nearly all circumstances – they differ in how to go about reaching that goal in a post-Roe v. Wade world. This came to a boil last year, when the House voted on a bill banning all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. At the last minute, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor added rape and incest exemptions to the bill after the legislation’s chief sponsor, Trent Franks, stoked controversy when he said “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.” The addition of rape and incest exceptions then caused the anti-choice movement to split.
National Right to Life supported the revised bill and included the vote on its congressional scorecard. But Georgia Right to Life, then the state affiliate of NRLC, opposed the revised bill because of its rape and incest exceptions and urged House members to “vote against this shameful legislation.” Two Georgia Republicans, including Rep. Paul Broun, who is now running for Senate, crossed party lines to vote against the bill, siding with Georgia Right to Life.
One of the loudest critics of Georgia Right to Life’s insubordination was Georgia-based conservative pundit Erick Erickson, who called the group the “Westboro Baptist Church of the pro-life movement.” A few weeks ago, a new group with Erickson on its board sprung up with the goal of replacing Georgia Right to Life as the official state affiliate of NRLC. And this weekend, they succeeded, as NRLC cut ties with Georgia Right to Life and took on Erickson’s group, Georgia Life Alliance, in its place.
NRLC’s decision has served to further split the anti-choice movement. Yesterday, Personhood USA – the group behind radical “personhood” laws – waded into the fight, with its president Keith Mason issuing an open letter to NRLC saying that he was “shocked” by the group’s decision and giving it an ultimatum: “We can have no conflict between us unless it is you who abandon our common aim to protect every human being’s right to life. Only then will we part ways.”
National Right to Life,
What does it mean to be pro-life? Is it about protecting every innocent human being or about getting good marks on the NRLC scorecard? I was shocked when I read your decision to revoke affiliation with Georgia Right to Life.
It’s time to decide what our standard is as a movement. If being pro-life is about getting good marks on the NRLC scorecard and voting the party line, like Eric Cantor, then we will continue to enable political opportunists who have no interest in ending abortion. If it is about protecting the lives and inherent dignity of every unborn child — Personhood — then we will praise statesmen who adhere to that standard rather than reprimanding them. That was the standard set by the GOP platform and the legislative agenda endorsed in President Ronald Reagan’s Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation.
We are not enemies, but friends. We ought not be enemies, for we are allied in the same great struggle for human dignity. We seek unity with you toward that end. It is in your hands to decide which standard to follow. We can have no conflict between us unless it is you who abandon our common aim to protect every human being’s right to life. Only then will we part ways. I ask you to reconsider your commitment to our movement’s singular purpose and beg you to rededicate yourselves to protecting and defending Personhood for all, no matter the cost.
UPDATE (4/1/14): The personhood group American Right to Life, which makes no secret of its disdain for NRLC, has also come out to defend Georgia Right to Life, writing in a press release that NRLC have “lost the vision for victory” and “ruined the term” “pro-life.”