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Paul Ryan Tells Anti-Abortion Advocates to Broaden Their Reach

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Paul Ryan called for anti-abortion advocates to reach out to pro-abortion rights advocates Thursday evening in an effort to "attract a broad coalition" to the movement, becoming the latest Republican to urge like-minded voters to be open to a group not traditionally seen 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," the Wisconsin congressman said at the Susan B. Anthony List gala in Washington, D.C., a group that backs candidates that will work to try and outlaw abortion.

The former GOP vice presidential nominee and current House Budget Chairman told the audience they need 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."

Ryan, who headlined the event, told the group they need 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 be advocates for their cause they can 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 like many in the audience his anti-abortion views come from his religion, but he said they "can't just make arguments based on faith.  We also need to make arguments based on reason."

"If we want to appeal to the broadest audience, we need to use every tool at our disposal," he added, noting that 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 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 like requiring parental notification, “taxpayer funding of abortion,” and restoring the Mexico City policy, which prohibits funding to international family planning groups that provide abortions.  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."

Ryan is the latest Republican politician urging 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 the past few decades.  He set out to woo the group of students at the historically black university, telling them the Republican Party was the party of the civil rights movement.

Ryan's message is also along the lines of what the Republican National Committee suggested in their "autopsy" report, calling for more inclusion and outreach to women, minorities and gays, but no changes to policy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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