A pro-life protest near the site of the Democratic National Convention in 2008. Photo: Rachel Troyer via Wikipedia
Next year’s election in the United States could see abortion become a major voting issue for Democrats as well as, more traditionally, Republicans. Already the issue is on the boil, thanks to several red states legislating to ban abortion except in very limited circumstances; and, from the blue ranks, liberalising laws, “no uterus, no say” rallies and presidential candidates nailing their abortion rights colours to the mast.
But there is enough nervousness on the American left about Donald Trump returning to the White House that Democrats who do not support abortion, or who are ambivalent about it, are finding their voice. They can be heard in an article in that diehard promoter of abortion rights, the New York Times, which also acknowledges that Americans have been deeply divided over this issue for as long as it has been one, at least since Roe V. Wade.
Lynndora Smith-Holmes, who lives in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania, which went Trump in 2016, is the focus of the NYT piece) and works at a day care centre, tells the Times she is “Six of one and half a dozen of the other” over it. She doesn’t want back alley abortions, but she does want (time) limits and she questions taxpayer funding.
Jeannie Wallace French, also of Pittsburgh, aligns herself with the Feminists For Life position, which has been to oppose abortion in all circumstances. She gave birth to a baby with spina bifida (one of twins) despite being advised by doctors to abort the child, and worries that stories like hers are getting drowned out.
Then there are the “nuanced” positions of politicians and ethicists who are “both pro-life and pro-choice”:
* The president of Catholic Democrats who asserts that “most Catholics … do not accept the Church’s political hard line on abortion … but wrestle with it morally”. (Was this why Pennsylvania’s Catholic voters turned out in force in 2016, and why Trump “won amongst Catholics nationwide by seven points, propelled by a 23-point margin with white Catholics”?)
* The Erie City councillor who wants the Democrats to acknowledge that it’s a moral question but then leave it to women to decide by themselves since “…women have the moral agency to decide this.”
* Frances Kissling, formerly of Catholics for a Free Choice, now Visiting Scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, who concedes: “It’s not about trusting women, really. Every decision every woman makes about every abortion is an ethically good decision? No. It may not be.”
Well, that is something, though exactly what, we do not know.
We can guess, however, that the contribution of the “pro-life and pro-choice” position to the reduction of the estimated 600,000-plus abortions a year in the US will not be large.
There is much more to hope for from the progressive Rehumanize International, a Pittsburgh based organisation also interviewed by the Times. It opposes abortion – along with racial discrimination, capital punishment, torture, unjust war, abuse, human trafficking and several other forms of “aggressive violence” (defensive violence may be justified).
A pro-life feminism graphic from Rehumanise International
Most of these social pathologies are also opposed by pro-lifers in general, but Rehumanize explicitly rejects them all in the name of the consistent life ethic promoted by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who was Archbishop of Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s. They explain it this way:
“In a nutshell, it asserts that our value as human beings is intrinsic — rather than being affected by extrinsic factors such as ability, level of development, dependence, guilt, or anything else. It strips away the arbitrary distinctions put forth by various sides of the political spectrum and simply says: to be deserving of human rights, it is enough that you are human.”
The group’s stance on the morality of abortion seems unequivocal, although one of its organisers, Herb Geraghty, told the Times “it’s a tough decision,” “a hard issue,” and implied that an outright ban was not the answer to the moral issue.
Still, Geraghty presents an intriguing face of the pro-life movement, one almost designed to wrong-foot the opposition. A bisexual atheist Marxist, as he (sounds more “she”) informs the Times, he set up a table at the Pittsburgh LGBT Pride festival recently and managed to draw some antagonists into conversation.
According to a piece by Geraghty on their website, and unlike some woolly-headed Republicans, including President Trump, Rehumanise makes no exception for rape:
“When we say that abortion should be allowed or taxpayer funded only if the pregnant person did not choose to have sex, it gives off the impression that in every other case we simply desire to punish her for choosing to have sex.
“In my view, abortion is not wrong because it allows people to have consequence-free sex — it is wrong because it is undeniably an act of violence. Every single abortion procedure ends the life of a young human being and it does so through either starvation, poisoning, or dismemberment.
“Life begins at conception — regardless of the circumstances surrounding that conception.”
The message of the Times article is “It’s complicated.” That is as far as the Gray Lady and most of the Democrat faithful are prepared to go on abortion morality, it seems. But here is a person iconic of our era, a bisexual progressive, telling us that it’s not complicated at all: abortion is an act of lethal violence against a human being. That’s it. The whole case.
People’s lives, women’s lives are complicated, but there is more than one answer to that challenge. Is killing the answer to crime or poverty or drug addiction or unemployment? No. And neither should it be the solution to an inconvenient pregnancy. People of all political persuasions need to address themselves to real, moral, non-violent solutions.
Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.