by Jeanne Mancini
I woke up Wednesday morning so grateful that my state, Virginia, had voted out abortion extremism. Abortion activists were supposed to sweep Terry McAuliffe back to the governor’s mansion. McAuliffe spent millions of dollars on ads blasting Glenn Youngkin for being pro-life and brought in outside speakers, including former President Obama, to campaign on the issue of abortion. Instead of keeping Virginia blue, these efforts may have propelled Youngkin to victory. The 5% of voters who said abortion was their top issue in the 2021 election backed Youngkin by a 12-percentage-point margin.
Some policy analysts seem shocked by how abortion radicalism blew up in McAuliffe’s face, but they shouldn’t be. More than three quarters of the American people support significant restrictions on abortion and are making their voices heard at the polls. Instead of listening to them, McAuliffe pandered to an extreme base that makes up a tiny portion of the electorate.
Protecting the most vulnerable is a winning issue, it should be a bipartisan issue, and Youngkin’s success paves the way for a wave of pro-life candidates in 2022 to win in purple and blue states by calling out the extreme pro-abortion views of their opponents.
To be clear, McAuliffe made an intentional, strategic decision to emphasize abortion. He thought he could motivate his base and increase turnout, but most voters didn’t agree with what he was saying.
Virginians had recently experienced the radical extremism of Del. Kathy Tran when she introduced a bill allowing abortion until birth. Gov. Ralph Northam, while defending the bill, even said, “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” The governor seemed to be endorsing infanticide, and even some Democrats who had originally supported the bill withdrew their support.
Instead of backing away from these radical views, McAuliffe committed to enshrining abortion in the state constitution and promised in a debate to make it easier for doctors to conduct late-term abortions. He has flip-flopped on whether he would have vetoed Tran’s bill, but his own words betrayed his support for equivalent measures. A vote for McAuliffe was a vote for four more years of Northam’s policies.
McAuliffe and his campaign missed what had become obvious to many Virginians in recent months: abortion extremism doesn’t sell. Those attending the Virginia March for Life in September could sense momentum building for pro-life candidates. McAuliffe, on the other hand, did nothing to appeal to moderates on the issue, even campaigning at an abortion clinic.
Exit polling shows that McAuliffe’s doubling down on abortion failed to gain him support and potentially cost him the election. According to CBS, “75% of voters who think abortion should be legal in most cases support McAuliffe, but Youngkin gets stronger support — 85% — of those who think it should illegal.”
Youngkin’s victory shows how future pro-life candidates can prevail in hotly contested races. Media criticism sometimes causes candidates to back away from their pro-life views, but Youngkin’s success should show candidates that they can win running on pro-life issues in 2022.
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Jeanne Mancini is the president of the March for Life.
Photo “Terry McAuliffe” by Terry McAuliffe.