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Why Is This Pro-Life Group Souring on Their Keynote Speaker?

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Back in September, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America had Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) at their annual gala where he headlined. Youngkin had defeated former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) in November of last year, with the two holding very opposite views on the abortion issue. Fast forward to a couple of months later, during which the chatter is increasing when it comes to the possibility that Youngkin, who cannot run for consecutive terms due to the Virginia state constitution, will run for president in 2024. SBA Pro-Life America has definitely noticed the chatter, and now they have some concerns.


In an op-ed from November 26 titled "Glenn Youngkin for president? To be determined," Frank Cannon, who is a political strategist for the pro-life group, called out Youngkin for not being pro-life enough, at least when it comes to the federal level. That op-ed, for The Washington Times, made it to RealClearPolitics (RCP) earlier this week. 

Cannon begins and closes by celebrating Youngkin's credentials as both a gubernatorial candidate and potentially a presidential or vice presidential candidate. In the middle of the third paragraph, though, he claims that "On nearly every issue, his record is superb — every issue but one. Unfortunately, Mr. Youngkin has articulated a position on abortion that would, as of now, effectively disqualify him from a Republican primary and make him completely unviable on the national stage."

The issue that Cannon takes with Youngkin's position is that the governor, like some other Republicans, believes that abortion should be a state rather than a federal issue. 

When it comes to Youngkin's own comments on the issue, his position on abortion came up during the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival in September. 

"We find [ourselves] in a situation today reflecting what I believe was a very good decision from the Supreme Court to remand, to the states, the right to make these decisions," he said about the Dobbs v. Jackson case which overturned Roe v. Wade. "I felt that the decision was correct. This is a decision that should be made by voters--by citizens," he also mentioned. 


He also spoke about the role of the federal government versus state government on the issue. "The federal government consistently overreaches. … States, in fact, have the ability to deal with these issues based on their voters’ desires. So, this is one of those circumstances," he explained. 

Cannon offers that Youngkin's position, "to put it mildly, will not fly should he ever run for higher office." His words only get stronger from there:

Mr. Youngkin is wrong about the constitutional question, too, of course. The court sent the issue to the people’s elected representatives, in the states and Congress. And in fact, the 14th Amendment empowers Congress specifically to pass legislation protecting the right to life.

It’s also a morally bankrupt position. Politicians in states like New York and California, pumped with millions of dollars in donations from the abortion lobby, are declaring open season on an entire class of people. Unborn children in states like these can be legally killed just minutes before they would be born, and in some cases for a short while afterward. To say that the federal government should be powerless to prevent such a thing is absolutely ludicrous.

A federal bill for regulating and restricting abortion is not merely hypothetical. It's far from a "national abortion ban" that pro-abortion Democrats rant and rage over, though. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and heavily supported by SBA Pro-Life America, limits abortions to 15-weeks, with exceptions, based on when unborn children can feel pain. The brutal procedure performed at such a late stage in pregnancy also carries with it more dangers for the mother. The mother is not held liable for illegal abortions, but rather the provider is. 


The 15-week abortion ban also enjoys widespread support. A poll from Harvard CAPS/Harris, conducted in late June, shortly after the Dobbs decision, found that 60 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Independents believe that their state should allow abortion no later than 15 weeks. Further, women were more likely than men to say the same thing, at 75 percent and 69 percent, respectively. 

Cannon also mentioned similar points addressed in a post-midterms election press call that Townhall tuned in for, which is that there are lessons to be learned from 2022, especially when it comes to how winning and losing candidates prioritized the abortion issue, or didn't. 

"If we have learned anything in these few short days following the 2022 midterm elections, it is that shying away from abortion has no place in the political arena," Cannon explained it in the op-ed, going on to list winning examples. "The candidates who clearly articulated their support for defending life and called out Democrat extremism, such as Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen.-elect J.D. Vance, Gov. Brian Kemp and many others, came out victorious — while those who refused to go on the offense went home with a participation trophy."

The call also mentioned that the pro-life group believes only a pro-life candidate can become the Republican nominee for president. 


Cannon's op-ed also mentioned former and potentially future President Donald Trump's pro-life credentials. Trump is, so far, the only Republican candidate to have declared he is running in 2024. SBA Pro-Life America issued multiple statements when Trump announced.

For all of the points Cannon makes, which includes arguments many in the pro-life movement find agreeable, such as how the 14th Amendment and the Dobbs decision give elected officials in Congress room to regulate and restrict abortion as well, he fails to list out how Youngkin is a pro-life governor.

Again, the contrast between him and McAuliffe could not be more stark, who is not mentioned in the op-ed. McAuliffe served from 2014-2018, during which he made numerous comments advocating for later abortions, and also vetoed numerous bills defunding Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. During the 2021 campaign, he emphasized throughout that he would be a "brick wall" on pro-life bills, and even toured at an abortion clinic as part of a campaign stunt. 

Youngkin, on the other hand, called for a 15-week abortion bill the same day that Dobbs was officially handed down on June 24. 

In a statement for Townhall, Youngkin Press Secretary Macaulay Porter reminded that "Governor Youngkin is a pro-life governor and insinuations to the contrary are a clear corruption of his position."


Further, Youngkin has been asked multiple times about his plans for 2024, for months now. This was especially as he campaigned for Republican gubernatorial candidates for this year's election cycle. As he said at a press event in late August that Townhall attended, campaigning was his way to give back after he received help from the Republican Governor's Association (RGA). Perhaps most noteworthy of all is that Youngkin has consistently told reporters he remains committed to making successfully governing Virginia his top priority, especially with 2024 as far off as it is.

When asked in August by 7News, a local ABC News outlet, if he was running for president, Youngkin explained that "my focus is on 2022," adding his "top priority is to make Virginia the best state to live work and raise a family" and "2024 is a long way off." Reiterating his focus being on 2022, he also said that "I am focused on delivering on promises made last year that have been kept. We've got a giant agenda for the rest of this year and into next year. And 2024 will happen when 2024 gets here."

Youngkin's term expires in 2026, and he can't run again for governor until 2029, if he so chooses. With the exception of Gov. Mills Edwin Godwin, who served from 1966-1970 and again from 1974-1978, McAuliffe is the only governor to have run for non-consecutive terms.


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