“Consensus on Abortion” By Nikki Haley Delivered April 25, 2023
Thank you, Marjorie. And thank you to the Susan B. Anthony List for its tireless work on behalf of innocent children and moms.
My subject today is the conversation around abortion. It’s a sensitive topic that deserves our attention. It’s one that too many politicians either demagogue or hide from. I won’t demagogue or hide from it.
I’m here to speak about it directly and openly. I won’t address every possible question or angle. Rather, I aim to start a constructive conversation about where we go from here in our divided country.
Abortion is a deeply personal topic for both women and men. I understand why. Someone’s body and someone else’s life are not things to be taken lightly, and they should not be politicized. The issue should be addressed with sensitivity and respect, not judgment and hate.
Most people have a story that has brought them to their views about abortion. It could be a personal experience. It could be a trauma that a family member or friend endured. It could be a moral conviction. It could be our concerns for our daughters and their future.
This is my story.
I am pro-life. I am unapologetic and unhesitant about it. Not because the Republican Party tells me to be. But for very personal reasons.
My husband was adopted, and I am reminded of that blessing every day.
Michael’s birth parents lived in poverty. His father was an alcoholic and in and out of prison. His mother suffered a traumatic brain injury.
When he was just a few years old, Michael and his siblings were taken from their home. Later, they were put in foster care. It was a rough experience for him.
Thankfully, when he was four, a loving family adopted Michael and his younger sister. It changed their lives. Adoption literally saved them.
Every day is a blessing because someone gave him life. Every day is a blessing because a family loved and raised him under difficult circumstances. The world is better because of Michael Haley. He’s an amazing father and husband. He’s a combat veteran who served our country in war. He continues to help adoption and at-risk youth causes because he wants to help others who were born in his situation.
I often think about what would have happened if Michael hadn’t been so blessed … if his biological mother had chosen a different path.
My husband is reason number one that I stand for life. Every day I get to spend with the love of my life reminds me that I am blessed that someone saved his life.
The second reason is that Michael and I struggled to have children of our own.
I had many challenges as a teenager into my college years. I went through numerous surgeries. When Michael and I were married, I couldn’t wait to be a mom. But what happened so easily for many of my friends was not my path. We went through countless sessions of fertility treatments.
Every day I wake up and see or speak to my two children I feel blessed. The greatest job I will ever have is being their mom.
Our eldest got married just ten days ago. I will never forget the day she was born and then seeing her walk down the wedding aisle with her dad. I felt what countless parents feel. Love. Pride. Overpowering joy.
I believe every life is a blessing from God. My heart hurts when someone decides not to go through with a pregnancy.
My record on abortion is long and clear.
As a state legislator, I voted for every pro-life bill that came before me.
We made it easier for women to get ultrasounds.
We required a 24-hour wait before abortions.
As Governor, we passed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, protecting babies born during botched abortions.
I signed a law protecting unborn babies from the moment they can feel pain.
We also launched initiatives that paired thousands of vulnerable first-time moms with nurses who had specialized training in maternal and child health.
I kept up the fight as ambassador to the United Nations.
And I’m not done yet.
My goal as president will be the same as when I was Governor and Ambassador.
I want to save as many lives and help as many moms as possible.
This mission has become more urgent in the past year.
With the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, we entered a new era. It’s really a return to the way this issue was decided in our country for nearly two centuries.
Until 1973, abortion was not a federal issue. Each state decided where it stood. Many had restrictive laws. Some had more permissive laws.
Yes, the issue was controversial, but the citizens of each state reached a consensus that reflected their values.
Then, in 1973, the Supreme Court changed that. It declared the entire nation must follow one standard. A standard determined not by the American people, but by unelected judges. And that standard was among the most liberal in the world.
Overnight, 46 states saw their abortion laws thrown out. State-level consensus was replaced with a national mandate that much of the country found deeply offensive.
Last year, the Court returned power to the American people. We are now free to forge consensus once again.
In the past year, we’ve started to see what that looks like.
Some states have passed laws protecting life. I commend them for it.
Other states have doubled down on abortion. I wish that weren’t the case, but it is.
Different people in different places are taking different paths. That’s what the founders of our country envisioned. It’s the reality of living in a democracy.
But it’s equally true that in a democracy, things can change. Tomorrow can be better than today. And I believe we will make even more progress in the cause of life.
That is the challenge we face as pro-life advocates – to move America toward life.
I said I want to save as many lives and help as many moms as possible. That is my goal. To do that at the federal level, the next president must find national consensus.
That might sound strange to many people.
Under Roe, consensus was replaced by demonization. And let’s be honest: most in the media promote demonization. They stoke division pitting Americans against each other.
No one talks about finding consensus. Everyone goes to the barricades and attacks the other side.
They’ve turned a sensitive issue that has long divided people into a kind of gotcha bidding war.
How many weeks are you for? How many exceptions are you for? And so on. But these questions miss the point if the goal is saving as many lives as possible.
You don’t save any lives if you can’t enact your position into law. And you can’t do that unless you find consensus.
Reaching consensus starts with humanizing, not demonizing. Just like I have my story, I respect everyone who has their story. I don’t judge someone who is pro-choice any more than I want them to judge me for being pro-life.
Today, each state is finding its own consensus, as they should.
Nationally, however, the task is much harder. As a practical matter, you only achieve consensus when you have a House majority, a 60-vote Senate majority, and a president who are all in alignment.
We are nowhere close to reaching that point. Today, there are around 45 pro-life senators, depending on how you count them. There haven’t been 60 Republican senators since 1910. It could happen one day. But it hasn’t happened in over a hundred years, and it’s unlikely to happen soon.
We have to face this reality. The pro-life laws that have passed in strongly Republican states will not be approved at the federal level.
That’s just a fact, notwithstanding what the Democrat fearmongers say. They say Republicans are about to ban all abortions nationwide and send women to prison. These wildly false claims, amplified by a sympathetic media, are not designed to do anything other than score political points.
They know as well as anyone that no Republican president will have the ability to ban abortion nationwide, just as no Democratic president can override the laws of all fifty states. It’s just not going to happen.
But that does not mean we can’t save as many lives as possible.
I do believe there is a federal role on abortion. Whether we can save more lives nationally depends entirely on doing what no one has done to date – finding consensus. That’s what I will strive to do.
In fact, I believe common ground already exists.
There is broad public agreement that babies born during a failed abortion deserve to live. They need medical care and the full protection of the law, just like every other baby.
There is broad public agreement that we should never pressure moms into having an abortion. They should get support to carry their baby to term. They should be able to get information from pregnancy resource centers – and especially about adoption.
We must do better when it comes to adoption, to make it easier for adoptive parents, and to avoid children growing up in a government system with too little love.
We can broadly agree that pro-life doctors and nurses should never be forced to violate their beliefs. The right of conscience matters just as much as the right to life.
Surely, we can all agree that abortion up until the time of birth is a bridge too far. Only seven countries on earth allow elective late-term abortions. We’re talking brutal regimes like Communist China and North Korea.
We should be able to agree that contraception should be more available, not less.
And we can all agree that women who get abortions should not be jailed. A few have even called for the death penalty. That’s the least pro-life position I can possibly imagine.
Those are just some areas where national consensus is already within reach. There are others too, and we should do the hard work to find them through heartfelt dialogue.
Sadly, finding consensus is the last thing on the mind of many of today’s political and media class.
Conflict makes for good fundraising copy and scary TV ads. Consensus doesn’t get a lot of ratings or clicks.
Hating and judging each other has become the norm instead of respecting one’s personal story.
I would remind those on the Left who demonize anyone who is pro-life, that it was not too long ago when President Bill Clinton said he wanted abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare.”
Few Democrats say “rare” anymore.
Just the opposite. Many want legal abortion anytime, for any reason, at any stage of pregnancy, in every state and town in America.
Some radical activists are even lighting pregnancy resource centers on fire. These are not the voices of consensus. They are acts of division and hatred.
President Biden has done nothing to discourage it. In fact, he promotes it. That’s not leadership. It’s more partisanship of the worst kind.
Pro-life political leaders and candidates must not put up with being demonized. We should call out the extremism of the Left.
We don’t need a president who endangers lives while dividing our country even more. We need a president who unites Americans and brings out the best in them, even on the toughest of subjects.
That will be my approach as president. I believe in conversation.
I believe in compassion.
I believe in empathy, not anger.
We’re not just talking about policy here. We’re talking about people.
That’s often lost in this debate, on the left and the right. But it’s front of mind for me.
I acknowledge the humanity of both the unborn baby and the pregnant mom.
I know how hard pregnancy can be.
Some days, you’re so sick you can’t get out of bed. You worry if you’re really up for raising a baby. And you know you’re going to need a lot of help.
That’s what I felt during my pregnancies. Many women have it much harder. I desperately wanted a child. I had a loving family eager to help out. But some moms never wanted to be pregnant at all. Some are single with no one to help – with no idea how to raise a baby while keeping a job.
I had a friend who was raped. I know the anguish she went through worrying that she would have an unwanted pregnancy. It was an anguish I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
We can’t ignore the fears those women face.
I will never downplay these difficulties as I fight for life. And I won’t demonize those who disagree with me.
We can’t give into outrage culture and accuse our opponents of being evil. That’s self- defeating.
If we want to protect more moms and save more babies, we need more Americans to join with us. We must persuade people and find consensus, not push them further away.
I know we can do it.
I’ve done it before.
Eight years ago, when I was governor, I encountered the most difficult challenge of my life.
A sick and twisted young man walked into Mother Emanuel Church, in Charleston. He joined a bible study of African Americans, sat and prayed with them for over an hour, then opened fire. He murdered nine amazing souls. He openly said he did it because of the color of their skin.
In the awful days that followed, photos emerged of the killer posing with the Confederate Flag. Amid our grief, a massive debate broke out. It centered on the Confederate Flag that flew on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse.
Our state had been bitterly divided on the flag for decades. On one side were those who wanted to tear it down. On the other side were those who wanted to keep the flag. Both were united in sadness over the Mother Emanuel murders. But they were divided about what the flag meant, and what taking it down would mean.
The debate was intense. People wondered if South Carolina would break out in violence and destruction like what we had recently seen in Ferguson, Missouri and other places.
But we didn’t.
In that fraught moment, I gave a speech. I said, quote:
“For many people in our state, the flag stands for traditions that are noble — traditions of history, of heritage and of ancestry… At the same time, for many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past. As a state, we can survive, as we have done, while still being home to both of those viewpoints. We do not need to declare a winner and loser.”
And so, I said, it was time to remove the Confederate Flag from the statehouse grounds.
This was no easy task. It was a highly emotional issue in our state. And removal required a two-thirds vote in both our State House and Senate.
But several days later, large, diverse, and bipartisan majorities in our state legislature voted to bring down the flag.
We found consensus on a very tough issue. Republicans and Democrats worked together and made progress by talking to each other like human beings. We saw past our differences, and united to move forward, as one state and one people.
What was true then, with the flag, can be true now, with abortion.
This shouldn’t be about one movement winning, and another one losing.
This shouldn’t be about picking sides, scoring points, or stoking outrage.
It’s about saving babies and supporting moms.
I am fighting for all of them, and I will work with anyone to do that.
I have faith we can make progress. I have faith we can save more lives, and give every baby, mother, and family the best shot at the best life.
Our national history should give us hope.
Time and again, the American people have confronted great wrongs, and worked hard to convince their fellow citizens to make them right.
Think back to the abolitionists. They spent the better part of a century striving to end our original sin of slavery.
Think back to the suffragettes. It took them even longer to secure the support of their fellow citizens for women’s right to vote.
Think back to the leaders of the civil rights movement. Their tireless work showed America that segregation was wrong, and equality was right.
Think about the progress we’re already making in the restoration of the right to life. Fifty years ago, a court forced unlimited abortion on an unwilling nation.
Millions of Americans responded – not with rage, but with resolve.
They reminded our fellow citizens about the humanity of the unborn child and the needs of pregnant mothers.
Now that power has been restored to the people. Let us treat it as the important and deeply personal issue it is. Let’s discuss it in ways that allow Americans to show love for one another, not judgment or contempt. And let’s find a consensus that allows us to save as many babies as we can while supporting women in difficult situations.
I am ready for the hard work that lies ahead. And I’m confident we can move together, toward our founding promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.