Endorse Policies Not Political Parties

While it may be a small victory for pro-life advocates, in the war for America’s heart and mind regarding abortion, every little victory is important, even semantic ones.  

In a New York Times opinion piece Walking the Abortion Plank, Judith Warner reports that the new official Democratic Party platform

“speaks of how ‘health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.’ It declares, ‘The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child,’ and was spun all week as an olive branch to evangelicals, a significant departure from past policy, and a victory for the opponents of abortion rights.”

The shift in the platform’s language is significant and not just symbolic, for it means the Democratic Party is acknowledging the power of pro-life voters and trying to reach out to them.  This is not the same as a shift in policy; the Democratic Party is not backing away from defending pro-choice laws, but it is recognizing that to win elections, you have to win votes, and that there are a significant number of voters who will not vote Democratic on this single issue even if they agree with the Democratic platform on a majority of other issues.

The change in the platform language propmpted ABC News to ask, “Are Democrats Now Pro-Life?

For the Sanctity of Human Life Movement, victory consists not only in getting Pro-life candidates elected, but also in getting all other candidates and political parties to move toward the Pro-life position or to begin respecting pro-life ideals.  In changing its language from supporting a woman’s right to have an abortion to supporting a woman’s decision to have a baby, the party platform moves away from a pro-abortion stance to a much more pro-life and pro-family stand, even though not denying reproductive choice.

It also seems to me that for Christians and for Pro-life organizations this is good reason to endorse policies not political parties.   We should be ever making the political parties come to us and seek our votes, and to make them come up with platform language and policies that we can vote for, rather than allowing any party to assume it has our vote in their pocket.  I am a professed cynic when it comes to political parties and I don’t think churches do themselves any favors in giving blanket endorsement to a party, or even to a politician for that matter.  Make them work for your vote and for your endorsement.   See which of them is most willing to conform to our ideals and then vote accordingly.

Judith Warner is not happy with the Democratic Party shift in platform language.  She concludes her NY Times article with these words:

Sanctifying life – without care for the living – is little more than a morality play.

Supporting families is a moral choice.

She apparently does not believe that a human embryo or a human fetus is human or alive.   But a human embryo or a human fetus is alive, and certainly is human having the full human genetic code.  And certainly there are many ways to be pro-family that do not include abortion.

But she raises a tough and important issue for the Sanctity of Human Life Movement.  Are we saying that the life of the mother is unimportant or not worthy of full consideration or that a human embryo or fetus is more important than the mother?  Do we believe that women who bear the unwanted pregnancies (for certainly they and not the fathers do bear this burden in a particular way) do not have human rights regarding their own lives and bodies? 

Supporting families is indeed a moral choice as Warner affirms.  Supporting families means that Pro-life Voters need also remember that there are many pro-family issues which should be supported as essential corollaries to the Sanctity of Human life – issues of housing, hunger, health care, education and all human services are Pro-life and Pro-family issues.  Opposing abortion is just part of the Pro-Life agenda.   The Sanctity of Human Life also means that we should create a society which ensures support for families, including the working poor.   Without that kind of social support Warner’s criticism has a stinging validity.  Sanctity of human life does mean defending and caring for the living – human embryos, fetuses, children, women, men, the disabled and the elderly.

2 thoughts on “Endorse Policies Not Political Parties

  1. Marty

    In my view, reproductive choice needs to be re-defined in the pro-life camp. Can we, politically, endorse reproductive choice that only encompasses contraception? I know the Roman Catholic tradition opposes (officially) contraception, yet that seems to be the only way to shift the emphasis of the discussion.

    Perhaps by re-defining reproductive choice in this matter, we can prevent the greater evil which is abortion utilized as birth control (i.e., an elective procedure versus a medically-necessary one). Perhaps, like the middle east crisis leaves open the issue of Jerusalem, we need to leave open the debate on abortion in the case of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, and seek to limit abortion as an elective procedure. This would, I suspect, necessitate an acceptance of contraception.

    In other words, choice is about having sex, not about the unintended (but entirely anticipated) consequences of sex.

  2. Fr. Mark

    My ‘day’ job is working at a program for severely/profoundly mentally retarded adults. One thing that I have clearly seen is a major decline in financing for services for folks such as these who are truly in need, and have no other recourse, during the administration of so-called “pro-life” governor, president, and legislators. And so I have become rather cynical towards those politicians who proclaim themselves to be “pro-life”. My impression is that many are just using that as a means to get themselves elected, and that those in the church who proclaim that we “have” to vote ONLY for such candidates are playing right into their hands.
    No, I’m not in favor of abortion, at all. But to make it the ‘litmus test’ for which candidate to support seems to be ignoring the totality of the Gospel. As you say quite well, opposing abortion is just one part of the pro-life agenda.
    Frankly, I will not vote for most so-called “pro-life” candidates, because I find that so much else that they stand for contradicts such a label, and is so contradictory to the Gospel.
    Some of the earliest canons of the church address abortion. Yes, it would be nice if we could abolish abortion, once and for all. But the existence of such canons shows that it has been an issue for a long, long time. And so merely passing laws will not end it, especially if there are not at the same time assistance for those women who are in difficult circumstances, or who will have children who have birth defects.

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