Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Politics of Abortion

In the forty years since Roe v. Wade tens of millions of abortions have been performed in the United States.

One hesitates to reduce an important moral issue to politics, but, the truth is, the abortion issue has become toxic for Republicans.

The arithmetic is simple: count up the number of women who have had abortions, then add those whose sisters and mothers and friends have had abortions. Ask yourself this: how many of them are going to vote for a party that condemns them as baby-killers?

In all fairness, the 2012 Republican Party platform explicitly exculpates women who have abortions. Strictly speaking, this would make them unindicted co-conspirators.

Apparently, it is not a sufficient consolation. Questions of parental consent and who should pay get lost in the implicit charge that women who have had abortions are near-criminals.

Even if it happens that what the platform said and what women understood diverged, a politician should have sufficient control of his message not to alienate the majority of the population.

Many women, especially the young women for whom abortion might be pressing issue, are having none of what the GOP is selling on the issue.

Worse yet, the platform did not include exceptions for rape and incest. This allowed journalists to ask hapless Republican candidates about rape. To say that the candidates were not prepared is an understatement.

When Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin announced that pregnancy was nearly impossible in cases of “legitimate rape” he did an extraordinary amount of damage to the Republican Party.

With the Obama campaign ginning up the idea of a war on women, Todd Akin became the face of GOP ignorance and insensitivity toward women.

After all, Akin was implying that if a woman gets pregnant from a rape she was not really raped. If he was, then he was saying that rape is not really about conscious consent.  Is anyone that stupid? 

Todd Akin’s presence was profoundly destructive to Republican chances. I am well aware that he was denounced and condemned by Republican politicians around the nation. Evidently, it did not suffice.

The damage was done, and nothing short of drumming him out of the party or even running a third party candidate, would have helped.

Of late, Republicans have been gnashing their teeth over their election defeat. They know that Mitt Romney’s approach to immigration cost them large numbers of Hispanic voters and have pledged to do something to rectify the perception that they are anti-immigrant.

If the GOP wants to regain political power it will also have to find a middle ground on abortion. The demographics insist. 


Webutante said...

Stuart, as a conservative Christian who usually votes Republican, I abhor abortion though no one my age is untouched by its reality.

Having said that, I nor anyone I know believes legal abortion---like computers, smartphones and high-tech weapons---is going away. Ever.

The GOP was indeed greatly damaged by the rape debacle as you rightly note. But again, it is harming itself by its narrative on numerous subjects it may be right about but has lost control of its storyline to strawmen liberals use to their great benefit.

Where most conservatives take the greatest issue is the issue of taxpayer funded abortion, often with an unlimited credit card for women who want to take no responsibility at all for their recreational sexual choices.

This business of wanting government to take the risk out of risky behavior of all kinds is infantalizing our citizenry and ultimately destroying our economy.

And yes, the GOP is party to that, no pun intended. Someone like Ted Cruz may be able to start changing the narrative, we can only hope and pray.

JP said...

"After all, Akin was implying that if a woman gets pregnant from a rape she was not really raped. If he was, then he was saying that rape is not really about conscious consent. Is anyone that stupid?"


It was my understanding that he was delusionally saying that if you got pregnant, then it was proof that you consented and that's why it wasn't rape.

JP said...

"The arithmetic is simple: count up the number of women who have had abortions, then add those whose sisters and mothers and friends have had abortions. Ask yourself this: how many of them are going to vote for a party that condemns them as baby-killers?"

I know of one.

She was so mad at Obama that it over-rode her one-issue pro-abortion voting record.

Carol Christopher said...

I think that the solution for a candidate is to just state the truth, the supreme court is in charge of the issue as it stands. Yes, I know that congress could overturn it but that will never happen. It would also help if the candidate really understood the issue. They should look at the science and theology- the Catholic church is a good place to start. Also, I believe that the problem for the prolife movement IS the exception for rape and incest. First it would be good to have the statistics on that (very small number, very very small). Second there is only one reason that one could prohibit abortion and that is that it is murder. If it is not murder what basis does anyone have to even speak of it? However, if it is murder then what do we do with the exceptions? Murder is worse than rape or incest, and if we will allow murder of the child in these cases mustn't we allow murder of the rapist or relative?

Anonymous said...

Carol Christopher, the "rape exception" is the secret weapon that gives all the the cards to the Democrats, even if it is 0.0001% of abortions. As soon as a republican has to touch the issue of rape, they've lost the argument under a haze of emotionalism on both sides.

The Democrats had a phrase "legal, safe, and rare" and that seems as good as you can get by policy. The Republicans are fools to not find some common ground in that.

We tried prohibition by moral highground and we created blackmarkets and mobsters with bigger guns than the police.

Trying to control people by laws with your moralism they don't hold is a lost battle from the beginning.

I almost wonder if the Democrats finally said "We're tired of these stupid abortion fights", within a generation the Republicans would be ProChoice like the libertarians, and the Democrats would be outraged at all the abortions being coersively applied disportionately to minorities by Republican run welfare systems to keep the budgets from exploding.

It seems just an accident of circumstance that the Liberals got to be in charge of murder, and Conservatives in charge of controlling people.

Anonymous said...

Abortion is a tricky subject. It's one of those subjects most people are challenged with. On the one hand, you have what is clearly the destruction of innocent human life. On the other hand, you have the biological fact that the mother has to bear the burden of carrying, delivering and caring for this new human life. Human parenting is a demanding call. When it becomes an option, some will choose to not go through with a pregnancy if they don't have to. If they really want to avoid pregnancy, they will find a way, and there is nothing that can be done to stop them, even at the risk of life.

As a result, our Supreme Court and "pro-choice" states have come down on the side of the woman's burden, determining that it should be her right to decide whether she wants to continue the pregnancy. Like it or not, that's where we're at. And the hope that it will change seems to be that... a hope. The pro-life movement will have to win the hearts and minds.

Everyone views this as a personal decision. Some say pregnancy termination should not be a personal option, that the state has a compelling interest to protect the life of the unborn. Others say that it is a personal option: the final say should be between the woman and her doctor. Those are the lines.

This is all deeply private and personal... we hope. What justifies the fears of abortion opponents is an emerging indifference to life and its value, what some have called a "culture of death," where the unborn are relegated to a collection of unviable cells in a woman's uterus. Yet what is most disturbing is that we cannot separate the issue of abortion in painful, violent or medical circumstances from the reality that lots of people abort because a pregnancy is inconvenient.

I was the male contributor to a pregnancy that ended up as an abortion. It was the most terrible thing that's ever happened in my life. I still suffer from emotions of self-loathing and guilt. I did not stand for my principles and beliefs. Ultimately, as a man, I had no say in the final decision, but that's a rationalization. I wish I had taken a more firm stand and married the mother. My child would be 12 this year. Instead, I was part of the murder of a human being. What's done is done, and I seek God's forgiveness.

There are certain things that are worth more than elections and political power. Life is one of those things. We live in a culture of death and victimization, where it is possible to rationalize the separation of responsibility and behavior. It corrodes the soul, and makes us indifferent to the value of other human beings. Slavery also did this. War does this (particularly mechanized war). It rots us from the inside.

The Republican Party has never clearly articulated a sound or effective position on abortion. Theirs is normally the black-and-white "it's wrong" variety. I suppose this could sound like a condemnation to someone who had an abortion. This is because it is a moral and ethical issue, and politicians aren't terribly good at articulating moral or ethical positions. Politicians are not theologians or ethicists. Those who pretend to be end up looking like morons.

I don't know what the answer is. What I do know is that it is dangerous to pretend that life is not being eliminated. What disturbs me, and I hope will disturb you, is how callous people can be about abortion. The clip below from a pro-abortion group celebrating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is so disturbing:

And if you find this clip disturbing, doesn't that say that the subject matter of abortion belongs in our political conversation, at some level? Life issues are not trivial, despite our best attempts.

Sorry if this comment seems disjointed and meandering. Again, this is a tricky subject... and a tough one for me


Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you... I've seen the video; it's a horror.

As all the comments suggest, abortion is an immensely tricky and difficult subject. One for which there is no easy solution.

Some say, horrifically, that it's always right, and that there should be no restrictions at all.

Others say that it's always wrong and that it should never be allowed.

Some say it's just eliminating a few cells; others say that its homicide.

One likes to think that there are middle grounds where people of good character can agree, but that's obviously become difficult.

Surely, as LLK points out, there is individual conscience and the moral teachings of religions. Even if abortion is legal, that does not meant that women are obliged to have them, as some must do,in order to make a political point.

But it does not seem to be helpful politically to criminalize the act and therefore hand permanent power to liberal democrats.

There is always a mean between all and nothing.

DeNihilist said...

Ah, that is the nice thing about reincarnation, aborted fetoeses soul will just move into another form or fetoes. Eventually to be born again, or aborted again.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...


A cycle of torture and murder, with a progressive marginalization from conception to grave. That seems to be an inferior race's incontrovertible fate.

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


Does life imitate art, or does it inspire its realization? It seems that the human condition has not fundamentally changed, other than we now suffer from a numerically superior intellectual ignorance (i.e. denial).

DeNihilist said...

n.n., you mean something like this?

Anonymous said...

An idea for a Bible inspired compromise:

In Leviticus 17:11 and indeed a major theme throughout the Bible, "life is in the blood". No blood means no life.

With modern technology, pregnancy can be detected prior to their being flowing blood in the fetus, around day 23.

It therefore seems a reasonable compromise to allow "abortion" before then and disallow abortion after then, since we would then not be killing off what the Bible defines as life.

n.n said...


I do not classify people by the politically-oriented definition of "race". I classify them first as individuals, and second by their behaviors. The assembly of men and women who elect to murder their children are members of the same inferior race.


There is another standard, similar to what you describe, identified in Genesis.

And the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul.

The first, "formed man of dust from the ground", can be reasonably correlated with biological conception. The second, "breathed into his nostrils the soul of life", can be reasonably correlated with the emergence or expression of consciousness, which can reasonably assessed around the fifth week.

The criterion you have identified, as well as that described above, are both viable candidates for distinguishing between "dust" and a "living soul".

We have the knowledge, the skill, and the tools; but, if we build it, will they come?