Abortion Politics
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 11:21:05 AM EST
The late Jerry Falwell once claimed in one of his newspapers that Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson and Ted Kennedy all had  earlier held one political position they agreed on.  They were all pro- life.  An L.A. Times author once asked me about W.A. Criswell's early pro-choice position.    Criswell was once president of the Southern Baptist Convention.  At the time he was president he held pro-choice views.  Years later, when pro-life became the trend in his circles; Criswell changed his views and used his influence to bash any politician who advocated tolerance for abortion choices.  The head of the Christian Life Commission during this time, Foy Valentine, was supportive of abortion rights and spoke openly of such.  In historical context, Baptists at the time were in opposition to Vatican claims that saving the life of a mother was not a moral choice. Baptist doctrinal statements often were based on opposing Catholic views.
     Catholics, like Baptists have not always been consistent on moral stances regarding abortion. In the 13th Century, St. Thomas Aquinas advocated souls only enter a fetus after forty days of conception.

     Baptists have found this topic to be a wedge issue and test of fellowship.  Moderate, or traditional Baptists, had a history of opposing abortion except for cases of rape, incest or to save the life of a mother.  In cases of fetus abnormality, some considered this an option that was morally acceptable.  The dominant strain acceptable among Fundamentalists is no exception in any case. However, there is not a consensus on this.  In Exodus 21;20 the Bible makes a distinction between a human life taken and a fetus destroyed.  This verse is the only direct verse dealing directly  with the topic of abortion in the Bible.  The early church did not support abortion according to some historical accounts.

     In Billy Graham's book APPROACHING HOOFBEATS, Graham says rape and incest cases for abortion must be judged on individual cases.  In William Martin's biography on Graham, Martin wrote that Billy accepted abortion in cases of rape.  In 1991 a survey was ran and the Baptist Standard reported that 80% of Southern Baptists believed in allowing abortion for cases of rape and 76% for incest.  Jerry Falwell has stated similar positions on the subject.  It is widely reported that Pat Robertson thought abortion was just fine in China.

     Religious Right leaders are not on the same page with most of the followers.  However, they are the ones writing the pamphlets and hosting the radio programs.  One author wrote that it was Richard Land, current head of the SBC ethics division, who is more than likely responsible for the rise in abortions in the nation. It was noted that since Land is so "hard nose" on the subject, rejecting any abortion, his positions have allowed no compromise. Thus the open position, even late term position has won the hearts of legislatures because there is no room  for tolerance.

     Every President's wife who occupied the Whitehouse for the last 35 years at least, had one thing in common.  They were all pro-choice.  Yet there is still a wide host of Fundamentalists who hold out hope of overturning Roe vs.Wade. This issue is still the litmus test  for politicians held up by the Religious Right.  A PHD Baptist friend recently told me the issue is moot and there will be no legislative effort nationally to end abortion providing.  Yet, this issue still raises funds, brings out numbers to gatherings and mobilizes moter guides.

     A recent entry into the issue is the full quiver movement. This group advocates women must conceive and deliver as many children as nature allows.  Just about all people who attend a church find this position incredible as well as humorous.  A wise cultural observer once commented about the subject of abortion. He noted this topic,  like many ethical topics of today is; "largely condemned and widely practiced".

it doesn't surprise me in the least that right-wing conservatives had gravitated to the absolutist position on abortion.  It's the only possible outcome from their utterly simplistic, unthinking view on the world.  In one stroke they avoid all the genuinely tricky and icky issues surrounding the abortion debate -- a debate that even honest people have wrestled with endlessly for decades.

As an added bonus, it also provides an absolutist basis for opposing embryonic stem cell research and contraception too.

And even though the absolutist position neatly avoids a genuine debate over the issues involved in abortion, it also manages to duck the problems that an absolutist position on abortion creates, like what to do with mothers who get an abortion if it was against the law.  All they have to do is yell "Abortion is evil" and then nothing else matters.

In the end, though, only 20% of Americans believe that all abortion should be illegal, and for all the bellicose ranting and lies from the far right, that number hasn't shifted much in 30-plus years.  I don't see that changing any time soon.

As for the quiver-full movement.  That's DOA.  I personally know one person who probably has at least 14 children by now (they were on eight last time I met time with plenty of childbearing years left to go) but there just aren't enough people around these days who are willing to put in the immense time and effort it takes to raise a family that large.  Sure, there are traditional Catholic and Hispanic families who still have lots of children (though even that's been declining), but carrying on a family tradition is very different from starting a very large family with no history in a culture that puts such an emphasis on material things.

by tacitus on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 02:00:21 PM EST

of the Duggan family with the caption: It's a vagina, not a clown car.

by trog69 on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 03:40:32 PM EST

The journalist from the L. A. Times did write a book and have it published on this subject.  I am sure some here on this blog know the name.  Criswell was the most noted fundamentalist in the Convention at one time.  Many will find it hard to believe he held these views. He was Land's pastor later on when he changed horses.  He was also pro segregation for most of his life until he changed on that issue also.

by wilkyjr on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 02:18:31 PM EST

Practicality overcomes the most doctrinaire of positions, except perhaps Dick Land, who can never manage to stay out of hot water! It's interesting that the Province of Quebec in its "separatist" days recruited francophones from Africa to offset the unreliables in North America, only to find that these black women when exposed to what materialism could provide  quickly abandoned their promise to bear 8 children, no questions asked, for the 'normal' North American number of 3 or fewer: what a damper that threw on the francophone prognosis for a 'state' in North America separate from Canada: now they had french speakers who looked nothing like the godfathers of racial politics, and the movement has never been so emboldened since: quite funny, actually.

For perhaps hundreds of years in the Medieval RC church, abortion was a confessable sin, with only slap-on-the-wrist penalties.Practicalities rather than narrower and yet narrower positions turned the wheel of reality until very, very late: this castigates the invokers of "it's always been that way" in a crucial manner, for it just isn't so. The more provencial & less literate the practitioner, the easier to hold sway with them, but education trumps that old saw amply, perhaps an instrument for the effectiveness of American public schools, much to the chagrin of the pastorate(s). As more & more RC schools close each year, " how they gonna keep 'em down on the farm, now that they've seen Paris!" Long live America's peculiar instrumentality to the rest of the world, while at the same time, we must remold & strengthen our educational institutions post haste. No, charters aren't the same, for a variety of reasons, and forget "home schooling" altogether if you value the lead emphasis of this post.

Criswell is a bigot w/o chagrin, capable of making any change to maintain his power base. That's where Dallas Baptist College comes in vs. Baylor too, even tho' Baylor has slipped more than a few cogs of educational credibility.

by achbird65 on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:22:16 PM EST

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