Imagine for a moment if Senator Orrin Hatch from Mormon dominated Republican Utah said, when asked, “Are you pro-life?”
“Yes, I am pro-life. I’m against partial-birth abortions. I’m against federal funding of abortions. And I believe in a strong parental consent notification law.”
Remember that position: Pro-life. That is the position of James Dobson and Focus on the Family, the Roman Catholic Bishops, Phyllis Schlafly and the Eagle Forum, Steve Ertelt and National Right to Life. They have each actively opposed or refused to endorse the Personhood initiative — a strategy for passing state amendments that would recognize the right to life of all human beings from conception to natural death — thinking that pushing for an outright ban on abortion would be counter-productive at this point in time. Instead, they choose the pragmatic approach of incrementalism. To be fair (and by that I mean less strident than other Personhood advocates have been) I must point out that these individuals and organizations support Personhood, but only deny that it is the correct strategy at the current time.
Meanwhile, in the current political climate, newly-elected Senator Scott Brown from Roman Catholic dominated Democratic Party Massachusetts says, when asked, “Are you pro-choice?”
“Yes … The difference between me and maybe others is that I’m very — I’m against partial-birth abortions. I’m against federal funding of abortions. And I believe in a strong parental consent notification law” (Barbara Walters interview, ABC News, Jan. 31, 2010).
We ought to note this paradox and its obvious solution. Politicians take their positions from their constituents. The vast majority of Americans believe that there should be some restrictions on abortion. Most favor banning late term abortions and favor these incremental restriction measures. Most are “pro-choice,” however, when it comes to the various exceptions, especially rape and incest.
Thus a “pro-choice” candidate from a Democratic yet Roman Catholic stronghold may nuance his stance with words such as “strongly” and “very” opposed to certain types of abortion to underscore the exact same incremental approach held by National Right to Life, the Catholic Bishops, Focus on the Family and so on. As long as the strategy is to keep “chipping away at Roe v. Wade,” they feel satisfied with the label of “pro-life.” But if a candidate pledges the same thing under the label “pro-choice,” doesn’t it amount to about the same thing?
I submit that the problem is not with political candidates, but with the position taken by “pro-life” organizations and individuals. The biblical adage, “You have not because you ask not,” applies here in full force. For pro-life advocates to criticize Senator-elect Scott Brown misses the forest for the trees. He is not the problem. In fact, he is little different than the so-called “solution” that has thus far been an effete assault on a modern day Goliath.
I take conservative “pro-life” pundits to task for their proposed solution. For example, Fox News’ Sean Hannity is “pro-life,” but holds out for the exceptions of rape and incest for the sake of political pragmatism. Ironically, these “pro-life” conservative Christians need to be reminded that is exactly the position of Roe v. Wade. In the decision, the Supreme Court sided with Jane Roe (Norma McCorvey) who argued that she needed to be guaranteed the legal right to an abortion because she was raped and pregnant.*
In the 2000 presidential primaries, John McCain said he thought Roe v. Wade should be overturned, but then said he would support exceptions to a ban on abortion in cases of rape and incest (Boston Globe, A11, Jan 22, 2000). Ironically, these are the very exceptions that Roe v. Wade provided. It was Roe’s companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, that gave a legal justification to extend abortion rights through all nine months with no exceptions. To be accurate, these “pro-life” political candidates and pundits ought to call themselves “pro-Roe but anti-Doe.”
So, in effect, when we support the “exceptions,” we uphold Roe v. Wade, just like Sean Hannity, John McCain and Scott Brown.
My challenge to politicians to say they are pro-life with the “exceptions” is this. If that is your conviction, then let’s get this done now. If the majority of Americans are in favor of certain restrictions on abortion, then put it to a vote each session until it passes. If the majority of Americans are against abortion past the time of viability (20 weeks) then where is the legislation? If the majority of Americans want a ban on all abortions with the exceptions of rape or incest, then why not put that to an up or down vote this month? While I believe that the God-given right to life extends to all human beings without exception, I would support such an effort that would stop over 98 percent of all abortions that currently do not fall under one of the so-called exceptions.
With a Republican congress and president for six full years, there were no such bills and no such up or down votes. The problem is that politicians say what they need to say on the abortion issue to get elected. The problem is that pro-life advocates continue to support weak candidates in the primaries with the view that they are more electable. Then we bemoan the fact that our incremental approach isn’t working. What we need to do is to start insisting on a vote on specific pro-life legislation in each session (up or down – win or lose) before we will support any candidate for reelection. If a “pro-life” representative shows no initiative in sponsoring or advocating such legislation, then we should support his or her pro-life opponent in the next primary election. Only then will the Republican Party take us seriously.
- Note: Miss Norma McCorvey was never raped and had her child given up for adoption. She is today a repentant Christian and proudly pro-life with no exceptions. See her website: http://www.leaderu.com/norma
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