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.