I’m repeating an anecdote from a recent commentary because it illustrates another idea.
Last time I mentioned that a fellow church member whom I call Ben here e-mailed the rest of us church volunteers two years ago to urge us to vote for Joe Miller. When I talked to him about his e-mail, he opined that Catholics who vote for pro-choice politicians should not call themselves Catholics unless they repent of their votes. When I pointed out that Ronald W. Reagan was the first governor to sign into law a bill legalizing abortion, Ben excused Reagan’s behavior that the California governor “had to” do that.
The year before a prominent Alaska Right to Life member e-mailed me that killing unborn children with bombs and bullets in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Palestine was a “foreign policy” matter, not a pro-life matter.
These two incidents do not prove anything, but they certainly increase my skepticism about how “pro-life” the anti-abortion movement really is.
It’s one thing for the self-styled “pro-lifers” to support capital punishment on the premise that being pro-life only means supporting life of innocent human beings. But I drew the line when the self-styled “pro-lifers” supported our country’s recent wars of choice and supported aid to Latin American terrorists who murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people, some of whom were US citizens.
That’s why I began to refer to the self-styled “pro-lifers” as fetus rights activists. I had assumed that, at least, they were consistent in supporting the unborn’s right to live.
Now, I’m not sure of even that. I beginning to wonder about how much people oppose abortion for moral reasons and how much for political reasons. I wonder about what principles these folks follow—do we oppose all pro-choice politicians except Reagan and others we like and do we oppose killing the unborn when done by the private sector but support killing of the unborn by governments?
On the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, I oppose all abortions all the time except those that result as the unintended consequence of saving the mother. As an American citizen, I pledge to do what I can reasonably to stop the needless killing of innocent human beings. The best way to do that, in my judgment, is to affirm all human life all the time. That means opposing not only frivolous abortions but also all frivolous wars and all murders committed with the excuse they occurred during wars.
I disagree with the both the pro-choice positions on abortion and on war. The abortion pro-choicers argue that the government should stay out of the women’s choice of whether or not to abort. The war pro-choicers argue that the people should stay out of the government’s choice of whether or not to start wars. Both positions stem from a kind of moral relativism that asserts that morality is whatever people decide it is—that abortion is only immoral when the mom decides it is and that war is only immoral when the president who starts it decides it is.
I oppose abortion because I believe it is wrong, not because I want to impose my views on women. I recognize that they disagree with me and I respect their disagreement. I realize that in a free country governments cannot govern without consent of the governed. As one of those governed, I affirm my right to oppose abortion.
My opposition to abortion takes the form of opposition to all killing of innocent human beings, except in extreme cases of self-defense, when killing is the only option to protect life. For me the only way to fight abortion is through moral force. I cannot effectively fight abortion by being partially and selectively pro-life. As Abraham Lincoln once suggested, being on God’s side is far more effective than claiming that God is on my side.
Some abortion opponents may consider that overly idealistic and impractical. They may be right in the short term but they are wrong in the long term.
Voting is a political act. Affirming life is a moral act. Trying to end immoral behavior through politics is no more effective than trying to kill a mosquito with a steam roller. In fact, I read in our local newspaper a recent survey that finds abortions occur more frequently in countries that ban it. I also read a while back that abortions rose after a year or two when a Soviet bloc Eastern European country banned it.
Politicians can claim to oppose abortion to get votes. But claiming to oppose abortion hasn’t ended abortions in the past 39 years. I have never met or even heard of a woman who says she decided to abort because Barack Obama was president or Tony Knowles was governor. Nor have I ever met or even heard of a woman who decided not to abort because George W. Bush was president or Sean Parnell is governor. For years people have argued the way to end abortion is to get Christians on the Supreme Court. Well, guess what folks. Recently we had Catholics Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, as well as the Chief Justice John Roberts. I believe the newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor was baptized Catholic as well. At least five and maybe six of the nine justices are Catholic. But abortion is still legal.
I don’t think being pro-life only when it advances your political agenda is an effective way to end abortions. I doubt you can effectively convince women to be pro-life unless you are pro-life yourself. Not just when it feels good. All the time.