Creeping Religious Rightism in the Democratic Party
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.