Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category

Schlafly’s Lie about Democrats and Abortion

September 4, 2008

A few days ago, Tom Ashbrook interviewed Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum and a primary leader in grassroots conservatism. One particular exchange caught my attention.

CALLER CAROLINE: …I would like to ask her: If Sarah Palin were a Democratic candidate with a tiny special needs child at home and a 17-year-old daughter that’s expecting a baby that’s unwed, how the Republican Party of family values would view the fact that the mother went to work just a few days after the special needs baby was born. So that’s what’s happening with the Republican Party, and I would like her to comment…

TOM ASHBROOK: …We’ll put it to her. Are you a Republican, Democrat, independent, what?

CAROLINE: Former Republican, due to this, exactly what we’re describing.

ASHBROOK: Phyllis Schafly, what do you say…?

PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: If Sarah Palin were a Democrat, she would have aborted the baby. That’s the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats (“The Soul of the GOP,” On Point with Tom Ashbrook )

Never mind the fact that, as was pointed out later in the interview, 90% of Down Syndrome pregnancies are aborted (does Schlafly presume that the overwhelming majority of Down Syndrome pregnancies are conceived among Democrats?). She stood by her statement, outrageous as it was.

As I’ve addressed at length before, many—perhaps most—liberals (people like Schlafly typically conflate liberals and Democrats) do not encourage or approve of abortion. We may believe that there needs to be some recognition of and respect for what is typically an agonizing choice for the mother, a recognition that postnatal life deserves just as much sanctity as prenatal, and that we can do more to support life by providing support for those who chose life than by heavy-handed government control. Unfortunately, people like Schlafly are determined not to see the difference between that broader perspective and actually advocating abortion.

A good friend of mine, one who is ardently liberal, recently wrote a very intimate and emotional essay in which she expressed her abhorrence of abortion.

For years now I’ve been saying, “We need to keep abortion legal to save lives,” and I still believe that. But at the same time, I hate abortion. Abortion is violent and invasive. I can imagine that just as birth and health exams can be extremely traumatizing for women who have been raped or sexually abused, abortion is no different. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a surgical abortion with a history of sexual abuse or after being raped, but given the high percentage of these incidences, it seems likely that a great many women who choose to abort are in this category. That makes abortion a seriously disgusting proposition…

…Pro-choice advocates do women a disservice when they refuse to recognize the authentic human experience of abortion, in which a woman might not leave the clinic feeling empowered and independent, but instead feeling abused and disgusted – even while feeling also that they absolutely made the right choice…

I hope that abortion will stay legal, but even more importantly, I hope to see the reasons for unwanted pregnancy attacked with precision and strength. This means, above all, preventing unwanted pregnancy from occurring. This speaks to issues of comprehensive sex education, the availability of contraception to people across the economic spectrum, and further development of contraceptive methods.

This also speaks to poverty and our culture of rape and easy exploitation of women and children. Our habit of blaming the victims followed by ostracism and judgment doesn’t help, either. Our lack of support for women for whom abortion is not the uterine equivalent of dental work speaks volumes about perpetuated stereotypes and dichotomies in our culture. (“Abortion Redux,” Conscious Intention )

Like my friend, I vehemently challenge the Pro-Choice advocates who trivialize the procedure—though I rarely hear such arguments. Maybe they were more prominent a few decades ago, earlier in the abortion conflict, but those sentiments seem rare now. Virtually everyone I hear from on the Left recognizes the gravity of the issue.

I join Schlafly in my admiration for Palin’s willingness to take on the challenge of raising the Down Syndrome child God gave her—just as I equally admire the Democrat running for the Utah House of Representatives in Davis County who is raising a Down Syndrome child.

Schlafly is right to criticize those who promote abortion or discuss it lightly. But she is wrong to lump all Democrats (or all liberals) in that same boat. It is an outright lie to assert that a Democrat would have aborted the baby.

I’ve heard conservatives complain that it is wrong when some liberal voices assert that conservatives don’t care about the poor and disadvantaged. And these conservatives are correct; while far too many conservative commentators use the Moral Conservative Criticism against Social Justice, or disregard the problems which poverty represents, there are a good many who do care deeply about the poor. We may have disagreements with them about the manner in which to alleviate poverty, but we cannot discount their sincere concern for the issue. I hope these same conservatives will understand our grievance with Schlafly’s statements.

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Substantive Work on Reducing Abortion

April 30, 2007

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, recently wrote a good article on the need to take concrete steps to reduce abortion. “Abortion – From Symbol to Substance” is a much more compassionate and sensible take than what I typically hear from the Pro-Life advocates on the Right. This is an agenda I can get behind.

Wallis mentions two bills which have been offered up in congress, ones which take steps to deal with the roots of abortion instead of merely condemning or criminalizing the fruits. HR 1074: Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act, and HR 6145 [109th]: Pregnant Women Support Act are both worthy of encouragement. Sadly, neither bill has a sponsor from Utah, all of whose Representatives are LDS and supposedly advocate life and helping those in need. Why not give your representative a call, see whether or not they endorse these bills, and recommend that they back the bills.

In reading Rep. Lincoln Davis’ press release announcing the bill, I find it particularly interesting that while such religious organizations as The National Association of Evangelicals, Sojourners/Call to Renewal, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and The Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, have found it justified to back Representative Davis’ Pregnant Women Support Act, the two of the most prominent religious groups who speak most loudly on moral issues and abortion specifically have not supported the legislation. Perhaps this is because those organizations are more concerned with exclusion, retribution, and building a base of power through moral grandstanding than in compassion and real solutions to the moral issues? While those and similar groups have exerted considerable control within the pro-life movement over the years, those who are pro-life don’t need to follow their lead. Those concerned with life can join together on this different road to deal with the tragedy of abortion, a road more Christian in my view.

Pro-Choice, not Anti-Life

April 8, 2007

While I was MIA, a reader made a comment about my essay on the pro-life movement. While he agreed with me that the the pro-life movement didn’t address the full scope of life, he asked “do you honestly feel justified in supporting the opposite stance simply because there are those who haven’t reached that [a more complete] level of understanding?” This question brings up an issue which deserves to be addressed.

Many on the Right—members of the conservative noise machine such as Limbaugh, Hannity, and Coulter, members of the conservative Christian movement such as Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed, and members of Utah’s own conservative camp such as LaVar Christensen—have worked fervently to con the public into believing that liberals or the pro-life movement are the “opposite” of the pro-life movement. This is a blatant lie. There is no “Anti-Life” movement. Nancy Pelosi, herself mother of five and grandmother of six, does not promote abortion. Nor does Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore, John Edwards, Barack Obama, Edward Kennedy, Howard Dean, or any other prominent Democrat. Same goes for Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Ralph Nader, Michael Moore, Al Franken, or any other prominent liberal apologist. The “zero-population” abortion advocates meant to scare us in Saturday’s Warriors are nowhere to be seen on the political landscape. No public figure on the left or in the pro-choice movement endeavors to increase the abortion rate in the U.S.

The majority of those in the pro-choice movement believe pregnancy is a very grave matter, and abortion something to be considered only with great trepidation. We talk about making abortion “rare.” We dislike the arguments of the few who talk casually about “abortions of convenience” as much as do those on the Right. But we recognize that abortion isn’t the overly simplistic, black-and-white issue which conservatives like to portray. This isn’t an ideal world, and we recognize—as does the LDS Church—that there are circumstances in which abortion is a valid, if tragic, option. We understand that the best methods by which to make abortion rare are not political fiat, fear, or harsh punative measures. We wonder why the Right seems to have learned nothing from the progressive temperance movement and the Eighteenth Amendment. The pro-choice movement may oppose the pro-life camp, but don’t let yourself be fooled into confusing “opposed” with “opposite.”

And the answer to the basic question is yes, absolutely. The perspectives of the leaders and advocates of the pro-life movement from whom I hear are so incomplete, so myopic, so pharisiacal, and so destructive, that I do indeed feel justified in supporting the opposing side.

Real Support for the Sanctity of Life

February 11, 2007

This year, with a new federal supreme court more conservative than any in recent decades, the Utah legislature is considering House Bill 235, a bill intended to force a challenge to Roe vs. Wade. The bill seems to have sparked a renewed debate between those referring to themselves as “pro-choice,” and those who call themselves “pro-life.”

I personally find the term “pro-life” a bit misleading. The prefix “pro” means “in favor of, supportive of.” While the nominally pro-life side may zealously defend the sanctity of life at one stage (the pre-natal stage), they often seem strangely indifferent to life once that life has left the womb.

To be supportive of life means much more than to merely outlaw abortion and advocate retributive penalties on those who undergo or perform abortions. Some religious leaders, most notably Catholic theologians, have come up with what they call the Consistent Life Ethic, or “Seamless Garment of Life.” This philosophy shows a broader perspective which better suits the definition of the word “pro-life.”

Pro-life shouldn’t simply be about forcing expectant mothers to carry their babies to term, but rather about ensuring they have the medical, financial, and emotional support which will help reduce the feelings of desperation and isolation which lead many women to seek abortions.

Pro-life means not merely fighting to provide every child the opportunity to draw breath outside the womb, but fighting just as diligently to provide them the food, shelter, clothing, and health care needed to maintain that life with some measure of dignity until its natural end.

Pro-life means working to provide every individual has access to a quality education and economic opportunities, so that they can find meaning in life and become contributing members of society.

Pro-life means promoting a penal system focused on rehabilitation and healing rather than punishment. How can one claim to be pro-life when they support the use of death by the state as a means of punishment and crime prevention, risking irrevocable tragedy when innocents are mistakenly convicted and executed and robbing the rightfully convicted of the opportunity of repentance and restitution to society?

Pro-life means promoting peace over war, actively and persistently pursuing alternatives to the violent taking of life in conflict resolution. Efforts to establish a U.S. Department of Peace show a creative and consistent commitment to life.

Pro-life means establishing a system by which we can provide the comfort and temporal support we owe our elders as they approach the end of their natural lives.

I’d be more inclined to support the efforts of self-described pro-life advocates if they seemed more genuinely interested in “the sanctity of life,” and less interested in punishing those who have sinned.