After being largely shut out last year, pro-life and pro-family advocates are taking a more prominent role at CPAC, the premier annual gathering of conservatives held outside Washington, D.C., from Thursday through the weekend.
At the same event last year, Breitbart reported that not a single panel or specific speaker on pro-life issues had been scheduled. Pro-lifers noted panels on the IRS scandal, immigration, Common Core, privacy, gun control, and criminal justice reform. They saw panels on career counseling, making friends, pot-smoking, making posts go Upworthy, and even a panel on Vaccines vs. Leeches. Though there were speakers noted for their pro-life advocacy, they were speaking on other issues.
A number of pro-life leaders spoke to Breitbart last year and complained about the dearth of speakers on their issue, including Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life, Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, Paul Rondeau, then of American Life League, and Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation.
This year is different, likely because of the new chairman of the American Conservative Union, overall sponsor of the event that draws many presidential aspirants. Matt Schlapp and his wife Mercy have impeccable pro-life credentials since before their time in the Bush White House and down to today. They are close friends with pro-life activist Reverend Pat Mahoney in the work he does.
Schlapp told Breitbart’s Matt Boyle last week that they are making a deliberate attempt to embrace social conservatives this year.
Though still largely about economic, regulation, and national security issues, this year, pro-lifers have two panels. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life is hosting a panel on how to confront the abortion industry as a big business. And a number of pro-life advocates–Marjorie Dannenfelser and Darla St. Martin–are speaking at a panel on pro-life success stories.
Two panels will even touch on something of a third rail for libertarian conservatives: gay marriage. Tony Perkins of Family Research Council is hosting a panel on religious freedom, something social conservatives see as under assault in the gay marriage debate. And the American Principles Project is hosting a panel about the future of marriage in America.
The LGBT issue may get an airing out when Breitbart News Chairman Stephen K. Bannon gives the Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award to Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, who quite famously stood up for traditional marriage and came under sustained attack from gay marriage supporters. They tried to get him to apologize under threat of losing his highly popular show. He refused and backed them down.
All the possible presidential candidates who are speaking this week will likely mention the pro-life issue. Social conservatives are seen as one of the important pillars of the conservative three-legged stool.
Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse.