In the ongoing war within the conservative movement over whether the GOP should continue its fight on social issues, Rep. Paul Ryan becomes one of the highest-profile Republican officials to weigh in last night, telling an antiabortion group that the GOP must continue its fight against choice.
"Our critics say we should abandon our pro-life beliefs. But that would only demoralize our voters," the Hill reports Ryan told the Susan B. Anthony List gala last night. "It’s an odd strategy, I think: the cynical ploy followed by the thumping defeat."
"Our task isn't to purge our ranks. It's to grow them," Ryan said at the event in Washington.
The congressman is known primarily as a budget wonk, but is well to the right of many Republicans on abortion, opposing it in all cases (including rape and incest) except for when the life of the mother is in danger.
While Ryan's star has fallen since November, the GOP is far more likely to heed his words on abortion than it is to listen to other social conservatives fighting against marriage equality. The two issues have long been linked, but it seems likely the two will cleave apart from each other in coming months as mainline Republicans moderate themselves on marriage but remain committed to the fight against abortion.
That was the general consensus among activists we spoke to at CPAC, the annual gathering of conservatives in March, where many seemed ready to embrace marriage equality, but thought abortion was still a critical issue for the GOP. Even many pro-gay conservative activists, like GOProud founder Jimmy LaSalvia, are pro-life.
And while polls consistently show support for marriage equality is above the 50 percent mark and rising fast, positions on abortion have been more volatile, but remained more or less steady, and Republicans overwhelmingly identify themselves as "pro-life," 67 percent to 28.