Given the angst that has surrounded my column for the prior two weeks, I decided to discuss a less controversial topic: abortion.
I am unapologetically pro-life. My Christianity informs that decision. (Yes, I’m aware that not all Christians agree.) I will note that I distinguish being “pro-life” from merely being “pro-birth.” As a practical matter, this means that I am against the death penalty. Also, I strongly support social programs that help those who Jesus called “the least of these.” This is especially true of children — even if they weren’t born in the U.S. I have very little tolerance for “pro-lifers” whose compassion ends after a child is born. I would hasten to add that I am deeply saddened by the fact that most of my white Christian brothers and sisters lack the commitment to defeating racism that characterizes their commitment to defeating abortion. For example, the person who released the infamous photo of Gov. Ralph Northam did NOT do so because of a concern about racism. He or she reportedly did so because of anger concerning Virginia’s new abortion law.
While our society is hyper-polarized on myriad social, political and religious issues, my views regarding abortion are nuanced. Thus, people who occupy the margins of this divide find reasons to criticize me. Those who are pro-choice tend to stop listening once they hear the phrase “pro-life.” These folks might be interested to know that, were I emperor for a day (or merely the deciding vote on the Supreme Court), I would not overturn Roe v. Wade — the landmark 1973 decision that affirmed the right to have an abortion. Space constraints prevent me from offering my views in full, but suffice it to say that I believe the Roe decision to be bad law, but good public policy. (Of course, many pro-lifers chastise me for not being “all in.”)
The above notwithstanding, I believe abortion to be wrong in most instances. Years ago, some pro-choice proponents argued that abortions should take place “before the fetus could thrive outside the womb.” Modern science renders this moot; fertilized eggs do not need to be in the womb — ever. Today, the most prominent argument is, “her body, her choice.” This intellectually dishonest statement would be legitimate if we were talking about tummy tucks or varicose veins. But we’re not. We’re talking about a human being. And, for those who disagree with me that life begins at conception, the inconvenient truth is that there is no scientific consensus as to when it does begin. Thus, absent health considerations (of the baby or the would-be mother), the decision as to when a pregnancy is “too far along” to terminate is arbitrary.
Aside from moral and scientific questions, there are political ones. For example, some people fear that, if President Trump gets another SCOTUS pick, there is a distinct possibility that Roe could be overturned. One of the reasons that I oppose that scenario is that the health of poor women (and teens) of color would be dramatically affected. The same would be true for those in rural areas, where there tends to be a shortage of hospitals. Do we really want to return to back alleys and coat hangers? Further, who would go to jail? Certainly not the daughter of a senator or a wealthy person — or the rural doctor. The racial and class implications of overturning Roe would be devastating — not to mention astoundingly hypocritical.
Finally, the debate between Democrats and Republicans is (primarily) a sham. Christian activist Keith Giles, who is pro-life, points to many reasons that such is the case. For example, SCOTUS passed Roe v. Wade 7-2. There were five Democrats and four Republicans at the time. (One Republican, and one Democrat, dissented.) Further, President Richard Nixon, a Republican, signed into law the 1970 Family Planning Services and Population Research Act — which funded Planned Parenthood. (This legislation had the support of both major parties.) In the 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey case, SCOTUS could have overturned Roe. Instead, the court ruled that the 14th Amendment protected abortion. (Eight of the nine justices were Republican.) The fact is that Republicans have controlled the Senate for a total of 20 years, and have also controlled the House for 20 years — though not always during the same periods — since Roe was decided 46 years ago. Also, nine out of the 11 SCOTUS justices who served from 2001-2007 were Republican. In short, Republicans have not been any more inclined to overturn Roe than Democrats have been — at least at the national level.
Life is a beautiful choice.
Larry Smith is a community leader. Contact him at email@example.com.