Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called for anti-abortion rights advocates to reach out to pro-abortion rights advocates Thursday evening, making him the latest Republican to urge like-minded voters to be open to a group not traditionally viewed as conservative.
"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," Ryan said at a D.C. gala for the Susan B. Anthony List, a political action committee that helps anti-abortion candidates get elected to Congress.
The former GOP vice presidential nominee and current House Budget Committee chairman told those in the audience they needed to "expand our horizon" but urged them to "stay vigilant" and to work "with patience" and "with good cheer."
"We don't want a country where abortion is simply outlawed," Ryan said. "We want a country where it isn't even considered."
The Wisconsin congressman, who headlined the event, told the group it needed to "show the pro-life cause isn't just the cause of the unborn" but a "deep affirmation of human rights."
He said by trying to appeal to people that wouldn't usually support their cause they could win future elections and do it without moderating their position on the issue.
"There's a lot of talk these days about how to win the next election," Ryan, who has not ruled out running for higher office again, said. "Our critics say we should abandon our pro-life beliefs. But that would only demoralize our voters."
Ryan, a Catholic, said, as with many in the audience, that his anti-abortion views came from his religion but he said they "can't just make arguments based on faith. We also need to make arguments based on reason," adding, "if we want to appeal to the broadest audience, we need to use every tool at our disposal," noting the "best way to advance a cause isn't to push our political adversaries away but to convince them."
"Not everyone will undergo such a change. But we should work with people of all beliefs to make progress," Ryan said, explaining that the audience should work to "plant flags in the law," something he explained as "small changes that raise questions about abortion" and will bring some consensus with people who still support some abortion rights.
He described the "flags" as issues such as requiring parental notification, "taxpayer funding of abortion" and restoring the Mexico City policy, which prohibits funding to international family planning groups that provide abortion services. It essentially bars recipients of U.S. foreign aid from promoting abortion as a method of family planning. President Obama signed an executive order reversing the ban shortly after taking office in 2009.
"Even if we can't agree on the final step, we can work with them on a few concrete steps," Ryan said. "We can raise doubts, and save lives.
"By working with people of all beliefs, we can show the world the good work you're doing," Ryan said. "And we can win allies. That's how you bring people into the fold. First, you respect their views. Then you politely encourage them to change them."
He reminded the audience members that they can make progress and broaden the movement but cautioned it "can be undone in an instant by a careless remark or ugly sign."
While Ryan became the latest Republican politician to urge conservatives to reach out to a broader coalition, on Wednesday Rand Paul became one of only a handful of Republicans to speak at Howard University in recent decades. He set out to woo the group of students at the historically black university to the GOP, telling them the Republican Party was the party of the civil rights movement.
Ryan's message was also along the lines of what the Republican National Committee suggested in its "autopsy" report on its 2012 election loss, calling for more inclusion and outreach to women, minorities and gay people but not to make changes in policy.