Marcia Pally: Stop culture war rhetoric and find common ground on abortion
Marcia Pally, author of The New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good, had a refreshing column in USA Today last week, with a clarion call for a different kind of rhetoric and approach to the issue of abortion. Instead of hunkering down in the culture war trenches, she makes a compelling case for the “nuanced ideas” evangelicals have been developing to find common ground approaches to the abortion debate.
Here’s the heart of her principled and pragmatic argument:
Because 73% of U.S. abortions are economically motivated (according to the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit that researches reproductive issues), abortion would drop significantly if medical, financial and emotional support were provided during pregnancy along with day care post-partum services. It would drop further if we re-thought our adoption policies and dealt with the values taught to our kids about the worth of others and of intimate relationships, and — especially for boys — about using others for one’s own pleasure.
Moreover, there’s no reason why evangelicals should not join with other faith groups, secular organizations and feminists in developing such programs.
In addition to supporting (economically, socially, and otherwise) women who become pregnant, we can also work together even amidst difference on the legality or morality of abortion to ensure that women and families have access to the health care and contraception they need.
In a November 2011 New York Times column, Nick Kristof called attention to one such effort, calling a statement in support of family planning organized by The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good a “ray of hope.” The draft statement says: “Family planning is morally laudable in Christian terms because of its contribution to family well-being, women’s health, and the prevention of abortion.”
Pally points out that the Republican Party’s stance on abortion has cemented the bond between the GOP and evangelical voters. But with evangelicals’ new approach to reducing the need for abortion and supporting women, that glue might start to come un-stuck:
As Richard Land, president of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “If that issue (abortion) were taken off the table, then other issues get oxygen, issues where evangelicals are not nearly as certain that Republicans offer the best answer. Issues like economic justice, racial reconciliation, the environment.”
From my experience working with evangelical Christians across the country, there’s definitely truth to this: people of all religious and political stripes are anxious for a new approach to the issue of abortion and know that battles over legality don’t get at the root cause of why women decide to have abortions. And evangelicals, especially the younger generation, care deeply about America’s role in the world, global and domestic hunger and poverty, protecting the environment, economic opportunity, and a host of other issues.
Abortion is an incredibly important moral issue, but it’s not the only issue that matters to voters of faith. Increasingly, paying lip service to the pro-life cause without actively working to create solutions and alternatives won’t be enough for politicians to maintain their grasp on evangelical voters.