Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Republicans Love Abortion

By Frank Schaeffer

Abortion politics is back. According to the press reports; Republicans began committee work this week on two bills that will expand restrictions on financing for and access to abortions. At the same time the Conservative Political Action Committee begins Thursday with 10,000 ultra-conservatives meeting in Washington. Expect to hear a lot about abortion.

My late father, Francis Schaeffer, was a key founder and leader of the Religious Right. In the 1970s I joined my Dad in pioneering the Evangelical antiabortion Religious Right movement.

As I describe in my book Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway I changed my mind. I no longer ride around "saving" America for God, nor am I a regular on religious TV and radio these days. As I describe in my forthcoming book -- I am also pro-choice. Like most Americans, I am pro-choice but not "pro-abortion."

Something has been lost in the debate: The "sides" aren't clear when it comes to actual people (especially "ordinary" people as opposed to the talking heads). The notion that "most liberals are pro-choice" and that "most conservatives are antiabortion" is simplistic.

Most people don't fit such blanket simplification. The purists on each side refuse to admit that most Americans (if public opinion polls are to be believed) occupy a--sensibly conflicted--middle ground on "the issue." They (like me) want abortion legal-- but don't like it one bit.

A plurality of Americans would like to see stricter limits placed on abortions in the United States. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, only 23 percent of those surveyed called for an end to all abortions. But the split between those who wanted it kept legal without restriction (34 percent)--in other words to maintain the Roe/Bolton status quo--and those who would like to see more restrictions (41 percent) was tilted against Roe.

Thus, almost forty years after Roe v. Wade a whopping 61 percent of the American public (including many who are pro-choice) have negative views about the abortion laws--as they stand.

The Republicans want to take advantage of this natural ambivalence. So it is well to look at their record as they launch their next round of anti-abortion activism.

The thing most Americans don't know is that the Republicans actually love abortion: as a means of political manipulation that is.

The politics of the antiabortion movement became -- and is -- about everything but saving babies. I know, I raised millions of dollars "fighting for life." Just as the Far Right used abortion as a handy stick with which to beat up on Obama during the 2008 election, so, too, other far right Republicans used abortion when they were in power to do everything but help women. They will again.

Welcome to round two of the culture wars

The Republicans already had their chance. They dominated Congress and the White house off and on over almost a 40 year period after abortion was legalized. How did they use that time?

If the Republicans had wanted to prevent abortions, they would have:

  • funded a thorough and mandatory sex education initiative from the earliest grades in all schools and combined it with the distribution of free contraceptives in all high schools, public and private (religious schools included).

  • legislated generous family leave for both mothers and fathers

  • provided federally funded day care as a national priority

  • expanded adoption services, including encouraging gay parents to adopt children

  • encouraged gay couples to marry and adopt

  • provided a generous tax incentive to have children and direct financial assistance and educational opportunities for all families, including single parents

  • raised taxes to pay for these programs

  • not equated stem cell research with abortion, much less with murder, thereby making the antiabortion position patently ridiculous...

Above all - since over 40 percent of all abortions in America are done on women under the poverty line -- the Republicans would have addressed the injustice of the growing gap between the superrich and everyone else and fought to raise the living standards of poor people.

What the Republicans did instead was misuse abortion--again and again and again and again--as a polarizing issue to energize their base.

They are about to do that again... with a vengeance.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His forthcoming book is -- Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway


Auburn Abbey said...

Thanks Frank, I was hoping you would chime in on this issue.


First, abortion is a horrific, multi-layered tragedy. There is no way to overstate this.

For me, I practice and promote a pro-ALL-of-life world view.

I believe that you DO NOT have to have a political position on abortion to positively affect the lives of the people you already have established a relationship with (through voice, influence, love, etc.).

Love your neighbor today to prevent catastrophe tomorrow.

If I do not have an established relationship with a person based in love, respect, and trust, (etc.), it is not up to me to "help" decide what someone should do or not do concerning abortion - personally or politically. I trust God to the things I can not control.


Hypothetically, if Roe v Wade were overturned, or more simply put, if abortion were illegal, my "non-position" DOES NOT change.

Yet, the pro-lifers will declare their holy and righteous victory before god and their foes. And that will be their reward. I say let them have it.

Babies will still be murdered. And in even darker ways. But the political pro-lifers will be off the hook and can look the other way in their self-satisfaction.

As the political-pro-lifers relax in their "spoils-of-victory", as they claim that their "work is done", as they bring down the hammer of "justice" on the doctors, mothers, and families who break the law, WHILE THEY CONTINUE TO FAIL IN LOVING THEIR NEIGHBOR, they will be exposed for the phony ideologues that they were all along.

Meanwhile, the rest of us personal-pro-ALL-of-lifers will continue the effort to save a baby one neighbor at a time.

The reward? a relationship with the life you just invested into. Hmm, sounds familiar somehow...


Brother Nelson

marywperry009 said...

Hi Frank,
This makes a lot sense and goes a long way towards answering the question about why more wasn't done during the Bush years to make changes in the Abortion laws.
As I vaguely remember, didn't we had a Republican Administration and a Republican Congress for a short while and still nothing changed?
I hope people keep this reality in mind, when they expect to legislate morality through elections in the future.

Your friend,

Morrison said...

Sure. Pro choice but not Pro abortion.

A distinction without a difference that allows you to ease your conscience, Frank.

But look, little Napoleon, what do you really have to bellyache about?

A million and a half babies are aborted every year, some FIFTY MILLION since Roe v Wade.

That means there are millions of women among us willing to kill their own offspring.

I mean, isn't that enough for you?

How many would it take to satisfy you?

What the heck...if that's what they want, give em all DARWIN AWARDS and a pat on the back.

Ex-Crusader said...

By your reasoning, any man that has sex with a woman without the express intent of procreation is potentially killing babies. Let's take this argument back to it's logical conclusions. I'm sure you've never had sex without the express intent of procreation, huh, Morrison? Let's take away YOUR choice in the matter! Think of all the lives that would have been saved!

Morrison said...


We are talking about ABORTION, not Birth Control.

Your False Analogy FAILS, in typically dishonest style.

But whats the matter? Aren't 1,500,000 abortions a year enough for ya?

Are you afraid a few thousand babies might escape alive?

As I said, a DARWIN AWARD to everyone who has had an abortion.

And a DARWIN AWARD with OAK LEAVES AND CLUSTERS to every moron who has eliminated more than one of her offspring.

Would that help?

SAURUS said...

Common sense must take over at some point , the religious right and their my way is the only was htoeries are as atiquated as the catholic Church. This is indeed a horrible but real topic tho think about. I'm not for abortion, I'm for the choice to do what each individual thinks is right, to me Abortion is wrong but it's not for me to send somebody to prison because their views on the matter differ from mine. We all have to answer to a higher being, not somebody else's opinion. Do wht you feel is right and live with it. Too many Sarah Palin's out there calling themselves "real Americans" these days....I mean Real hypocrits. Thanks Frank and you too ex Crusader. Judge not Mr. Morrison!let God sort it all out, he's a trained professional

SAURUS said...

Sorry for the typo's the iphone is useless when trying to type anything longer than a quick text!Ouch!

Dutch001 said...

Actually, there's a much simpler way for the Republicans to have stopped abortion. The Constitution gives Congress the power to declare topics off limits to judicial review. Or Reagan could have slugged it out with Congress and worn them down over the Bork nomination. So you're dead on - the Republicans have a nice predictable way to keep voters mobilized.

On the other hand, overturning Roe vs. Wade is NOT equivalent to banning abortion. States will decide. Texas will undoubtedly ban it but many other states would not. But maybe we'll be surprised. Once it loses its aura of being imposed top-down, maybe a lot of the grass-roots militancy will fade. Abortion has become the Vietnam of the Left, an interminable battle against an adversary who simply will not quit.

Fr. John Whiteford said...

You are Pro-choice but not Pro-abortion. How would that be morally different than those prior to the end of the Civil War who were Pro-choice but not Pro-slavery?

And interestingly, if someone shoots an abortionist dead, those who are pro-life are rightly expected to denounce that. What would you say to someone who took the position that when it comes to the question of shooting abortionists, they would not want to impose their morality on anyone else?

Ex-Crusader said...

I still say, let's take this back to the point of conception. If you are fine with denying a woman the right to choose what she will do with her body then you should also be fine restricting men's choice with their bodies.

Let's just pass laws to keep men from having sex for other than procreative reasons! Then this whole dilemma will be solved! And, think, no wasted semen that could have been potential humans!

After all, what's good for the goose is good for the gander!

Fr. John Whiteford said...

Men having sex or not having sex does not snuff out a human life. Abortion does. An unborn child is not a potential human, it is a human, with it's own genetic fingerprint, distinct from the mother, and in need of nothing further to become a healthy adult than time and nourishment. If you say you can snuff out a baby at the 9th month of pregnancy (which happens all the time) why would you not say that you can snuff out a baby a month after it is born? Why, logically, would it be wrong to kill a premature baby, but OK to stab a full term baby in the back of the neck, suck its brains out with a tube, crush its skull, and then grind it up in a garbage disposal? And if you agree that you should not kill a late term baby, it is hard to see where you could draw an arbitrary line during a pregnancy and say at this moment, the child has a right to life, but prior to that moment, the child does not.

John Myste said...

I wish those who are pro-choice would at least concede that the fetus is a person. There are plenty of good arguments on both sides of the aisle, and they are seldom used. I find it hard to stand with my pro-choice allies, while they are unwilling to admit what a fetus is and deny that it could ever have rights because it is attached to an unwilling host.

Ex-Crusader said...

@ John Myste: OK, I'll concede that the fetus is (at different stages) a "person" though that term changes in meaning as the fetus is less and less dependent on its host. Will most fetuses develop into independent people if given the chance--sure. That's what makes this abortion debate so incredibly complex. Anyone who has arrived at an easy position on either side of the debate isn't using his or her brain.

I don't happen to believe in the soul. So, a fetus aborted at an early stage, while somewhat sad, isn't a soul in jeopardy. It is a potential person who may or may not have quality care available to it to give it a good life. Cutting off the potential for another human life is not an easy thing though I'd argue that it's curious that christians get so very worked up about a population (aborted babies) who would, in theory, go straight to heaven.

Having said this, it is disturbing to me how those who've chosen to value the life of the unborn without ANY conscientious thought toward those who are biologically forced to host them think this is a simple issue. If they would at least admit that it's excruciatingly messy and there are no easy answers, it would be much easier to discuss.

It's interesting that many men who are adamantly pro-life won't even admit that their sexual desires outside of procreation are part of the problem. Since I'm not a believer--I think people's sexual urges are normal. And I think the question of unplanned pregnancy, while complex and full of bad consequences on both sides, comes down to the choice of both men and women to have sex without the express purpose of procreating. Since I think both sexes should have that right AND I think that all people should have a choice as to what to do with their bodies, I come to the conclusion that choice wins out. And with that, I think the best way to reduce the bad outcomes of this choice is to educate and provide contraception. The adamantly pro=life christian, on the other hand, wants to keep people sexually ignorant and keep condoms out of the picture.

I think Frank, while perhaps even more conflicted about it than I am, realizes this issue is a problem. He actually takes the rights of women into account when thinking about it. He has come down on one side--but with a lot of conflict. I respect his position immensely more than those of you who make this sound easy.

Dutch001 said...

It's great to see people who are capable of dealing with complexity. So a few observations, in no particular order.
1. Tell me the rights of the woman supersede those of the fetus. I might debate, but it's a reasonable position. But pretending there's no issue at all is morally and intellectually reprehensible.
2. Society does have a deep and legitimate common interest in how human life is defined.
3. So, if you're pro-choice, when's the referendum?
4. Abortion when the life or well being of the woman is endangered is a straightforward extension of the principle of self defense.
5. I'm anti casual abortion, but I'll defend it for certain reasons. But I am not in the least pro-life. I spent 21 years in the active and reserve military. I'm pro INNOCENT life.
6. Many people ask how someone can oppose abortion but support capital punishment. I want to ask how anyone can advocate aborting a fetus conceived through rape, but oppose executing the rapist.
7. If you think abortion is never justified, Google "Julianna Wetmore." Then show your moral courage by telling us you'd change places with her to give her a normal life.

Fr. John Whiteford said...

@Ex-Crusader: Having sex does not kill anyone. I am for making people responsible for their choices, and so if a man rapes a woman, I believe he should be put to death... not the innocent baby that might in some cases result. If a woman willingly has sex with a man, then she has had her moment of choice. If a man fathers a child, I am very much in favor of making him be a responsible father, if he is unwilling to do so without the coercion of the law.
No one denies that it is a difficult situation for a woman to be pregnant with a child who is the result of rape (though it is relatively rare) or who has birth defects, but first and foremost, these are a tiny minority of the cases that end in abortion in the country. In the vast majority of cases, it is simply a matter of convenience.
I would argue that a woman who had a child due to rape would be far better off having the child than compounding the pain of rape with the guilt of murder... but if the matter were put to a vote, I suspect most people would vote to give her a choice in that situation. If the exceptional cases were the only instances in which abortion were legal, you eliminate about 99% of the abortions in this country.
My question for you is do you think it is morally acceptable for a doctor to kill a baby during the ninth month of pregnancy but not kill a premature baby who was born prior to the ninth month?

Ex-Crusader said...

@Dutch001: Good points. I'll address one with my thoughts.

"So, if you're pro-choice, when's the referendum?"

I would say that, because I believe in equal rights to sexual freedom you leave both the freedom of choice AND the responsibility for that choice to the one who has to bear the burden of pregnancy.

IMO, you do not grant that right to the government.

Just like a man would argue he should have the freedom to enjoy sexual intercourse at his discretion (remembering that every non-homosexual encounter risks impregnating a woman), a woman should have that same freedom.

As for when the government should step in? I don't know that it should. I do not believe that we should attack the problem of unwanted pregnancies by forcing women to carry an unwanted child conceived by BOTH A MAN and a woman choosing to engage in intercourse. I think we'd be better served by providing more access to birth control and more comprehensive sex education. Teaching people to be smart about their sexuality is far and away a better option than denying information and then punishing women for participating in a mutual sexual decision.

Ex-Crusader said...

@Fr. John:

I have presented a logical line of reasoning for my position:

"It's interesting that many men who are adamantly pro-life won't even admit that their sexual desires outside of procreation are part of the problem. Since I'm not a believer--I think people's sexual urges are normal. And I think the question of unplanned pregnancy, while complex and full of bad consequences on both sides, comes down to the choice of both men and women to have sex without the express purpose of procreating. Since I think both sexes should have that right AND I think that all people should have a choice as to what to do with their bodies, I come to the conclusion that choice wins out. And with that, I think the best way to reduce the bad outcomes of this choice is to educate and provide contraception. The adamantly pro-life christian, on the other hand, wants to keep people sexually ignorant and keep condoms out of the picture."

My conclusion to the question of abortion is based on my logical line of reasoning. Women should have the rights and freedoms to control their own bodies. Just as men do.

How do you answer the question about why you are so terribly upset by the issue of abortion? Your god seems to have allowed all sorts of fetus/infant death and suffering throughout history. Read up on all the genocidal commands found in your own holy book.

Do you spend as much time caring about/working for the starving infants in Africa as you do arguing about abortion? Do you put your money where your mouth is and support orphanages, shelters and poor drug-addicted mothers who have unwanted children?

Or do you just expect that women should have to carry all the burden for the mutual sexual choices of men and women?

Here is the real question for someone who thinks the government should force women to carry pregnancies to term: Would you have been willing, as a teenage/twenty-something male, to eschew all sexual activity that could lead to an unwanted pregnancy? Would you have appreciated the government legislating when and where you could orgasm? Or would you rather have attacked the problem of unwanted pregnancy from a different angle?

If you cannot see that sexual choice is at the root of the abortion issue, there is no hope for you. You have made up your small mind and refuse to see things from any angle but your own.

abetterguess said...

Pro-Choice - Doesn't need explanation, after all, people will always do what they want to do.

Not Pro-Abortion - You hate the action but keeping it legal keeps the other safe but does the dasterdly deed at the same time. Mr. Morrison, it you think about legal or illegal, they will still be done.

Moving on...What is interesting is that I would say that MOST of the abortion clinics are set up in the minority neighborhoods if the film Maafa 21 is correct. That said, if the Republicans put a face on abortion, they would serve the cause with some honesty rather than using it as an abstract issue that you pull out and dust off when in need or break glass in case of emergency.

Frank Schaeffer said...

Hi all thanks for the comments... I hope you read my new book out in May Sex, Mom and God because I've taken the time and space to look at the abortion issues with the perspective of almost 40 years of thinking about this and being involved in the debate. Anyone who doesn't understand the concept of being pr-choice and also antiabortion, doesn't understand that there are people -- like me -- who are also antidivorce but think it must be legal, anitgambling but don't think the law is the way to resolve the issue, antidrugs but think pot should be legal etc. There is a HUGE difference between a moral belief and trying to legislate that belief. But if you are actually interested in my opinion on this i ask that you hold off deciding what that opinion is until you read Sex, Mom and God. Purists on all sides won't like it. Of course my "position" is inconsistent. That's what it means to live in a fallen world. That is what Jesus was talking about with all those sayings that began, "The law says" or "you have heard it said... but I say" and then he contradicted the black and white laws, say on adultery. On one hand he said it was the same as lust, on the other that the woman taken in sin could not be condemned by anyone who was not sinless, thus making the moral standard impossibly high on the one hand and undermining the law on the other. Its called paradox, and is one reason I'm still a Christian and another reason that people who want their pure legal certainties may fit with the religious right but Jesus would just hate them. Sorry to use that word but there you are.

Luke Gillespie said...

Well said, Frank, and I look forward to receiving and reading your new book I pre-ordered.

Ninure said...

If Republicans care about the unborn so much, why do they oppose funding pre-natal care for poor women?

rj said...

>>First, abortion is a horrific, multi-layered tragedy. There is no way to overstate this.

If you read Numbers 5:11-32 and understand that God is advocating using abortificants to test for infidelity, then perhaps you can begin to understand that God would likely disagree with that sweeping, unlimited assertion.

Scripture might be perfect, but oftentimes our understanding of it is not.

Diana Rowe said...

I also wish there weren't ANY abortions... but reality is that without legal abortion, there will be illegal abortions. Back to the era of alley abortions, coat hangers, and falling down stairs. Making it against the law will not make it go away. That is unacceptable.

We need to focus on eliminating the REASONS a woman would seek an abortion. Personally, I do not know anyone who WANTED an abortion, they felt they had no other options. THAT is the crime, that in this century and in this country, a woman still feels that an unplanned pregnancy is something she cannot handle...

In addition, I would like to share this article, it was quite the eye opener for me.