Rep. Paul Ryan said the Republican Party should maintain its strong pro-life position on abortion, in addition to gaining support of pro-choice advocates, in a speech last week.

At the Susan B. Anthony List Gala last Thursday, Ryan, a Republican from Janesville who ran for vice president last year, said despite criticisms the GOP’s stance on abortion is hurting the party, Republicans should continue to be stronger than ever in their conviction. 

“There’s a lot of talk these days about how to win the next election,” Ryan said, “Our critics say we should abandon our pro-life beliefs. But that would only demoralize our voters.” 

Ryan added pro-life advocacy groups, as well as the Republican Party, need to broaden support for their position as part of the strategy. 

To do this, Ryan suggested pro-life advocates need to win over pro-choice supporters and key legislators by finding common areas where they can both agree. 

“We need to articulate a vision – one that can attract a broad coalition,” Ryan said. “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 added he hopes one day the U.S. will be a country where abortion is not even considered.

Sam Guzman, spokesperson for Pro-Life Wisconsin, said the organization agrees with Ryan’s remarks. 

“We need to build bridges, we need to reach out and try to change minds and hearts,” Guzman said. 

Guzman said he believes the organization should be more persuasive and less adversarial by trying to broaden its support base, instead of pushing opponents away. 

However, Guzman also emphasized Pro-Life Wisconsin opposes all types of abortion and does not believe there should be any exceptions for any cases. He said the organization is careful not to compromise its position in any way. 

“As long as we are building these bridges and trying to reach them, we just want to be extremely cautious that that doesn’t mean, in any way, losing any lives through compromise,” Guzman said. 

In his speech, Ryan stressed the need to find compromises with pro-choice workers, citing such issues as putting an end to taxpayer funding for abortions. According to Ryan, such agreements will help the party reach the eventual goal of making abortion illegal.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Director Mike McCabe said this speech shows a major failure of the GOP to appeal to public opinion on social issues. He said the public’s stance on many issues such as abortion, gay marriage and immigration has shifted over the years, yet the Republican Party lags behind. 

McCabe also said Republicans are struggling to get support from women voters and the party’s strict opposition to abortion rights for women is probably a significant reason. 

“There’s an obvious gender gap,” McCabe said. “They get a lot more support from men to women and I think abortion rights is one factor that leads to that gender gap.”

However, Ryan concluded his speech by emphasizing the importance of the Republican Party’s dedication to the “higher standard” of the pro-life cause.