Help! Why can’t progressives “get” the obsession with abortion?

We could do this–we could reach across the aisles, across the abortion rhetoric and say, “ALL life has value” as well as “Some situations are tragic and need special consideration.”


The abortion issue is multi-layered and complex.
The abortion issue is multi-layered and complex.

Dear Thoughtful Pastor: For a long time, I have been bothered by the seemingly unshakable fidelity of Christian voters to the single issue of abortion.  It seems to me that progressives need to find other ways to talk about abortion.

I know many persons who would vote for a more progressive agenda, but for this single issue: persons who love Jesus, and care about war, poverty, education, health care, and human rights, but who feel left out of the discussion.  

Some of my friends have said, “I can never vote for any candidate who supports abortion!”

Specifically, many of these voters did not like Donald Trump or any of the other Republican candidates.

Yet, in the privacy of the voting booth, they voted for the GOP candidate because Republicans seem to be the only ones listening to their concerns.

Many may have voted against their best interests. However, rather than offering an alternative, progressives essentially disregarded these voters – written them off, as though they count for nothing.

I have no answers. Just questions. But, questions I feel need to be addressed.


A one issue election

Personally, I think you are right: For many Christians, this became a one-issue election: vote for someone, no matter how morally compromised or otherwise unqualified, who promises to appoint a conservative Supreme Court justice. Do that and righteousness will prevail.

Voters expect that any new Supreme Court Justice appointed will rule favorably on any case that overturns the current legalization of abortion in all states.

For much of the religiously-affiliated population, every other issue, including jeopardizing health care, became far less important than protecting the unborn.

Progressives wrongly ignored this moral mandate.

Clearly, we have difficulties discussing abortion. People quickly turn to epithets (“anti-women’s rights” or “baby-killers”) rather than seeing the extraordinary complexities of some pregnancies.

Unfortunately, an absolute “no abortion” rule de-personalizes females. Women become only a vessel, required to carry to term the product of some man’s violent need to prove his manhood or some father’s perverse need to impregnate his daughter.

The impregnated woman’s mental and physical health issues carry no weight.

There is no love of human life in such draconian restrictions.

But a “no questions asked” abortion policy leads to a cheapening of human intimacy and respect for all human life. It reduces the sexual act, intended to both express love and produce life, to little more than raw biology.

A fetus becomes human upon the first breath. It’s a magical moment, this miracle of separation.  Because of superb neonatal medicine, the point at which that separation can successfully take place is now far earlier in pregnancies. The moral dilemma is real.

What drives the need for abortion?

Unfortunately, abortion and infanticide have been part of human tragedy from our earliest days. Such decisions are nearly always driven by desperation.

Unfortunately, abortion and infanticide have been part of human tragedy from our earliest days. Such decisions are nearly always driven by desperation.

Finances, lack of support by the other party to the pregnancy, and our utterly inadequate educational/daycare infrastructure for parents of small children may drive the desperate decision to abort.

Statistics make one thing clear: If we want a radical reduction in the number of actual abortion procedures, we need to provide two things.

First, abundant and affordable access to reliable birth control.

Second, ready availability of safe, confidential and legal abortion providers. The best bet right now is Planned Parenthood. Defund this, and illegal abortions will go through the ceiling, endangering everyone.

The first prevents unwanted pregnancies. The second protects against debilitating fear. They work together.

How do we do this?

First, demolish the shame.

Second, acknowledge that women are people deserving of full respect and ownership of their bodies.

Third, start sex education early and make it honest: “abstinence only” programs have a dismal track record of lowering the teen pregnancy rate.

Fourth, offer the resources for top-class child care for all.

Fifth, give emotional support to pregnant women and make the relinquishing of a child for adoption an honorable and praised position.

Do all these in concert and the need to terminate pregnancies except for the most horrifying of situations will sink like a massive stone heaved overboard in a stormy ocean.

We could do this–we could reach across the aisles, across the divides and across the rhetoric and say, “ALL life has value” as well as “Some situations are tragic and need special consideration.”

Those two statements need to get married in a formal ceremony.

The all-or-nothing factions, “Absolutely no abortion ever” and “Any abortion any time,” make the most noise and have the least numerical support. The majority of people in the US understand abortion procedures need to be legal but exceedingly rare.

Abortion as a routine means of birth control or population control demeans us all. To the Progressive’s shame, they didn’t get this. Even worse, maybe too many don’t believe it.

If the US is going to insist it has a moral foundation, it needs to do a much better job of caring for its vulnerable. That vulnerable population very much includes women who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy.

They, along with the unborn, are deserving of life.


ask-the-thoughtful-pastor[Note: A version of this column is slated to run in the March 31, 2017, edition of the Denton Record-Chronicle. The Thoughtful Pastor, AKA Christy Thomas, welcomes all questions for the column. Although the questioner will not be identified, I do need a name and verifiable contact information in case the newspaper editor has need of it. You may use this link to email questions.]

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Fred Wild

    Please support your claim that, “A fetus becomes human upon the first breath.” What is a human fetus if not human before it draws its first breath?

    • Curtis Martin

      Interestingly, this is the position of Orthodox Judaism – I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. Why does that matter? I for one am tired of Christians running around arguing that their interpretation of the Hebrew Bible is the one that we should GOVERN by.

      As for the issue itself, my opinion, and that of many Progressives, is that you simply can’t declare humanity at conception without invoking your religious view. I do not want the government picking a particular religious view to police. I can separate that from my personal belief. My personal belief? much of what this article says describes me well.

      Historically, Evangelicals thought Roe v. Wade was a pretty decent compromise as far as lawmaking is concerned. If you care about this issue at all – please read this – http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133 You’ll learn that Abortion has been hyped politically for the simple reason that Southern White People didn’t want to send their kids to school with Black Kids. Sad but true.

      Is abortion a good thing? naw, can’t say that. If there’s an Abortion, something has gone wrong. There was unthoughtful Sex or unwanted sex. There is a life that can’t survive or can’t be supported. None of this is good. But just because something isn’t good, doesn’t mean that one group’s morality gets to prevail.

      So, no, I have not one speck of reasoning that I can offer in defense of making laws to force women to carry a non-viable fetus to term. I can claim that before my God formed that fetus in the womb, that My God knew everything about that fetus’ life, but the non religious can simply say “Then your God knew not to assign that fetus a soul” or ” then I’m sure your Loving God has taken that fetus’ soul to be with Him. Completely unwinnable and unprovable statements. It’s interesting that the Abortion Rate is a low as it’s been since Roe V. Wade following 8 years of liberal policies that “push” birth control access and real world sex education. If the Anti-Choice side wants to meet in the middle, then you’ll have to decide that preventing the need for an abortion is the most important way to eliminate them in the first place.

    • rrhersh

      “What is a human fetus if not human before it draws its first breath?”

      The question answers itself: a human fetus.

      The more interesting question, to my mind, is: Why is the claim that a zygote is fully human, with all the moral weight appurtenant thereto, the default proposition, and any other claim requires defending? This was not the Evangelical position before 1980. Recall that the President of the Southern Baptist Convention praised Roe v. Wade as a defense of religious freedom. What changed?

      • Chuck Johnson

        rrhersh:
        “The more interesting question, to my mind, is: Why is the claim that a zygote is fully human, with all the moral weight appurtenant thereto, the default proposition, and any other claim requires defending?”

        Chuck:
        The answer is simple.
        Religious thinking, dogma, power and authority are always looking for oversimplifications, abrupt transformations, “miracles”.

        The union of egg and sperm to create a zygote is then asserted as being such a miracle. This happens suddenly, and creates the genetic blueprint for a unique human being.
        This is an opportunity for the religious leaders to declare this to be the beginning of human life, or the acquisition of a soul.

        This is an ancient type of politics, the politics of oversimplification and obedience to authority.
        Fundamentalist Christians engage in this nonthinking, authoritarian kind of leadership and followership.

        The ancient style of politics is the “Pyramid of Authority”.
        Today, this style is gradually being replaced by the “Marketplace of Ideas”.

        These two styles conflict and this fuels the culture wars.

  • scott stone

    But to be honest, the issue is just as much of an obsession with progressives. For some it truly is their raison d’etre.

    • Linda Coleman Allen

      Scott, you are correct that some progressives are obsessed with abortion rights. As are some evangelicals. If we are going to ensure human rights in this country, then the obsessed parties on both sides have to be ignored. This requires level headed people, which would include the medical profession who has the most knowledge on the subject. Abortion rights were enacted for the safety of the woman with a problematic pregnancy. Women do find themselves in untenable positions. They do not need to have to go to back street butchers to resolve the situation. They need professional support to ensure that they are properly cared for. We cannot know each situation, but it is our job as US citizens to treat everyone’s life as valuable, not to judge them. This is a moral and medical issues that should be decided between a woman and her doctor. Counseling should probably be required.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Christy:
    “A fetus becomes human upon the first breath. It’s a magical moment, this
    miracle of separation. Because of superb neonatal medicine, the point
    at which that separation can successfully take place is now far earlier
    in pregnancies. The moral dilemma is real.”

    Chuck:
    Your “magical moment” and “miracle of separation” ideas are an attempt to sweep the question of becoming human under the carpet.

    The fundamentalists claim that the union of sperm and egg signals the beginning of a human being. You claim the drawing of the first breath signals the beginning.

    You and the fundamentalists are reaching towards a simple, absolute morality, and it doesn’t work.

    There is a continuum of becoming more and more human that begins with the fertilization of the egg, and then continues for years after this.

    There are cultures with a high infant mortality rate that do not name the baby at birth, but a year later.

    An eleven year-old child is more human than a newborn.
    A person with a healthy brain is more human than one in a A persistent vegetative state.

    What is it to be a human being ?
    This is a very complicated, very interesting question to pursue.

    And the question of abortion is closely related to this question.

  • Brandon Roberts

    i can fully see why other people dislike abortion hell while i’m prochoice i don’t think it’s a beautiful thing

  • loveoneanother

    We haven’t gotten to entire discussion of this question, either. “When does life begin? When does life end?” I think when we begin to see males wanting control of their own bodies in the dying process, we may see some understanding of the ‘right to privacy’ issue upon which the Supreme Court based the decison of Roe v. Wade. The medical profession already struggles with the issue of the moment which defines end of life–stretching it to be able to use that person’s organs for transplant. They made up the term ‘brain death’ because we can keep a body breathing and blood flowing past what we in the past we would call death. I think we can see the differences in religious traditions perhaps more easily in the variety of beliefs about what is moral in the dying process.

    The closely related issue is “who pays for this?” Who pays for the extraordinary measures to keep a pre-term baby alive? Who pays for the interventions to keep and older person or other adult alive? The taxpayer? And of course, all the health care in between, including the caregiving needed in whatever condition the individual maintains life.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    If you’re anti-abortion, you’re inherently anti-woman. Full stop.

  • CDE

    I basically agree. Abortion should be legal, but we need to do a lot to reduce the need for it. Growing up in the Midwest, I fully understand the pro-life position. Living on the East Coast for many years, i am very familiar with the pro-choice position.

    I am upset with pro-lifers as they have a focus on making abortion illegal. However, Latin America shows making illegal, doesn’t end it, it just makes it illegal and leads to women getting illegal abortions or attempting self abortions.

    However, many Christians are against the very things that reduce abortion — sex education, affordable contraception and financial support to poor mothers. Making Christians appear anti-sex, not pro-life. Also Christians aren’t understanding that not everyone is Christian and not everyone has the same values.

    I argue with my East Coast friends that pro-life candidates need to be allowed to run as candidates in the Midwest and South if we want to pass legislation that supports health care reform and economic justice.