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Paul Ryan to Pro-Life Group: 'Good Legislation Will Help Us Change Hearts and Minds'

9:01 PM, Apr 11, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Now, Lincoln didn’t go along to get along. He used compromise to achieve his objective—which was to put slavery on the “course of ultimate extinction.” He rejected compromises that worked against his purposes. But he accepted them if they brought him closer to his goal—even in just a small way. We all know what happened. After years of turmoil, he helped pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which ended slavery for good.

Like Lincoln, we should promote civility and compromise in pursuit of the common good. Perhaps the biggest mistake the Democratic Party ever made is it chased the pro-life movement from its ranks—with the notable exception of my friend Congressman Dan Lipinski. In complete disregard of millions of pro-life Democrats, President Obama has catered to the extreme elements of his party. In the Clinton years, the stated goal was to make abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” Now, the party stands for an absolute, unqualified right to abortion—at any time, under any circumstances, and even at taxpayer expense. By contrast, we understand the best way to advance a cause isn’t to push our political adversaries away. It’s to convince them.

And people can surprise you. Not long ago, there was a doctor who performed 75,000 abortions in his career—even on his own child. His commitment was so extreme that he helped found NARAL. Could we ever work with a man like this? In fact, we did. Late in his life, Dr. Bernard Nathanson became a great spokesman for life. He renounced atheism. But religion didn’t change his heart. Science did. The image of the ultrasound—of that tiny beating heart—made him realize that was life.

Not everyone will undergo such a change. But we should work with people of all beliefs to make progress. Building on the work of Professor Hadley Arkes, I think we should plant flags in the law—small changes that raise questions about abortion. People who consider themselves pro-choice don’t agree with us on everything. But many agree we should stop taxpayer funding of abortion. That’s “a flag.” Many agree we should require parental notification. That’s another “flag.” Many agree we should restore the Mexico City policy. That’s one more “flag.” Even if we can’t agree on the final step, we can work with them on a few concrete steps. We can raise doubts—and save lives.

Such painstaking work can be tiring. The give-and-take of legislation usually is. But we can’t let up. And we have to recognize opportunities for what they are. Take my friend, former congressman Bob Dold. A pro-choice Republican from Illinois, he was an outspoken advocate for Planned Parenthood. Yet he voted to stop Obamacare from covering abortion. And he voted to allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions on conscience grounds. Last year, he lost to a Democrat who today is another down-the-line, pro-choice stalwart in the House. Dold was an ally of our cause. We need to work with others like him.

Labels can be misleading. A pro-choice Republican senator from Massachusetts nearly derailed Obamacare just by being elected. But a pro-life Democratic congressman from Michigan delivered the votes that passed it into law. The SBA List needs to help elect as many pro-life leaders as possible—and then work with people of all beliefs to pass pro-life legislation. We can’t abandon Washington to pro-choice extremists—because good legislation will help us change hearts and minds.

That’s our goal. And we’ve got some work to do. We need to show the country our mission isn’t just to protect life, but to improve it. We have to remind people that concern for the poor doesn’t demand faith in big government. It demands something more—from all of us.

The poor and powerless, they need a helping hand. We’re ready to offer it. But they need more than a check in the mail. They need a loving family and a supportive neighborhood. They need a vibrant community. Those experiences—of providing for their families, of being a part of something—they’re what we all need. And we can speak to those needs—because just as we see the worth of every human life, we see the potential in every human being.

Government can’t create that potential. It can’t confer dignity. But it can protect it. We want government to treat us equally—to protect our natural rights. We want government to make room for our communities to grow—so the families in them have room to thrive. That’s the vision we need to articulate. We see a country where families are strong, where the economy is growing, and where women have real choices—between good schools and good jobs and great opportunities.

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