Whose Article Is Kristan Hawkins Responding To?

In her response to my article on political power and the pro-life movement last week, Students for Life president Kristan Hawkins describes and addresses a piece that bears only a passing resemblance to mine. Perhaps because she is used to taking criticism from and quarreling with pro-choice advocates, Hawkins spends her first two paragraphs discussing the difficulty inherent in being a pro-life activist and explaining the costly folly of Roe v. Wade. On both counts, I already wholeheartedly agree with her. As a student at Cornell University, I took considerable abuse and lost many friends for arguing that our student government should not be spending money on a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood. And in fact, it is because I know that we face an uphill battle that I included a critique of Hawkins in my original article. Pro-lifers cannot afford to be caught making suspect arguments in the interest of our cause. Hawkins of all people should know that our opponents in the media and in public office will skewer us for doing so.

Moreover, I still maintain that Hawkins’s tweet presented the pro-life movement in an unflattering and power-hungry light. Organizations shouldn’t be defunded for their political predilections one way or another. They should be given or have money taken away based on their value to the taxpayers and country. Planned Parenthood is an evil organization responsible for the deaths of well over 300,000 innocents annually. That’s why it should be defunded, not because it donates money to Democrats. Government exists to promote the general welfare, not to be used vindictively against supporters of the opposition party.

Bafflingly, Hawkins claims that I called her “willingness to judge potential candidates on their abortion positions and [her] concerns about Planned Parenthood’s deadly business” as “politically damaging and morally corrupting” and charges me with deeming her priorities as “poorly made.” These are either willful mischaracterizations or the result of having misread what I wrote. I called her politics-based call for defunding Planned Parenthood “politically damaging and morally corrupting.” I agree with her prioritizing abortion as a voting issue — as I originally wrote, being pro-life is a prerequisite for earning my own vote.

Hawkins goes on to detail her own admirable efforts to further the pro-life cause. I applaud those efforts — I was ecstatic that a Students for Life chapter was founded at Cornell last year — but feel obligated to note that those efforts don’t make her argument any stronger.

She also conveniently ignores the first three quarters of my article, which takes issue with Mona Charen’s argument for voting for Joe Biden this November. Hawkins says that I noted arguments I supposedly find “compelling . . . for why pro-life voters should not prioritize abortion.” In fact, what I actually did was explain why the value of political power should not be underestimated by pro-lifers, and why I don’t find the pro-life case for Biden compelling.

I do apologize if Hawkins was offended by my use of the term “power-worship.” It was not meant to imply that she literally worships power, but as an expression to describe an increasingly prevalent phenomenon in American politics that I think Hawkins’s tweet exemplifies. I believed my meaning to be plain, but I nevertheless wish to make clear that I did not and do not question her faith.

I have great respect for Hawkins and her organization. Their work is indispensable. But the fact that she felt the need to construct and knock over the strawman she depicts in her rebuttal to my article tells me that she found herself unable to refute the one I wrote.

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