Creeping Religious Rightism in the Democratic Party
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Feb 17, 2009 at 12:41:48 PM EST
For several years we have noted strands of creeping religious rightism in the Democratic Party. We have noted, among other things,  that some political consultants were advising candidates not to talk about separation of church and state because it might offend "people of faith," and that ostensibly progressive religious leaders were internalizing an anti-secular world view indistinguishable from the leaders of the Religious Right. (I summarized these themes in an article in The Public Eye last summer.)  Moiv wrote a ground-breaking piece on Jim Wallis and his views on the criminalization of abortion. And  Chip Berlet posted an urgent statement declaring that human rights are not political commodities:

While public debates over social issues are a sign of a healthy democracy; we do not believe is proper for politicians to negotiate away basic human rights for any group of people in the United States.

But elements of the Demcocratic Party continue to  find new ways to engage in the kind of negotiation Chip warned against.  And the strains of creeping religious rightism are becoming more evident.

The latest example of this is in the advocacy of "abortion reduction" as a legitimate public policy goal.

In a new article at RH Reality Check, I discuss some of the political origins of the abortion reduction tactic as part of the broad strategy of the anti-abortion movement and the wider Religious Right.

As it happens, some of the same people who are currently advocating "abortion reduction" as a way of finding "common ground" between the prochoice and antiabortion camps, are among those who in 1996 joined with anti-abortion and religious right leaders in urging abortion reduction tactics as part of a wider anti-abortion agenda -- including criminalization. And yes, Jim Wallis was among them. So were David Gushee and Ron Sider, two of the principal authors of the controversial document, Come Let Us Reason Together: A Governing Agenda to End the Culture Wars that was recently issued by the Democratic oriented think tanks, Third Way and Faith in Public Life.

My article starts out:

You could say this is a story about the old adage: the more things change, the more they stay the same.  

The rise of the concept of "abortion reduction" as a worthy policy goal, currently being promoted by some in the Democratic Party, has generally tracked the rise of the Party's fortunes of the over the past few years and the accompanying decline in the likelihood that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. The Democrats' ascent, and Roe's resilience, has been a tough reality for antiabortion leaders to face, but they are not out of strategic and tactical options. Politics is the art of the possible.    

Abortion reduction, currently being sold as the "common ground" between the pro-choice and anti-abortion camps, has its roots in anti-abortion strategy developed over several months in 1996 by a coalition of 45 anti-abortion and religious right leaders. The America We Seek: A Statement of Pro-Life Principle and Concern was also signed by several Democratic-leaning activists, most significantly, former Governor Robert Casey Sr. of Pennsylvania (father of the current Senator Robert Casey Jr.).  The manifesto was published the May 1996 issue of the flagship journal of Catholic neoconservatism, First Things (edited by the late John Richard Neuhaus); in The National Review; and on the web site of Priests for Life, headed by the militant Fr. Frank Pavone.  The source of the opportunity to reduce abortions, they found, resided in the holdings of 1992 Supreme Court decision in Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, named for the former governor.


Much more.

"Abortion reduction" could translate into sex education and easier access to contraception, and I didn't understand why you would be opposed to such things.  Even if one has no moral qualms about abortion, the procedure is still more expensive and invasive than not getting pregnant in the first place.

But your article in RH Reality Check suggests that you're really concerned about waiting periods, parental notification, and so forth, which I agree are more problematic, as they go beyond advocacy into control.  

Personally, I don't know when a fetus becomes truly human.  I believe a viable fetus is human, and I believe that a four-cell embryo is not (ironically, it was some anti-abortion group that convinced me that early abortion was not immoral, when they used the phrase "one-cell human being".  Sorry, there is no such thing.)  But I don't know where the dividing line is, and I don't think that we ever really will--it's ultimately a matter of conscience.  What I do believe is that if an abortion is going to occur (that is, once the woman has made up her mind), then it should be done as early in the pregnancy as possible so that the fetus is as "non-human" as possible.  Therefore, I find these stalling tactics introduced by the Right to be morally repugnant, not just towards the woman, but towards the fetus as well.

by lihtox on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 12:00:09 PM EST

I think you'll understand it just fine.

The abortion reduction reframing of sex ed and contraception is part of the mainstreaming of abortion reduction as a legitimate public policy goal intended to include a host of barriers to abortion access, and to ensure that there is always an abortion exception for expenditures of public funds.

As I point out in the article, abortion is not even available in 87% of the counties in the U.S.

The birth control movement going back at least a hundred years has been all about preventing unwanted pregnancies.  Everyone is glad that a few conservative evangelicals have now decided that is a good thing. Bully for them. But lets not call it abortion reduction please. Prochoice medical and public health people have always been all about reducing the indicidence of aboriton, and actually have well established methods and institutions for doing so -- (Hello... Planned Parenthood anyone?) The abortion reduction advocates are just antiabortion activists in drag.  Prochoicers, the overwhelming majority of Americans, should not allow themselves to be confused by this stuff.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 12:20:10 PM EST

Since the Pro Birth people are motivated that way it explains their not only lack of interest in birth control, but militant actions to forbid anything stopping it once it is in motion regardless of the woman's (child pregnant also) from stopping it by any means including killing both doctors and the women pregnant as long as the requisite babies survive.

Some people just don't get it. That is why they want to end divorce also so as to keep women, especially Aryan-Nordic ones, from not being pregnant to boost the baby numbers up higher than from Muslim ones. Regardless of the economics, ecological and damage to the environment.

Robert LeFevre was a great libertarian thinker of the mid-20th century. He stated flatly that there are only two kinds of entities in the universe, people and property. One difference between them is that one can be owned, and the other cannot. A fetus meets none of the criteria for being a human being; a fetus is property. A woman is not. She has put 99.99 percent of the effort into building the fetus and it is her property to do with, to keep, dispose of, or give away as she wishes. (That is how I think of it. Property of the pregnant female---not anyone else.)

Every cell of your body reads both human and living. That isn't the point. None of then can function away from the body and are not citizens of that culture. So is the fetus.

by Nightgaunt on Mon May 16, 2016 at 06:33:02 PM EST

lihtox, I beg to differ with (at least) one point in your statement here.

Even a one-celled zygote can be human (assuming its component gametes both came from human beings) - the stretch is in calling it a human being, with the implied rights that come with "personhood".

To call a zygote (or embryo, or fetus) a human being presupposes a long list of philosophical questions, most having to do with the distinctions between "being" and "becoming" that most working philosophers seem to have abandoned a generation ago as irresolvable and unproductive.

by Pierce R Butler on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 10:35:36 PM EST

I forgot to mention the item I'd originally intended to discuss, namely another aspect of religion creeping into the Democratic Party.

It seems that Pres. # 44, though abandoning many of his promises to restore Constitutional law and take the federal government out of the torture business, has decided to continue his campaign tradition of including a prayer in the warm-up acts to his public speeches (now requiring the text of same to be approved in advance). See ur-prayer/ for more.

Let me say this about that: blehh.

by Pierce R Butler on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 10:43:37 PM EST

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