O Me of Little Faith

First, I’ll apologize up front. I know not everyone wants to read about politics on this blog. You’d rather read funny stuff and gentle religious sarcasm and blatant self-promotion about my books and writing. I understand that, so this will probably be the last presidential-themed post I’ll do up until the election. But I need to put this one out there so I ask that you indulge me, baby, one more time.

Very few people in Texas, where I live, plan to vote for Obama. At least, very few people I know. Most of my friends and family are pro-McCain and see support for Obama as downright unChristian (though they still love me and probably wouldn’t ever say this to me outright). Because Obama is pro-choice, a vote for Obama is often equated with a vote for killing babies.

Just to ease my parents’ minds, let me make it clear that I have no interest in killing babies. I’m pro-life, and I have credentials. Once, when I was 16 or 17, I participated in a March for Life, holding an “Abortion Is Murder” sign that someone handed to me on the way out the door. Of course, I’m not sure how effective a 100-person march against abortion is in a city that’s overwhelmingly pro-life already, other than making the participants feel good about their activism, and especially good when a passing motorist flips them the bird, because: persecution! I’ve even done marketing work for the local crisis pregnancy center and donated money to their operating budget.

So I’m pro-life but I intend to vote for the pro-choice candidate. And I’ll be honest: Obama is unapologetically pro-choice. This makes me a slobbering hypocrite (at least in this area…I’m a hypocrite in lots of other areas, too.) So how in the world do I justify this?

It’s simple: I’m a pragmatist. Despite his claims to being pro-life, I don’t believe voting for John McCain will do anything to end or even reduce abortion in the United States.

Point #1: We have had a pro-life president in the White House for 20 out of the last 28 years, since Reagan’s election in 1980. Has this led to abortions being reduced? Yes, but barely. Has it led to Roe vs. Wade being overturned? No.

Point #2: What about Supreme Court justices? If the president has any sway on abortion, it’s by picking pro-life judges to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court, right? Sure. Except in 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey — the first real opportunity to overturn the abortion law — five Republican-appointed justices voted to uphold Roe v. Wade. And in this case, only two of these justices (Blackmun and Stevens) were supporters of Roe v. Wade when the case began. I doubt we will ever see this law overturned. But don’t trust me on this. Trust Bush appointee and Chief Justice John Roberts, who said Roe v. Wade was the “settled law of the land,” and vowed he would uphold it. (H/T: Bryan)

Point #3: But let’s say it were overturned by the Supreme Court. Then what would happen? The abortion issue would be given back to the states. (This was how it worked before Roe vs. Wade.) Some states would maintain its legality. Some states would outlaw it. But if you wanted an abortion, you could still get one, simply by traveling to an abortion-friendly state. Would it reduce abortions? Probably not. It would just make the process of getting one — at least in a pro-life state — a little more challenging.

Conclusion: There is little chance of overturning the abortion law. That being the case, what can we then do to reduce the number of abortions? That’s the question we need to be asking.

John McCain does not have a good answer to this question. His answer — if he gives one — always involves the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the argument about appointing Supreme Court justices, and various “abortion is evil” statements. Which are fine, but if you agree with points 1-3 above, those are useless answers. What we need are some ideas about how to reduce abortion. But the Republican party’s only idea seems to be repealing Roe v. Wade. That’s it. In fact, the Republican party’s 2008 platform says very little about abortion other than opposing it and promoting “every effort” to “enable and empower [those considering abortion] to choose life.” Fine. But how do you do this? What does this empowerment look like? Do issues like poverty and health care and family planning play any role in reducing abortions? Unfortunately, the platform doesn’t give answers. Let’s just demonize Roe v. Wade and that’s enough. According to Catholic legal scholar Nicholas Cafardi, the RNC actually removed abortion-reducing language from their platform this year.

Removed. Abortion-reducing. Language.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama fought to add language to the 2008 Democratic platform after consulting with religious leaders and pro-life Democrats about the issue. The platform calls for reducing abortion by promoting abstinence, adoption, and personal responsibility. It also provides for reducing unintended pregnancies through family planning services, education, parenting skills training, and health care. These are the kinds of resources many pregnant women don’t have when they find out they’re pregnant, and which make them think abortion is the only option. Catholic and Protestant leaders called the addition of this plan to the platform a “historic and courageous step” for Democrats. To be fair, others have criticized it as adding a good thing to an evil position (I’d label it “lipstick on a pig” but that phrase has pretty much jumped the shark). Regardless, it is a hopeful plan and a big shift in the usually antagonistic relationship between Democrats and pro-lifers.

(Update: Pro-Life Democrats have proposed the 95-10 Plan, the goal of which is to reduce abortions by 95% within 10 years. I really like this plan, but it’s unclear at this point whether or not Obama has come out in support of it.)

When it comes to reducing abortions, the Republican party talks about a pie-in-the-sky scenario — repealing Roe v. Wade — that still wouldn’t have much effect on the issue. Barack Obama has a concrete, serious plan any pro-life voter can (and should) applaud.

Two final points and I’ll step off my soapbox and put it away until the election’s over so we can all be friends again.

#1: There is more to being pro-life than fighting against abortion. For me, the pro-life platform includes things like poverty, women’s rights, global human rights, environmental stewardship, torture, war, and racism. I think Obama is a more compelling choice than McCain on all of those. All of them. How can I be pro-life if I vote for the lesser candidate in 7 out of 8 pro-l
ife categories?

#2: When it comes to elections, I am not a single-issue voter. Some people are, and if that’s how you choose to vote, that’s fine. But if a member of my family is in a terrible accident and we’re rushed to the hospital emergency room, and I have the option of choosing one out of two doctors to perform emergency surgery, I’m not going to choose based on which surgeon is pro-life. I’m going to pick the professional I believe will do the best job in healing my injured family member. I apply the same reasoning when I vote for president. Parts of this country are broken or are in the process of breaking (and I include abortion among the “broken” stuff). But I’m going to choose a candidate based not just on his beliefs about that one issue, but on how I believe he will respond to all the issues. Which candidate will be the best healer?

Obama’s stance on abortion falls far short of the Christian ideal. In fact, I think it’s on the wrong side of the Christian ideal. But there are lots of issues to consider in addition to the abortion one, and when it comes to healing the rest of the brokenness, he’s the doctor I’d choose.

Owen likes the planet Mars. I like Obama. Both of us are standing firm.

We’ll return to inanity tomorrow.

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