Melissa Harris Perry
updated 4/12/2013 5:20:45 PM ET 2013-04-12T21:20:45

Paul Ryan urged anti-abortion activists to reach out to people who support reproductive choice--while continuing to work to outlaw abortion.

Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday called supporters of the anti-abortion movement “the heirs of the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln” during a speech at a fundraiser for the pro-life campaign fund the Susan B. Anthony List. He compared the fight to ban abortion and curtail access to reproductive care to the battle to end slavery.

“Like Lincoln, we should promote civility and compromise in pursuit of the common good,” Ryan said. He urged anti-abortion to reach out to those who support reproductive rights as they work to outlaw abortion, saying that Lincoln accepted pro-slavery states when necessary in pursuit of his ultimate goal of ending slavery for good.

“We’ve had some setbacks. We’ve missed some opportunities and lost some key races,” said the failed Republican vice presidential candidate. ”To advance the pro-life cause, we need to work with people who consider themselves pro-choice–because our task isn’t to purge our ranks. It’s to grow them.” But while urging anti-abortion activists to take a softer tone–in line with the GOP’s post-election efforts to re-brand itself as an inclusive party–he also warned, “We can’t abandon Washington to pro-choice extremists.”

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Friday showed that 42% of respondents believe that abortion should be illegal, but that exceptions should be allowed. On Thursday Ryan made no reference to his prior support for bills that would have outlawed abortion even in cases of rape or incest. (He co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life act in 2011, which stated that the “life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent,” as well an amendment that would have banned abortion in all circumstances but “forcible rape,” a term that was never defined.)  Instead, he focused on the progress anti-choice legislators have made at the state level, calling them “flags.” In the past three months alone, legislators have introduced 694 provisions related to reproductive rights, nearly half of which seek to restrict access.

“We don’t want a country where abortion is simply outlawed,” Ryan said. “We want a country where it isn’t even considered.”


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