Friday, August 05, 2005

Why the Christian Right is Wrong: Part 3

Abortion

"[Abortion is a] sad, even tragic choice for many, many women..."

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton(D-NY)

If the above statement were presented sans the author to many Christians and devout pro-lifers, one would expect them to give you are hardy "Amen" or agreement with the premise. Yet the statement above does not come from even a conservative Republican but rather from a woman most of the Right hates as much as the Left hates George W. Bush. While the statement seems to be part of a greater plan by Clinton to moderate herself ahead of the 2008 Presidential election, the premise has merit even for the pro-life Christian Right. It denotes an approach to the issue which is largely absent from the current anti-abortion political agenda one of fighting to prevent abortions and attempting to reach women and help them to avoid this "tragic choice" The basic premise of the anti-abortion fight for the Christian Right is to change the laws of land to stop any and all abortions, period. Given the atrocity abortion is this is commendable except the Christian Right focus is not on establishing the rights of preborn therefore entitling them to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" but rather the focus has been on overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling which declared choice for women in reproductive matters. There is also little focus on initiatives which meet women where they are in an effort to change the hearts of women to either (1) avoid getting pregnant in "abortion-friendly" situations i.e. outside of marriage or (2) counseling them to make the choice for adoption rather than abortion. The latter option is the focus of many Christian organizations but from a political standpoint and in terms of the Christian Right agenda it is the all out war on Roe v. Wade which consumes the stage.

Roe V. Wade

In 1973, this landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court basically held that in reference to abortions a woman is permitted to choose what she can do with the pregnancy and the government may not interfere. Roe also placed the matter squarely in the court of the states to pass laws to deal with abortion, as long as it was not banned. Those laws are constantly being tested in the judicial system to form the abortion rights picture. However in media presentation and public perception Roe v. Wade is erroneously seen as a up or down approval of abortion. Most Americans seem to think that overturning Roe v. Wade means abortion would automatically be illegal. This seems to be the thinking on the Christian Right as well since a great number of resources are vested into changing the makeup of the federal courts to render Roe untenable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Political scholar David Pothier stated:

Most people don't realize that Roe v. Wade simply states that it is unconstitutional to completely deny citizens in any state access to an abortion. It does allow for limits on abortion on the state level, but it only prohibits an outright ban. If the decision was overturned, abortion would not become illegal. Rather, each individual state would decide whether to legalize it or ban it.

Pothier makes a key point that actually makes overturning Roe a horrible idea. If Roe were dropped then abortions would occur on a state to state basis. This would mean staunchly conservative states would ban it while liberal states would let it remain. This comes very close to the slave/free states of the Civil War and would also mean that any hope of ending abortion nationally would be gone since some states will never move from liberal to conservative. There is also a rather unhealthy obsession with Supreme Court justice confirmations which consumes too many valuable resources and sacrifices too much political capital. It has never been nor will it ever be politically viable to scale back the freedoms you have already granted a group of people. The current agenda on abortion is a PR nightmare fraught with a counter-spins from the Left which characterize the Christian Right as advocates of big government intrusion into the most private areas of a woman's life. It does not matter how egregious the atrocity you are battling, you will never win if it appears to you are preventing a person from exercising a previously assigned liberty.

Rights of the Fetus

The political agenda of the Christian Right should start and stop with the 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution. There is no further need for more laws and more legislative wrangling when there already exists a mechanism for curtailing abortions. The point of focus should not fall on curtailing the rights of women but rather extending rights to the pre-born. Liberals say they are pro-choice, well pro-lifers should be pro-choice as well meaning the unborn child should also have a choice concerning life or death. As with all other issues where a child is involved, if he/she is unable to make that choice, the state should make it for them. If that framework were in place then stopping abortions would not be taking freedom but rather extending it to a new generation of Americans. The greatest problem with this stance is the scientific angle. A large section of the scientific community disregards the supernatural and make findings based on pure biological functions. Officially, a fetus is not a person until it reaches a point in which it could live outside the womb. The magic number in most cases is 24 weeks gestation which means a child can live, grow, and have a beating heart for the better part of five to six months and still be terminated with the sanction of the government. The premise is that if it cannot survive without the mother then it is not really a person. This position is wholly contradicted by a host of other premises in society however. Even from 24 weeks up until they can attain some meaningful employment and is responsible enough to take care of their own needs a child cannot live without his/her parents. A one year old left in his/her crib without food, water, nurturing from a caregiver will die just the same as a 20 week fetus outside the womb. If self sufficiency is a necessary requirement to judge the value of life, then the moment a heart stops or breathing ceases anywhere that person ceases to be viable person according to standard applied to pre-24 week fetuses. Just because the fetuses life support system happens to be another person does not mean they should be denied the chance to live. Another contradiction is that the laws of most states hold that it is felony to kill a dog who has bare minimum intelligence and potential for societal enhancement but killing a child who has unlimited potential is accepted. The point is that the Christian Right must make a greater effort to fight the anti-abortion battle in an arena that is tenable both constitutionally and in terms of public perception. Extending the rights of the constitution to the unborn child can be spun in a more positive light.

The Current Situation

Until the protections of government can be afforded to the unborn child, the Christian Right must make every effort to prevent as many abortions as possible. There are already plenty of pregnancy care centers and adoption agencies which seek to help women avoid the tragedy of abortions by giving them a means to adopt. These agencies are in constant need of resources to make a greater impact and it is likely that far more abortions can be prevented in vesting more resources with organizations on the battlefield than in the courtroom. As with all things, the ultimate goal of Christians should be the Gospel and changing the moral climate not by the passage of laws but by the changing of hearts. The current mentality of the Christian Right is for the government to modify moral behavior by banning an immoral activity. The point that is sorely missed here is that even if abortion were illegal, the circumstances which lead to abortion i.e. sex outside marriage, incest, rape, and teenage pregnancy would still exist. Sure, abortions would stop, but these sins would continue. It should be the focus of the Christian Right to share the Gospel and help the people who are the sinners in the above situations, both men and women, to embrace a righteous lifestyle. Any movement to train men to respect women, to curtail their sex drive until marriage, and to be responsible for the life they helped create, even outside wedlock would also help curb the abortion totals. If some women had a support system and a family unit to facilitate keeping a child, some abortions would cease to occur. Abortion is not a woman's issue alone, since it takes both a man and a woman to create a life. Reaching out to men and making it clear that they can have just as much role in preventing the circumstances that lead to abortions as the women is paramount in winning the battle.

It is not enough to merely stop something from occurring and believe that solves the problem. Christianity is a matter of the heart first, and then behavior will follow. As Christian we should strive to share with people Gospel because the work of the Cross can reach a place not politician or law can ever reach, the heart. Abortion is a horrible atrocity and should be prevented at all costs. How many lives have been lost because the proponents of life have taken the wrong approach to solving the problem?

Back: Part 2, Who are They?
Next: Part 4, Gay Marriage


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