Monday, August 30, 2010

Abortion: The Signpost at the Crossroads

Joseph Bottum writes at First Things:
... You travel the long road of religion in America, and you find the Bible chapels, scattered along the prairie like tumbleweeds that have somehow grown white vinyl siding. You drive past the green-lawn suburban churches with cutesy messages on the brick-framed signs placed out near the street. You pass the exhaust-stained marble fronts of the old city congregations, the yellow taxis inching angrily by. You visit the grand cathedrals and synagogues, announcing their people’s success in America, this newfoundland, and you see the pulpits and the choir lofts and the pews and the Sunday schools—the church basement halls, with their dented aluminum coffeemakers and styrofoam cups, their book tables, their after-service conversations burbling away. And somewhere down that highway you come, again, to the crossroads where the public life of the nation confronts you.

There is a marker at that place, naming its many promises and dangers for travelers, with the word abortion at the top. Even now, abortion remains what it has been for more than thirty years: the signpost at the intersection of religion and American public life.

Of course, there are those who think this shouldn’t be so. Personally, I cannot see how abortion could not rank first. We eliminate 1.3 million unborn children in this country every year, a number that dwarfs, by far, the impact of every other activity with which the moral teachings of the churches might be concerned. For that matter, the story of abortion is a tale of blood and sex and power and law—I do not know what more anyone could need for public significance. The people who say they are uninterested in the issue of abortion have always seemed, to me, to be trying to suppress the imagination that most makes us human.

Nonetheless, even in the churches some do not see things this way, and they want the whole issue simply to go away. But the fact that they wish abortion didn’t matter shows that abortion does, in fact, matter. It’s proof that the social observation remains true, for good or for ill. Whether one approves or not, the issue of abortion is here in America—the signpost at the crossroads...


[...]

... Abortion is here, and not to take a stand is to take a stand.

Every two years, we seem to go through this. Usually it comes after the election—and often from Republicans. There’s a good-sized section of the conservative commenting classes that seems to blame the pro-lifers if the Republicans lose, and dismiss the pro-life vote if the Republicans win...


[...]

And here we get down to it—the real reason, beyond all party politics, that no truce on abortion is possible. One can imagine pro-life absolutisms that are unhelpful and counterproductive. The refusal, for instance, to accept the introduction of pro-life counseling into pregnancy centers because those centers also counsel for abortion. Or the denunciation of small, state-by-state measures because they do not address the central problem of the insertion of abortion as a right into the Constitution by Roe v. Wade. A particularly wrong-headed example, wasting incalculable money and energy, is the attempt made by several states over the last decade to pass state constitutional amendments that ban abortions—hoping thereby to create the silver bullet that would force the Supreme Court to reconsider the abortion license.

But the rejection of Mitch Daniels’ truce proposal is not this sort of absolutism. We should not accept a truce on abortion because the pro-life position is, in fact, winning. With horrifying slowness, yes, but each graduating class of young people is more opposed to abortion than the last, and in the long run the great task of persuasion and argument will prevail...


[...]

No, we cannot halt. We cannot falter. We cannot pause. We cannot agree to wait. No truce—not now, not ever.

[Read the whole thing]

(Hat tip: Joe Scheidler)

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