Saturday, May 16, 2009

Some thoughts on the recent Gallup Poll (views on abortion)

The thing that struck me was the 53% that has held firm since 1975 - folks who do not accept abortion on demand, but who see some situations where it should be allowed.

If we take the arm wrestling pic as a symbol, each arm represents about a 23.5% point of view. One arm represents those who would not permit abortion under any circumstances. The other arm stands for those who believe in unquestioned abortion on demand.

Notice that the arms are strong and dramatic. They're what you see when you look at the picture, and they're what you watch when they stress and strain against each other.

Then there's the table. It's blended into the gray background, a bit in shadow. The mighty arms dig their elbows into it and grind, but there it sits. That's the 53%. That's where most Americans are on this contentious issue.

I think that a good number of Christians sit in that 53%. "Abortion on demand" or "reproduction as an individual matter" cannot stand up under any reasonable reading of Christian Scripture and tradition. But many followers of Jesus also chafe against legalism, and would not impose "duty" on a woman who was raped or a victim of incest. Nor would they insist that a wife and mother has a duty to die when a pregnancy is life threatening. You would find a range of positions among Christians on these tragic situations, and Gallup's data finds a range of exceptions and restrictions within the 53%.

Christians can (for the moment) teach our values and obligations to our church members, regardless of what the culture around us does or doesn't do. (Although some groups, like the Episcopal Church, are run by a crazed faction that calls abortion "holy work".) Harder to navigate is a political way forward for all Americans. Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court nationalized the abortion issue with Roe v. Wade in 1973, the brutal arm wrestling has ground on the American people.

The American solution, which Sen. McCain brought up in the Presidential race, would be to leave the matter to the State Legislatures. This will satisfy neither of the wrestling arms, the two groups of less than 25% each. But that is the wise pressure release in our Constitution. When divisive issues arise, allow people to work them out at the State level. National solutions need not be imposed on a diverse population.

Even with Roe overturned, we would have several states with very permissive abortion policy. California wrote "Right to Privacy" into its State Constitution, so even without Roe, CA would have liberal abortion access. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, has more restrictive policy. The nation would show an array of laws and policies, reflecting the "23.5% - 53% - 23.5%" reality of the people.

This is one of several reasons why Roe is garbage, not worth the paper on which the Justices issued their eccentric decision.

  • - Roe forced a divisive single issue, over which the people hold various and nuanced positions, into a one-size-fits-all national policy mold.
  • - Roe became the archetype for the worst possible solution to our most divisive issues: abandoning persuasion and finding a court to impose our positions on our neighbors.
  • - Roe enshrined the notion that ideology trumps reason. Scientific advances expose the Judges' "three trimester" model as the most wretched kind of junk science, but that is not enough to call into question their idea of "penumbral rights" that can be dictated by activists against all contrary evidence.

Sadly, what Roe has put in place makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to return to the States for relief from nationally divisive issues. Even if Roe were overturned (which will not happen with a 23.5% President choosing new Justices), the model it has established would poison the States, as we see with Gay Marriage. The people, through their legislative processes, would enact law - but the 23.5% folks would find an ideological activist State Judge, Court or Panel to overthrow it.

So our likely reality is that the majority of Americans will remain an inert table for the sweaty pleasures of ideological minority factions.

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