Life of the party: Federalism and abortion

Abortion.

Few words are more toxic to polite conversation in American culture.  Pro-life abolitionism, much like its Civil War predecessor, has the ability to divide and alienate people along fundamentally moral lines – with good reason.  People on both sides of the issue feel a fundamental threat to their rights from the other, making it impossible for any serious political party or candidate to ride the fence, and the Federalist Party is no exception.

The initial platform of the newly-formed Republican Party in 1856 put slavery squarely in the spotlight, and their support for Constitutional abolition was one of the major reasons they succeeded in replacing the established but ineffective Whig Party in just a few short years.

A similar ideological breakdown has emerged in modern politics around the issue of abortion, where Democrat support for the practice has frequently stared down a Republican party more interested in fiscal and foreign policy issues.

In short, abortion abolitionists on the right – and pro-life dissenters on the left – are as unrepresented by today’s major parties as slavery abolitionists once were.

Thus, it is incumbent upon the Federalist Party to take a clear and principled stand on the greatest civil rights issue of our time – and one of only a few issues that must come to define us on a national level.

Why make life a central issue?

If the United States is to remain united, there are some basic things we must agree on nationally, and there’s nothing more important we could possibly agree on than protecting the right to life.

The Federalist Party is built around the proposition of federalism – that individual rights are best protected by decentralization of power, shared governance, and increased reliance on more efficient and responsive state and local governments.  Our vision, like that of the original Federalists, is a truly progressive vision of free cities and states cooperating and competing, forming a network of small, responsive, efficient governments to reduce high-level bureaucracy, provide checks and balances, and curb excessive regulation and standardization.

We basically want to restore the 10th Amendment and return to states the right to create, innovate, build, and adapt to the needs of their populace without having to beg for approval from the rest of the nation.

We want to use technology to modernize and appify government, bringing democracy up to the speed of the internet age by empowering state and local governments to be more customizable and object-oriented.

With widespread support for this foundational priority, why should the Federalist Party wade into the decades-old abortion debate? As an insurgent new party fighting for a political foothold, why risk alienating voters, activists, and donors who otherwise agree with our vision and message?

As I mentioned earlier, abortion isn’t an issue anyone can afford to ignore.  If one side is right, there’s a war on women, whose personal medical decisions are being manipulated for political gain.  If the other side is right, we’re enabling an American holocaust that claims over 300,000 children a year.

With regard to such an issue, no decision is a decision.

Not to act, is to act.

Federalists and abortion: a new way of looking at the pro-life message

One underlying assumption of the Federalist mindset – something the original Federalists embraced as context for the framing of the Constitution – is that of inalienable rights that don’t come from government, and therefore can’t be taken away by government.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence agreed that governments were instituted for the express purpose of securing those individual rights, and they implemented a Federalist government model in part because a decentralized government with checks and balances was better able to defend these rights than a centralized, monolithic state.

The Bill of Rights codified this belief with the Due Process Clause of the 5th Amendment.

But as a party, we don’t just look to the past for guidance on this issue – we also look to the future.  Advances in medical science have lifted the abortion issue out of the darkness and pierced the ambiguity regarding personhood that Chief Justice Blackmon specifically cited as having substantiated the Roe v. Wade majority opinion.

Ultrasound technology and modern embryology have helped make the case for the personhood of the unborn, and have drawn a hard line between the deliberate termination of a pregnancy – abortion – and broader women’s health issues.

As our window to the world of the unborn grows larger, more and more people – millennials in particular – are embracing the pro-life cause as the next logical step to protecting the rights of every American.  While it’s understandable that people in the 60’s and 70’s may cling to Roe‘s argument for “choice”, the ground is clearly shrinking beneath the feet of abortion advocates. In politics, in culture, and in business, the trend of the future is clearly toward acknowledging the value and rights of the unborn.

And that’s a trend the Federalist Party can embrace by showing leadership in the fight to protect life.

A Federalist approach to defending life

The reality of American politics is that most folks will stop reading after my last sentence – whether approvingly or disapprovingly.  But if our stance on life sets us apart from the Democratic platform, it is our strategic approach that can distinguish us from a Republican Party that pays lip-service to abortion abolition, but has proven ineffective at advancing the pro-life cause.

We agree that personhood must be defined at the national level, extending the protections of the 5th and 14th Amendments to preborn persons.  Failing to address this nationally would create a situation where state lines bestow and negate individual rights, and that’s both immoral and unworkable.

At the same time, states and communities play an important – and often overlooked – role in protecting life.

Pro-life advocates often find themselves assailed by anecdotes and individual case hypotheticals when discussing federal abortion law, and are sometimes forced into retreat by a lack of specific answers for these cases.

Federalists recognize that criminal law has historically been within the jurisdiction of state governments, and that these difficult cases are better handled by state and local authorities who are able to address the facts surrounding individual cases.

There’s no need to iron out every detail of every exception at the federal level, and it’s presumptuous to try.  If the principle of personhood is established at the national level, application can be left to the states, where we already handle all other issues of justice and conflicting rights.

But beyond the legal principle, there’s so much more for states and communities to do.  While the federal government is not constitutionally empowered to involve itself in health care, no such restriction exists on states or cities.  States can establish funding for non-abortive health care clinics.  Communities can provide help for women in crisis. There are endless solutions at the local level that would never work as a one-size-fits-all federal policy, and the more the federal government backs away from the abortion industry, the more room those solutions have to work.

We can see an end to legal abortion in our lifetimes, but it’s not going to come by rehashing the same national arguments we’ve had since 1973.

Federalists can apply local, innovative, political solutions that will help bring government in line with the pro-life trend of America’s largest voting bloc – millennials.

If you’re passionate about abolishing – not just regulating or limiting – legal abortion in America, the Federalist Party is the place for you.