Respect for life goes without saying – or does it? Red State 2013, day 2

After spending two days amid Republicans and conservative independents at Red State Gathering in 2013 in New Orleans, I can report on my reality check. Either everyone there was so pro-life that it didn’t bear mentioning, or else everyone there was so taken with urgent matters like Obamacare and IRS overreach that the right to life is out at the edge of the political radar screen. Take that for what it’s worth. This was not a life-themed event, and one reason I came was to hear what candidates said when they weren’t prompted to make a generic me-too pro-life statement.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas (photo by Ellen Kolb)

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas (photo by Ellen Kolb)

Halfway through Day 2 at Red State, Texas Governor Rick Perry got his half-hour at the mic. He only took about 15 minutes for his statement, leaving the rest for Q&A. He crammed a lot into those fifteen minutes: a pitch for businesses to come to Texas, a review of the state’s economic growth on his watch, a verbal shot at “an Administration that’s aimless abroad and arrogant at home,” and – oh, happy day – a defense of the right to life. Calling the unborn “our most vulnerable citizens,” he said “We protect life in the state of Texas.” He’s proud of the new law restricting post-20-week abortions and requiring higher safety standards for abortion facilities.

About time, I thought. Once Friday’s opening prayer was out of the way, neither abortion-minded women nor their children made it into the speeches until Governor Perry got up to the podium.

A few candidates from around the country who spoke after Gov. Perry also mentioned the right to life. Watch these names as you browse the news during election season next year: Art Halvorson, candidate for Congress from Pennsylvania; Rob Maness, candidate for Senate from Louisiana (now there’s a red-meat conservative); Greg Brannon, candidate for Senate from North Carolina. They’re all Republicans. Red State means to keep Republicans honest. That’s apparently enough of a job without trying to convert Democrats on the life issues or anything else.

What got the most attention from speakers and attendees alike? The problems with Obamacare, which certainly have pro-life implications … the IRS scandal, not a phony one whatever Jay Carney may be telling me, that leaves me wondering how little I have to do to attract inappropriate attention from a taxing authority … government spending and the next debt ceiling vote … immigration and border security.

All those matters are urgent, to be sure. I worry, though, about how many important matters will be crowded out of political debate because they lack that urgency. Roe has been with us for forty years. Abortion is more or less legal in all 50 states, and every regulation that passes, no matter how minor, brings forth screams from abortion advocates. Even Gosnell’s horrors have already faded from the front pages, replaced by profiles of the woman in pink sneakers who put her abortion advocacy right out there when she tried to filibuster to death Texas’s 20-week bill. Where legal and unrestricted abortion is part of the fabric of the contemporary Democratic party, the issue of abortion is more like white noise within today’s Republican party. Those who want to ignore it, do so.

Imagine pro-life Republicans being attacked, and maybe losing office, because of their stands on the “urgent” stuff. This will be in primaries, mind you. It’s going to happen in 2014 and 2016 without strong pushback from pro-life voters of all political persuasions.

So does being pro-life go without saying among Republicans? No. Do independents care? This one sure does.