Pro-life? (or: does W kill babies?)

One of the saddest facets of Christian involvement in US politics is the string of gross oversimplifications that are made when it comes to the issue of abortion. The fact that the Republican party has a tendency to want to outlaw abortion is alleged to be God’s seal on that party’s policies, and evangelical and conservative believers find an incredible capacity for tunnel-vision.

So it’s more than a little surprising that the Kerry campaign haven’t been all over the research of Dr. Glen Stassen, the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary. In the latest SojoMail Stassen reveals that his research (admittedly based on limited evidence, but still significant) into abortion rates suggests that abortion rates were falling under Clinton and have sharply risen under the Bush administration.

That research needs to be supported and extended. That research needs to be proclaimed from the rooftops. If you want to reduce abortions, if you want to “save babies’ lives”, you need to invest in a social infrastructure that will allow parents to support those babies. It’s time that the rhetoric of “democrats=pro-choice=pro-abortion” get kicked out of US politics. It’s not just lacking in nuance, it seems to be bad statistics.


  1. I suppose that’s what you get from a perspective which seems to see ethics in terms of everyone being isolated autonomous agents without much reference to social and environmental context. Ironic, really, when many also play up notions of ‘the fall’.

  2. I’m confused by Laurence’s post. Did we read the same blog entry?

    I too saw something to this effect over at Body and Soul a few days ago.

    I can’t tell you what an encouragement and a depression at once those statistics are.

  3. I believe you did read the same entry. I believe Laurence was getting at the ‘tunnel vision’ mention and perhaps that the problem with the ‘conservative’ take on abortion tends to be that it sees abortion as an isolated event, rather than part of a process and a situation? If we were better able to place the event of abortion within its socio-economic, psychological and other contexts I suspect we’d all be a bit shaken up.

  4. Thanks James, you said what I wanted to hopefully in a comprehensible way. Maybe I need to have an interpretor to take with me wherever I go…

  5. Ah…indeed. Seems I can misunderstand at an alarming rate now-a-days! Sorry, Laurence!

  6. That’s alright – I’m hardly the most articulate of people at the very best of times! Lucky for us there are some with a touch of lucidity.

  7. Your comments suggest that you are more interested in reports that use “limited findings” and support your political views than several other reports that suggest otherwise. Most credible data shows that abortions OVERALL have declined and continue to.

    The single greatest problem with abortion is not legalization or appropriate funding for those who are in dire financial situations. It’s simply a lack of moral responsibility. If you can’t afford to support a child and are not in a committed marriage, don’t have sex. It’s an easy one.

  8. Thanks for the links Anthony, I’ll check them out. But I’d be grateful if you would retract your harsh and ill-founded conclusions about which statistics I am interested in. Yes, the article I referred to did particularly appeal to me because the conclusions were close to my own beliefs but that doesn’t mean I am not interested in further studies.

    I agree that moral responsibility is a considerable factor in abortion discussions. But I wish you wouldn’t make such a blanket statement as “it’s an easy one”, if just for those who are victims of rape (though there are also those whose situation changes dramatically for all manner of reasons).

    The greatest problem in all this abortion debate is a reductionist attempt to find a single party to blame and to boil everything down to black/white divides. I’m trying to recover from that tendency.

  9. Anthony: looking at the link you sent, the summary seemed to be of abortion rates between 1994-2000. Those were years during which Clinton was in the White House and this does little to affect the conclusions of the article I was linking to.

    The reason the article I linked to was based on limited evidence is precisely because detailed studies of the Bush years have yet to be completed, so the evidence as yet is partial.

    I note there are quite a number of links coming from the page you linked to, could you advise me as to which will contain information refuting my entry?

  10. James… my apologies. My own searching was quite frankly done in haste with a Google search and out of anger. The evidence for or against the above statements is inconclusive.

    However, I feel you have some hostilities about our current administration that are perhaps tainting your motives to promote this preliminary data. 16 out of 50 states is VERY limited you must admit.

  11. Thank you for your apology.

    Yes, I want to see this administration languish in jail for some of the crimes they’ve committed. And so yes, this information is useful in promoting the agenda to at least get them out of power.

    But what this information is particularly useful for is to start cracking away at the utterly wrongheaded approach of so many who vote purely not only on the issue of abortion, but on one small part of abortion policy.

    “The Christian Right” have significantly damaged political discourse with their dichotomy between “moral” issues (by which they appear to simply mean sex issues) and everything else. I am more than happy to do whatever I can to break down that false dichotomy.

  12. I’m sorry Anthony… but where were you when you were a teenager? Or even as a single adult? When has it ever been easy NOT to have sex?

    You have to understand that the majority of young (and not so young) adults don’t socialise in chaperoned groups, and even those that do are still tempted over and over and over and over again.

    I never remember it being easy to decide ‘no’. And I’m a girl!

  13. Anthony — is the “16 out of 50 states” stat you’re pointing out related to the number of states skewing toward Kerry versus those for Bush? If so, I’d like to point out to you that of the 34 states leftover, some of these are Montana and Wyoming, whose electoral population is miniscule compared to the 16 states in Kerry’s column (New York, California, etc)

    In other words, it’s electoral college voting versus popular voting. You can’t use the electoral college to somehow prove that Bush has a clear majority.

    (Sorry to thread-jack there, just needed to be addressed)

  14. I agree completely with the idea that many conservatives oversimplify abortions as isolated events. That said, there are compassionate Christians who do attempt to address the situations.

    I think it is great to highlite an oversimplification for those taking a moral platitude, but my only recommendation is to not oversimplify the macroeconomics. I just don’t see any president having more than a slight influence on the economy in general.

    Although Clinton did some good economic things, like the earned income tax credit, I just don’t think we should pat him on the back for reducing abortions.

  15. I’d agree with you on that last clause Marty. What I think is significant about this is that it brings into question a mindset that says if you want to reduce abortion rates the Republicans are the answer.

  16. Here is an in-depth a rebuttal, thanks to whoever sent it to me.

  17. In reply to Jonathan

  18. In reply to James:

    * 1% of abortions on average are performed because of rape or incest

    * 70% due to desire to postpone childbearing, not wanting more children, not wanting to disrupt career/education, too young/family disapproval, and relationship/partner problems.

    When my interest was first peaked to comment in your blog, and this discussion in particular, it was based upon your remarks from a discussion on Doug Pagitt

  19. Anthony, firstly on the National Right To Life group: that source has at least as much of an axe to grind as any other party in this discussion and their attempt to attack the original researcher’s “credentials” at the end is saddening. Their approach to the statistics is interesting, but I don’t believe it entirely discredits Stassen’s work. Further studies are needed for that.

    The church in the United States has, in general, handed itself on a plate to the Republican Party and I believe this has pulled it a long way from its calling. If I hear one more “church leader” say that Bush is to be voted for because of his stance on abortion I don’t know if I will be able to cope. Such a stance ignores his stance on the death penalty, his desertion of the poorest people in his own country, and his flagrant lies leading to a war that has caused huge loss of life and a disastrous quagmire that threatens the world. It buys into Bush’s smear campaigns and makes swathes of the church the puppets of Karl Rove.

    Thank you, Anthony, for visiting my blog. Perhaps if you read through more of it you will see more of why I approach this administration the way I do.

    In the meantime, I am going away for a week and so am going to close comments on this thread.