Musings, Nits, and Praises: A Far More Robust Definition of "Pro-Life"

Musings, Nits, and Praises

A farrago of all things deemed blog-worthy by a music-loving, poetry-writing, humor-seeking English teacher

A Far More Robust Definition of "Pro-Life"

Saturday's Obama/McCain event at Saddleback offered yet another opportunity for a Republican candidate to recite pro-life platitudes to the delight of many evangelicals. I am pro-life; however, I don't view a candidate's position on abortion as a key factor in deciding whether or not I'll vote for him or her. I'm a bit befuddled that voters who do base their votes in large part, or solely, on the issue of abortion haven't noticed that the Republicans have done next to nothing to eliminate abortion in the three decades they've promoted themselves as pro-life crusaders. (Furthermore, overturning Roe v. Wade would not impact the states' right to allow abortions.) It remains a focus of their (the Republicans') message in no small way simply because it garners votes.

Frank Schaeffer's latest piece reflects many of my thoughts concerning the difference between "anti-abortion" and "pro-life":

3 Responses to “A Far More Robust Definition of "Pro-Life"”

  1. # Blogger Mick Wright

    I, too, am pro-life, and like you I don't base my vote solely on the issue of abortion. But I take issue with you on several points:

    1. I don't think it's fair to challenge the authenticity of unnamed pro-life Republican politicians generally without presenting specific evidence. I've only skimmed the HuffPo link, so I'm not sure if there are exact allegations made, but my first glance revealed only generic accusations. What are the indications that a substantial number of pro-life candidates have adopted that position solely to gain political support? (Is it your assumption that being pro-life is a net positive for candidates in national elections?)

    2. I object to your assertion that pro-life Republicans have done next to nothing to eliminate abortion. The national Republican party has made the pro-life cause a central part of their platform and even though conservatives have not had majority control of even two of the three branches for most of these past three decades, they did manage to pass a ban on partial-birth abortion, vetoed twice by Bill Clinton, IIRC.

    3. Roe V. Wade remains the main obstacle to laws protecting the unborn. While Republican Presidents have been burned by judicial nominees who failed the cause, others have turned out better. Meanwhile, pro-life Republican activists at the state level have continued to soldier on. We've seen common-sense restrictions for parental consent, proposals requiring counseling where alternatives to abortion are presented, legislation like the one Obama voted against in Illinois that protects babies who survive abortion, versions of Lacy's Law which increase the penalty for murdering a pregnant woman, laws targeting state-line-hopping teens, etc. Just this year in Tennessee, Republicans tried to pass SJR 127, an amendment that would have gone to voters and would have made it clear the state Constitution does not guarantee abortion as a right; Democrats blocked it, just as they do in states all around the country when any Republican dares to challenge a woman's "right to an abortion" or attempts to "criminalize private health decisions" that "ought to be kept between a woman and her doctor."

    It's not like pro-lifers are operating in a vacuum where they have full political control and aren't opposed at every step by an equally, if not more, rabid pro-abortion movement and partisan Democrats.

    Furthermore, despite what Obama alleged at the Saddleback forum, the abortion rate has continued to decline under President Bush, as it has since the early '80s when the religious Right banded together to face down this horrible practice. America's failure thus far to completely eliminate abortion isn't evidence of Republicans' insincerity on the issue.  

  2. # Blogger Jason

    Mick, thanks for your thoughtful response. Here's my quick take on your points:

    1) I can't present specific evidence regarding the authenticity or lack thereof on the part of pro-life Republican candidates. However, some politicians have worked actively toward abortion reform and/or elimination as you noted in #2 while others have used it as part of their campaign message and done little else once elected. Of course, some Democratic candidates have shown the same penchant for pandering over productivity when it comes to issues that motivate their base. Some folks just say what they need to say to get elected. Such is the nature of politics unfortunately.

    2) Point taken regarding the ban on partial-birth abortion.

    3) I think it would take activist-minded judges to overturn Roe v. Wade. At the state level, you're right, some states have made commendable progress. However, similar progress in blue states seems unlikely to me. Admittedly, there may be some I simply don't know about.

    As I've had more time to reflect on the article, I find the article less intriguing for what he says about either candidate or abortion than what it illustrates regarding politics and faith.

    If a Christian wants to vote for a candidate based on his position on a particular morality-infused issue, then so be it. I certainly take such things into account. However, how does someone determine what moral issue trumps another? Are deaths of unborn children more significant than the deaths of innocent civilians (children and adults alike) in the Iraq war, or any other war? I find both matters awfully troubling. A Christian voter could reasonably select a candidate from either party based on moral grounds; however, some members of the Christian community have narrowly framed morality in the political sphere around abortion and gay marriage.

    Regardless of one's moral focus at the voting booth, though, I think there's a tendency to feel absolved from responsibility after casting the vote: "I took my stand against abortion when I voted for a pro-life candidate." For any voter, Christian or otherwise, to believe that electing candidate X will somehow "fix" whatever morally-charged issue he based his vote on is foolishness. As I said earlier, politicians have a penchant for pandering.

    But I think the "I cast my vote therefore I did my part" mentality also speaks to a pervasive laziness, an unwillingness to meet the needs of others in mainstream Christianity in America--a laziness I've been plenty susceptible to. It's very easy for me to take a small fraction of a day to vote for the candidate I think has a better plan for say, ameliorating the circumstances of the poor, but it's decidedly harder and more genuinely Christ-like for me to invest time and money regularly into assisting the poor where I live.  

  3. # Blogger Steve

    Very interesting article. He certainly writes from great depths of feeling. Thanks for pointing it out. I read some of his dad's books back in the seventies. He probably formed my view on some things but his version of christian rationalism didn't capture me. I am glad I read and learned from them. I've stayed with the Church of Christ all my life but have never felt much of an identity with evangelicalism either religiously or politically, despite the sociological similarities.  

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