To mark the 32nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by the US Supreme court, I republish a lightly edited version of my November 29, 2004 piece, "Abortion Is the New Prohibition: A Plea to Democrats."
My thanks to fellow blogger, John Ballard, for reminding me of it on this auspicious occasion.
Abortion is the new prohibition.
Anti-abortion zealots hold extremist positions on "immorality" that rival the fierce determination of US prohibitionists from 1900 to 1920. Ultra-conservative Protestants Jerry Falwell and James Dobson are the new Carry Nations. The Moral Majority Coalition and Focus on the Family are the new Woman's Christian Temperance Unions.
Moderates, Independents and Democrats, take note.....the abortion issue will not go away. The religious right has flatly declared abortion a "non-negotiable issue." Abortion will not be negotiated away, and it will not be given a lower priority than any other issue.
The line has been drawn in the proverbial sand. And the Republican majority has shown that it's perfectly content to throw the baby out with the bathwater over this issue.
The crippling federal trade deficit and runaway non-budget be damned. The disgraceful, deadly Iraq War be damned. The 45 million Americans without healthcare insurance be damned. The under funded, failing US educational system be damned. The shameless dishonesty and corruptness of this administration be damned. The willful desecration of the environment for more profits be damned.
It's no longer about the economy, stupid. It's about abortion.
However................Democrats need to get real about abortion. Abortion is all and only about terminating life, just like drinking is about...well, getting drunk. Carry Nation and her Woman's Christian Temperance Union were never wrong about alcohol. She was incredibly overzealous, but not wrong.
Democrats, brace yourself for my next statement. Jerry Falwell and James Dobson are also not wrong about abortion....and in our hearts, we all know it. They're not wrong....just ridiculously overzealous. (Sure, they're big-time hypocrites about being "pro-life", but that doesn't make them wrong about abortion.)
The difference between temperance and abortion prohibitionists is that drinking is not illegal. Drunk driving, of course, is illegal, as it could harm another person. Likewise, reckless sexual behavior is not illegal, but under current US laws, killing of human life is illegal.
That is, except for Roe v. Wade, which made all abortions legal, without question or exception. All pregnancies may legally be terminated at any time prior to birth for no valid reason whatsoever. Period.
Pastors and priests rightfully rage against the US "holocaust of babies" since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Experts estimate that an astounding 40 million abortions have been performed in the US since the Roe v. Wade became law. Most believers of all religions are appalled, and are determined to end the abuse of abortion.
The pendulum for abortion has rested at the extreme permissive end of the spectrum for 30 years. It's inevitable that the pendulum will, and should, swing back to a more balanced interpretation of a woman's private right to have an abortion, within the existing framework of our country's laws regarding termination of God-given life.
The danger is that right-wing radicals and the self-appointed morals police have 30 years of pent-up frustration over this volatile issue, and they can be a vindictive bunch.
In 1895, a group of conservative Protestant women founded the Woman's Christian Temperance Union to combat extreme excesses of alcohol consumption of their times. Alcohol-related deaths were at an all-time high, partly due to the introduction of automobiles. Beer, wine and hard liquor, not human behavior, was blamed by reformers for poverty, health problems, work productivity and even the neglect of family by husbands.
Their movement to control private, personal behavior in a free democracy caught the imagination of the American pulpit and public. The 18th amendment to the Constitution became law in 1920. It was repealed in 1933, the only amendment ever considered to be a grave error.
Democrats, the same will occur with abortion if compromises aren't soon made to limit abortions permitted under Roe v. Wade. Abortion under all circumstances will be completely banned if compromises are not now...right now... made to greatly modify Roe v. Wade.
Yes, there are rare, legitimate reasons for first trimester abortions. Rape, incest, the life of the mother is in peril, very extraordinary disabilities of the unborn baby. But abortion is commonly now used as after-the-fact birth control. Most US abortions are performed to mitigate irresponsible behavior and dispose of inconvenient children.
The Democratic Party presently celebrates abortion as if it's a life-affirming act. It's unimaginable political insanity to believe such a negative message will attract middle class, church-going voters.
Reality is that abortion is a grim medical procedure designed to efficiently end the life of a child. Most compassionate, common sense people believe that there are, indeed, limited occasions when abortion is the appropriate course of action....sad and necessary. But routine, freely available abortions are hardly a reason for celebration or form the basis of a successful national political platform.
The next Democratic candidate duly elected to the US Presidency will not embrace a wholehearted pro-choice stance. He/she will openly acknowledge that abortion should only be permitted in narrowly proscribed circumstances.
Until such time as the Democratic Party, and its national political candidates, publicly recognize abortion as a tragedy and not as a joyous personal right, Republicans will continue to occupy the White House and to control both Houses of Congress.
Mark my words. And Karl Rove's word.