Every election cycle, women’s issues are a flashpoint in the public square. This year is no exception: Candidates on both sides are debating abortion, equal pay, family leave, and maternal mortality.

These political clashes often hinge on deeply held views about who women are, how they’re wired, and what they need. One of the most salient aspects of female identity is our maternal nature—the inclination (broadly speaking) to foster enduring ties with our offspring. Gender essentialism is fraught with land mines and dangerous generalities, and not all women experience the maternal pull. Nonetheless, most of us would agree that women’s biology is in fact distinctive, and the innate potential to bear children and bond with them not only carries great weight for the family but also shapes our commonwealth.

The political Left and Right mishandle these maternal instincts in different ways. For hard-line progressives, female “nature” is a social construct to embrace or escape—it doesn’t serve a normative purpose. We see this view play out legislatively. Liberal Democrats rightly pride themselves on defending family-friendly policies. But they concurrently promote pro-abortion policies that treat a woman’s bond with her child as entirely voluntary and even arbitrary—severed here, supported there. “To Planned Parenthood, an undesired life is no life at all,” writes Russell Moore in National Review.

Those on the Right have a nearly inverse enigma. Both center-right and far-right Republicans tend to value a woman’s distinct maternal nature and the children who come with it. But that helping hand comes up short in other arenas, as mothers are too often left to ...

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