Radical Catholic Mom and friends are working on starting an Alaska chapter of Democrats for Life. They are meeting tomorrow evening at the Cafe del Mundo in Anchorage. Even if you can’t be there, email RCM if you’re interested, since they need at least 40 people to start a chapter. Details at the linked post.
Shorter Dave Schultheis: Sure, we could prevent newborns from getting AIDS, but that would mean their mothers wouldn’t feel guilt about having sex I disapprove of.
From Schultheis’ web page: “All life is precious, from conception to natural death.” What, unless you can use that person’s death to punish a slut? Yes, death. I know he just says he wants babies to get very badly ill and then grow up, but wishing doesn’t make it so.
I really don’t want to hear anymore about “voting pro-life” when a guy like this would qualify. Seriously, I am DONE. I may actually make that a house rule on this blog. (And how do I not have a “misogyny” tag yet? Must remedy that.)
The Obama administration-to-be has put up a web site at change.gov. They’re soliciting feedback from citizens in various ways:
Start right now. Tell us your story in your own words about what this campaign and this election means to you. Share your hopes for an Obama Administration and a government for the people.
Start right now. Share your vision for what America can be, where President-Elect Obama should lead this country. Where should we start together?
Tell us your ideas and help us solve the biggest challenges facing our country
You can even submit photos or video.
I’d like to use this space to let people share their responses, and take inspiration from each other. What’s your vision? Tell the new administration about your longing for justice for both women and their children, about your work toward a consistent life ethic, about the steps you expect them to take toward their stated goal of abortion reduction — and tell us too.
Some thoughts upon the election of Barack Obama, and what happens next:
How the World Goes: “Voting is hard for me. My ethical orientation is best described as a version of the consistent life ethic, or “seamless garment” ethic, articulated most forcefully and cogently by certain Catholic thinkers. But (a) there has never been nor is there ever likely to be a political candidate at a level above dogcatcher who embodies that stance, and (b) I have some serious libertarianish reservations about whether the government — especially in a pluralistic society — is the institution best suited to implementing such an ethic.”
Abortion Reduction Key to Common Ground: “You have said you want to unite us as a nation. An excellent place to work for such unity would be for you to put your full support behind the Democrats for Life initiative known as the Pregnant Women Support Act.”
Obama and the Beautiful Day: Obama is a good man, and he will make a good president, even if he isn’t nearly as sensitive as he ought to be to tragedy of abortion in our midst. As much as I suspect my religious beliefs ought to incline me in such a direction, I just can’t find it in myself to make such sensitives the primary measure of a candidate, at least not this candidate, on this wonderful day.
Outlawing the Symptom: Our Broken Abortion Strategy: If we as followers of Christ truly believed in the agenda of life, why have we not taken seriously the proven correlation between poverty and increased abortion rates? Why have we not spoken out on supportive health care for women and children? Why have we not cried out about preventative education to minimize unplanned pregnancies that frequently lead to termination? And why, oh why, do we not see war, torture, creation care, or the death penalty also as fundamental issues of life? The question is, will evangelicals expand their understanding of social influences and actually work towards healing the causes, or just wait around to outlaw the symptom?”
Jim Wallis on Holding Obama Accountable: “There are a lot of evangelicals who are willing to engage with an Obama presidency on global poverty, the environment, Darfur, on trafficking, on war and peace in Iraq. The life issue has been defined very narrowly. […] Barack Obama will be held accountable on a serious commitment to abortion reduction. He called for that, his campaign platform said that, and he should be held accountable to that.”
Eliminating Abortion From The Ground Up: “To have an immediate impact to reduce abortions, it seems that a more effective way is to fight the battle from the bottom up. It all starts with the hearts and minds of the people involved in the abortion decision. The woman who is considering having the baby aborted and the father of that child need to be reached at their core. When their hearts and minds are convinced that what is being killed is a human, then the rest of the pro-life fight will be easier.”
Hope and Politics: “Perhaps trying to stop evils committed by our nation through voting is misguided. After all politicians only enable us to do the injustices to our fellow man that we have already decided as a society that we wish to allow.”
I’m getting really tired of all the blog comments I’m seeing to the effect that people feel sorry for Bristol Palin because her mother obviously is forcing her to have that child, or that somehow this is what Sarah Palin gets for opposing abortion (because if she didn’t, Bristol would have “taken care of it” in secret, apparently). If you call yourself pro-choice, acknowledge the possibility that people who are not you might not actually want abortions, even when you think they should.
Also, I’m seeing a lot of crowing about the teenage daughter of a sex-ed opponent becoming pregnant. I’m about as pro-sex-ed as they get, but I have a lot of problems with that. First of all, I’d like to think we’re above scoring political points on the back of a 17-year-old who’s going through the hardest time of her life. Barack Obama agrees. Second, we have no idea what the Palins taught their kids about sex. We know that Sarah Palin doesn’t want kids to get “explicit” sex ed in public schools. She may believe that kids shouldn’t learn anything about sex except “save it for marriage”, or she may believe that the most appropriate place for discussions of sex and contraception is the home. We don’t know.
Besides, nobody ever claimed that either abstinence-only or comprehensive sex ed was a foolproof method of preventing teen pregnancy. Kids who’ve had comprehensive sex ed sometimes make babies too, and I wouldn’t want abstinence-only advocates using every one of them as a club to promote their agenda.
The argument for comprehensive sex ed is that people deserve complete and accurate information about their bodies, and that information will help (not compel) them to make healthy decisions. That’s true no matter what kind of instruction the unfortunate daughter of a high-profile politician may have received.
Whatever else I might think about the Republican approach to abortion, I’ll say this — their new VP nominee walks the walk.
By inspirational contrast, Palin, says of her new son, Trig: “I’m looking at him right now, and I see perfection. Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?” Three days after she gave birth, Palin was back in her Anchorage office with her husband and Trig. “I can think of so many male candidates,” she tells the AP, “who watched families grow while they were in office. There is no reason to believe a woman can’t do it with a growing family. My baby will not be at all or in any sense neglected.”
I hope that her presence on the ticket will bring greater awareness of the needs of mothers, and of women’s concerns generally. That could only be a good thing.
ETA: Looks like I was optimistic.
The comments to Part 1 gave me the idea for this one. It isn’t so much a follow-up as just a Question I’d Like to Ask both Barack Obama and John McCain.
ME: What are the most compelling arguments for your opponents’ position on abortion? What do you agree with and disagree with about those arguments, and why?
Also, I have a couple of questions for John McCain:
MCCAIN: And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president. And this presidency will have pro-life policies. That’s my commitment. That’s my commitment to you.
WARREN: OK, we don’t have to beleaguer on that one.
ME: Sure we do! Senator McCain, what specific pro-life policies are you referring to?
Do you believe that the government has a role in reducing the demand for abortion? If so, what policies do you have in mind that would help people prevent unplanned pregnancies and make it easier for women to choose life for their children? What, if any, are your goals for abortion reduction? You may use whatever metric you like.
What outcome would constitute success for your pro-life policies, and what would constitute failure?
I didn’t watch Rick Warren’s Saddleback Presidential Forum — if I had two hours to spare, I’d spend them doing something a lot more enjoyable than watching the last nails get hammered into the “No Non-Christians Need Apply” sign on the White House. I did read the transcript, though, and without further ado, here are some Follow-up Questions I’d Like to Ask Barack Obama:
WARREN: At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.
ME: Let me reassure you, Senator, that nobody’s expecting the definitive answer to this question from a political candidate. What is your personal view on the question of when a human being begins to have human rights? What philosophical and legal principles shaped that view?
OBAMA: And so I think anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue, I think, is not paying attention. So that would be point number one.
ME: Some abortion advocates are celebrating the removal of the language stating that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare” from the Democratic platform. They believe that it denigrates women to say that abortion should be rare, and consider the new platform a victory for their view that giving birth to a child and aborting her are equally moral choices. Do you agree with their interpretation?
OBAMA: And so, for me, the goal right now should be — and this is where I think we can find common ground. And by the way, I’ve now inserted this into the Democratic party platform, is how do we reduce the number of abortions? The fact is that although we have had a president who is opposed to abortion over the last eight years, abortions have not gone down and that is something we have to address.
ME: What are your goals for abortion reduction? You may use whatever metric you like. What outcome would constitute success for your policies, and what would constitute failure?
Forget about what we didn’t get, for a second. (Though I do want to talk about that in another post.) Look at what we did get. Look at what we did.
Here’s the Democratic platform statement on abortion from 2004:
Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman’s right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.
Absent any pressure from pro-lifers, absent any push for abortion reduction, what would have changed about that statement? What would have been the motivation for change? I’d have expected a stronger statement of support for birth control, given the recent attacks on contraception, but that’s about it.
Here’s the statement from the draft platform for 2008:
The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.
So, as you’d expect, there’s expanded language about contraception and sex ed, and that’s great. But that’s not all — look at what else has been added.
Yes, the support for abortion is still there. But because of pressure from pro-lifers, there’s far more support for nonviolent options. Because of pressure from pro-lifers, the Democratic Party explicitly committed itself to supporting women’s decision to choose life. Because of pressure from pro-lifers, the platform is stronger on reproductive justice for women. Want to just mull that over for a second? I know I do.
We did this, and we should shout it from the rooftops. I’m not saying that pro-choicers don’t want to support women who carry to term, or that pro-lifers were the only ones who pushed for it. But that language wasn’t there in 2004, was it? We made the difference. There’s a lot more to do, and I don’t want to gloss over that, but let’s be proud for a moment.
I went to our local Democratic Platform meeting today. I didn’t get a chance to talk about the proposed abortion reduction plank, unfortunately. The way that the meetings are set up, everybody lists the issues they want to talk about, and then the issues are grouped into more general topics. Then, they pick the five or so topics that the most people want to talk about and split up into small groups to hash out the details. Abortion and related subjects fell under “women’s issues and LGBT issues”, but that topic didn’t make the cut. I ended up in the “restoring democracy and the rule of law” small group instead, which was the other subject I’d come to talk about anyway.
Participants were encouraged to submit a write-up of subjects that were important to them but that we didn’t have a chance to discuss in the meeting. The write-ups had to be handed in by the end of the meeting in order to be sent on to the campaign, so I quickly filled up the back of a flyer with ideas on abortion reduction. (I might wish in retrospect that I’d brought something to write with besides a purple pen, but that’s OK.) I wrote that all Democrats, pro-life and pro-choice, should be able to agree on reducing abortion not only by reducing unplanned pregnancies, but also by working to ensure that no woman feels compelled by financial and social pressures to have an abortion. I set out several concrete proposals, including:
* improved access to contraception, and funding for comprehensive sex education;
* direct financial aid for low-income mothers;
* improved parental leave; paid leave; encouraging fathers to take leave;
* subsidized child care for low-income women and students;
* guaranteed health care for pregnant women and children, including unborn children (to cover things like prenatal surgery);
* a public education program aimed at partners, parents, and peers of pregnant women, urging them to be supportive and not abandon the women in their lives;
* passage of the Kennedy-Brownback bill that would provide accurate information and support to families whose unborn child has been diagnosed with a genetic disease;
* passage of FFL’s bill which would establish a pilot program for initiatives aimed at supporting pregnant and parenting students on college campuses. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really remember the details of this.
There are other things I wish I’d remembered, such as health care for postpartum moms (but then, universal health care should be a Democratic position anyway) and economic incentives for job-sharing, flex time, and other family-friendly employment arrangements.
Finally, I urged whoever might be reading to recognize the diversity of opinions on abortion within the Democratic Party, and not to make the mistake of stereotyping opponents of abortion as conservative, anti-woman, religious zealots.
I don’t know if it’ll do any good, but I look at it this way; we may not make any progress with grassroots efforts (at least, not right away), but we’ll never make any progress without them.
(Sorry about the incomplete version of this post that hit the feeds; I hit “Publish” instead of “Save”.)
I recently posted the following to the Pro-Life for Obama group, and there’s been some good discussion. If you’re a pro-lifer who’s planning to vote for Obama, please join the group and help us figure out the best ways to promote the cause of progressing beyond abortion.
I would like to know what other people think about what our role should be as pro-life supporters of Barack Obama. I’m voting for him and planning to help him get elected, but at the same time I think it would be wrong not to challenge his stance on abortion. I’ve written him a letter based on my blog post here, asking him to consider whether support for abortion and some of his other policies are really consistent with the message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But a letter’s not going to change anything.
I think that we should act as a community to encourage Obama to continue talking with pro-lifers and to adopt policies that would reduce abortion, while at the same time challenging him to show the same respect and compassion for unborn humans that he promotes for everyone else.
Possible goals include:
* Trying to get platform language adopted that stresses the importance of preventing abortion not only through preventing unintended pregnancy, but by removing the barriers to women choosing life;
* Making the above official policy of the Obama administration, with appropriate action taken by the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach (which I’m guessing Obama would probably restore) and other relevant agencies;
* Promoting adult and induced pluripotent stem-cell research instead of embryo-destructive research;
* Having a pro-life, preferably consistent-life-ethic, speaker at the Democratic National Convention;
* Keeping the ban on funding of elective abortions with public money, though allowing funding to groups such as UNFPA (which has not been found to support forced abortion in China, contrary to what some people say) and anti-AIDS programs.
Any other ideas?
Does anyone here have any contacts with Bob Casey Jr., Tim Roemer, or James Oberstar? Those are pro-life names I recognize from Obama’s “Catholic Advisory Council” (full list here). Or, for that matter, are there any other pro-lifers working with the Obama campaign that he might listen to?
Have others here contacted the Obama campaign with your pro-life concerns?
* Discrimination against blacks linked to dehumanization, study finds. This study looked at the racist association of blacks with apes, and its consequences for people’s willingness to accept violence against them. Any anti-violence advocate could tell you that one way to get people to accept violence is to dehumanize its victim.
* It’s pretty easy to find the candidates’ stands on abortion, but glassbooth has also collected their stands on birth control and sex education.
* A New Zealand Idol contestant was kicked off the show for being pregnant. “Public life is set up with the assumption that people participating won’t have primary responsibility for childcare. This is incredibly anti-woman and extremely restrictive for women who do have children. A huge part of what I’m fighting for, as a feminist, is ending the notion of a ‘private sphere’ the idea that child-rearing is an individuals (usually a woman’s) primary responsibility, and that you have to choose between that role and any other role that you want to take.” Maia isn’t pro-life, but this is one area where feminists should be able to find common ground. (No, I haven’t actually had that bookmarked since August 2006. I’m not that far behind.)
* In that vein, Marysia (with a bit of help from me) has been working up a manifesto for an inclusive reproductive justice organization. This organization will encompass the rights of the unborn and already-born, and will advocate for all women’s rights to the full spectrum of nonviolent reproductive choices.
Consistent life ethic advocate seeks same for mutually fulfilling ballot arrangement. Likes: moonlit petition drives, long walks on the campaign trail, and social justice. Dislikes: violence, greed, apathy. Not necessarily looking for a heavy time commitment, but open to more if you’re willing. Contact Joe if this sounds like the right match for you.
Last month, Marysia speculated about what Martin Luther King, Jr. would have thought of the feminist consistent life ethic. (part one, part two) Whatever the answer to that question may be, one thing is clear: if Dr. King’s message of equality, dignity, nonviolence, and empathy were to truly take root in our society, we would become consistently pro-life.
If we believed in equality for all human beings, we would not single out the youngest members of our species as killable non-persons. We would value women’s full humanity, not just their sex appeal or ability to bear children. We would honor women’s sexuality and motherhood. We would not accept a racially biased criminal justice system. We would not see the loss of lives in other countries as an acceptable price to pay for our national goals.
If we believed in dignity for all human beings, we would not allow people to die of treatable diseases because they’re poor or uninsured. We would not allow the neighborhoods of the poor to be poisoned with pollution. We would not refer to human beings as “products of conception” or “fetal tissue”. We would help the sick and disabled live their lives as well and fully as possible — no matter how short or how different from ours those lives may be — rather than trying to eliminate them before birth.
If we believed in nonviolence, our candidates would not compete with each other to prove who would kill more people in other countries, who would kill more prisoners, who would restrict the killing of unborn human beings the least. Our electorate would find such contests repugnant instead of galvanizing. We would have to be more creative in finding ways to solve problems instead of reflexively reaching for the violent solution. We would be brave enough to sacrifice a bit of safety and security in the short term for a better future.
If we had empathy for all human beings, we would accord all people of the world the right to self-determination that we claim for ourselves. We would not let pregnant women feel that they have no choice but abortion. We would recognize ourselves in every human being, even those most unlike us. We could not torture.
Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s the same imagery that consistent life ethic proponents have used for 25 years to argue that it’s not enough for fight for the rights of some people while ignoring others. All our lives are intertwined.
Unfortunately, Senator Obama’s garment is full of holes. Although I believe he would personally prefer a lower abortion rate, he would allow for essentially unrestricted destruction of human beings before their birth. Although I believe that he would be less aggressive than his opponents, he favors a buildup of a military which is already larger than the militaries of the rest of the world combined. Although I don’t believe he’d be a great proponent of it, he does not repudiate the death penalty. He isn’t the one who’s going to tear down the anti-life society in all its forms; he’s going to uphold much of it.
I voted for him today anyway. Because the society Obama describes, the one King fought for, is pro-life. And he alone among the candidates appears able to inspire hope and courage and confidence among the people in the grassroots who have been so beaten down for the past seven (or twenty-seven) years. The grassroots leaders he inspires and gives breathing room and may possibly even listen to a little bit are the people who can strengthen that single garment. Yes, even to include the unborn. Once people believe in the equality and interconnectedness of all human beings, they’re 90% of the way there. Our job then is to convince them to expand their vision of humanity.
As Patrick says:
He’s not an insurgent; he’s the standardbearer for a faction of the country’s political elite. I believe that, on balance, this particular faction happens to comprise many of the the smartest and most conscientious individuals from within that elite. So I’m supporting Obama and his train, people like Samantha Power and Robert Malley and Lawrence Lessig, just as a peasant might cheer for an aristocratic faction made up of reasonably decent individuals against other factions made up of out-and-out thugs. Not because the peasant doesn’t know the game is rigged, or doesn’t have the wit to imagine a better world. But because incremental change matters, and because the right incremental changes can lead, like water flowing downhill, to bigger and more profound ones.
And frankly, in the end, nobody better is in a position to win. Perhaps someday, if we peasants work hard enough and change enough minds, the leaders will have no choice but to follow.
Elections may not be the most effective way to make progress, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get the best candidates we can. To that end, I’ve created a new ActBlue donations page for consistent life ethic proponents in the Democratic Party.
If I try to run this alone, it will languish, so please feel free to comment here with your suggestions, candidates, etc. Also, please pass the word along to all your consistent-ethic friends!
If we can find any CLE Republicans, the GOP has something similar called RightRoots.
Of course, this doesn’t help with third party and independent candidacies, but it’s a start.