Abortion, GOP Politics & Political Expediency

Abortion, GOP Politics & Political Expediency July 12, 2022

Fear & Desperation (courtesy of Gerd Altmann for Pixaby)

Conservative Christians are celebrating the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. From my standpoint as a Progressive Christian woman, there is nothing to celebrate. Millions of women across the country will suffer, as will many of the children they already have and the children they surrender for adoption. No, there is no reason to celebrate.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I have never had or considered having an abortion. My children were born when I was 20-something and married. I wanted them very much. Consequently, I cannot walk in the shoes of a teenage girl or a woman who feels abortion is her only option. I can only imagine the fear, anguish and desperation she must feel.

In an ideal world, no pre-teen girl would ever suffer the horrors of rape and a pregnancy that could kill her spirit and her body. No teenage girl or woman would ever decide that abortion was her only option. No baby would ever be unloved.
But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world that can be quite brutal.
I consider myself to be pro-life, but not pro-life in the usual sense of the word. I care more about the women who are considering abortion than the barely formed tissue in their wombs. These women are living, breathing human beings who have lives and possibly families. They aren’t merely incubators for the fetuses they carry. They should matter.

Looking to Christ
It’s tragic that these women often get lost in the controversy. “Oh, they can give up their babies for adoption, and everything will be fine,” conservatives say. “No decent woman would get herself into this situation. She has to pay for her sin.” “Oh well, enough about the woman. We need to think about her fetus.”
Who made self-righteous people the judges and jury on abortion?
Christ is quite clear about the matter: “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam from thine own eye; and then shalt see clearly to cast out the mote from thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).

In John 8:7, he says: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” That’s as clear as can be.
He also tells us, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2). Here, he gives us his message in one more way.
I’m sure that those who disagree with me will find scriptures to support their views. That’s all well and good, but we aren’t going to change any minds. Let’s move on.

Intruding on a Personal Decision
Abortion is a private issue in my mind. I want to scream, “For God’s sake! Leave these poor women alone. Give them freedom to make decisions about their bodies, deal with their emotions in private and pull their lives back together with God’s help.”
Don’t add to their problems, and please keep the government out of it.

Igniting Right-wing Voters
How did our country get to this point? The court’s decision to reverse Roe vs. Wade was a long time coming, and ironically, it isn’t rooted in abortion at all.
Our story begins in the mid-to-late 1970s when GOP political strategists decided to find an issue that would ignite conservative voters. At the time, Democrat Jimmy Carter was in the White House and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. The Republican strategists found this situation intolerable.

They needed something that would fire up their base and get fellow conservatives into voting booths in large numbers. They probably would have jumped on any issue that had potential because their primary concerns were politics, political expediency and political power. They didn’t care about the merits of particular issues.
Abortion did not fit the bill for them – at least initially. Some conservatives were outraged about the 1973 Roe decision, but many others had mixed feelings. A conference of leading theologians, for example, considered the morality of abortion in 1968 and decided the procedure was permissible in certain situations. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the world’s largest Baptist denomination, also supported abortion in certain cases. It saw abortion as a Catholic issue, as did many evangelicals.

Exploding One Myth about Abortion
GOP strategists decided their best bet was to play the race card in the form of school desegregation. Race, after all, had always been a hot topic among conservatives.
Segregationists in the South and elsewhere were incensed by the Supreme Court’s decision in 1954 to desegregate public schools. They were determined to get around the ruling and decided to open whites-only, church-sponsored private schools.

The church connection was important because it meant the schools could claim a tax exemption. Life was good from the segregations’ point of view until the IRS decided to end exemptions for segregated schools in the 1970s. The Democratic administration of President Jimmy Carter strongly supported the decision, but officials at the private schools were quite angry.
Republican strategists decided they could sell conservatives on the idea that government was infringing on people’s religious freedom. Never mind that the IRS was actually going after segregated schools, rather than church-sponsored schools. The plan looked good on paper, but it didn’t excite conservative voters. It was back to the drawing board for the strategists.
As the GOP continued its search for an issue, something unexpected happened. During the 1978 mid-term elections, anti-abortion Catholics voted in large numbers for Republican senatorial candidates in Iowa, New Hampshire and Minnesota. To nearly everyone’s surprise, Republicans won the elections.

Linking Abortion Rights to Our Racist Past
GOP strategists were thrilled. They could go on the warpath about abortion and use it to distract most Americans from the real issue — desegregation of public schools. They would happily claim the pro-life label, quietly advance their racist agenda and replace Jimmy Carter as president in 1980. That’s exactly what they did. If you look closely at their statements and speeches from those years, you will find that they were filled with racist code words.

Republican strategist Paul Weyrich began selling the re-packaged abortion issue to conservatives in 1979. He and other Republicans worked tirelessly to defeat President Carter and end his efforts to enforce desegregation, and they succeeded.
The Radical Right was born.

Looking at Trigger Laws
Southern states have been instrumental in restricting abortions. Google the words “maps of trigger law states” or something similar to see which states enacted trigger laws in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe. There’s a wide swath of color across the southern states.
The Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that focuses on sexual and reproductive health rights, provides a list on its website, www.guttmacher.org:
1. Texas
2. Tennessee
3. Mississippi
4. Kentucky
5. Arkansas
6. Louisiana
7. Oklahoma
8. Missouri
9. Idaho
10. North Dakota
11. South Dakota
12. Utah
13. Wyoming
The map and the list are a rogue’s gallery of states whose histories are deeply rooted in slavery and whose politics are extremely conservative. It should be no surprise that many far-right conservatives bought into the Republican party’s systemic racism and “Christian” opposition to abortion. I did not, but I’m not a conservative voter.

Trigger laws are not the end of it, though. Several additional states will probably ban or severely restrict abortions if they haven’t already, and even more states may jump on the anti-abortion bandwagon later. The states that may ban or restrict abortion in the near future are:
1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Florida
4. South Carolina
5. West Virginia
6. Indiana
7. Ohio
8. Montana
9. Nebraska
Sixteen progressive states that have laws to protect abortion rights are, according to the Kaiser Foundation:
1. California
2. Oregon
3. Washington
4. Nevada
5. Colorado
6. Hawaii
7. New York
8. New Jersey
9. Maine
10. Vermont
11. Massachusetts
12. Connecticut
13. Rhode Island
14. Maryland
15. Illinois
16. Delaware
The District of Columbia also protects a woman’s right to abortion.
Incidentally, the Kaiser Foundation is a non-profit organization that focuses on healthcare issues and the U.S. role in global policy. It was founded by Henry J. Kaiser in 1948 but is no longer associated with the Kaiser family.

Opening a Can of Worms
In reversing Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court set a dangerous precedent. The court has not given states the power to infringe on women’s rights in other ways (as far as I know) or restrict the rights of men to make decisions about their bodies – but it could.

The court might turn its attention to vasectomies. If you follow this logic to its ridiculous conclusion, anti-vasectomy advocates might organize and demand that vasectomies be outlawed. Their reasoning might be that vasectomies prevent pregnancies that ultimately produce human beings. Zealots could create a test case and push it through the court system to the Supreme Court. Other zealots might take on birth control pills because they, too, prevent pregnancies. All couples of child-bearing age could become Duggar clones.
Continuing this line of thought, the Supreme Court might decide that pregnant women cannot have any medical treatments that potentially endanger the fetus they carry. The list of possibilities is long.
Some ideas seem ridiculous, but something that’s ridiculous to me is a great idea to someone else. My point is that if the Supreme Court and state legislatures can deny women the right to an abortion, they can take away other freedoms. In overturning Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court has opened a can of worms.

Are We Saying Goodbye to Democracy? I Hope Not
Where will the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade lead? I don’t know, but I am afraid that this country may soon have a permanent minority-ruled, ultra-conservative government that most Americans do not want. The thought frightens me. It’s one reason I created Woman to Woman.

If it also frightens you, do something! My solutions are to:
• Pray it doesn’t happen
• Educate myself about the political landscape of the land
• Vote for progressive, pro-democracy candidates at every opportunity
• Boycott large corporations that contribute to conservative, anti-democracy politicians
• Write a blog
The boycott or boycotts aren’t well organized, as far as I can tell. If you want to pursue this idea, check Business Insider’s website, www.businessinsider.com, for a list of large corporations that contribute huge sums to anti-abortion candidates. If enough people boycott these businesses, we might – just might – impact their bottom line.

Looking Ahead
In the coming weeks, I will continue to write about abortion and also talk about reclaiming Christianity from right-wing radicals. I’ll look at ways Progressive Christian women can effectively deal with hatred in Christian churches; share information about female church leaders, past and present; talk to female pastors; and interview women who put their Christian faith into action.
Your ideas are important, and I hope you will use the comments section of this blog to suggest other topics.
Talk to you soon, Ginny

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