As Congress reconvenes after the Christmas/New Year holiday, we are told that anti-abortion legislation will be a high priority. Now that Republicans are firmly in charge of both houses of Congress, they intend to enact laws further restricting a woman?s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
As Congress reconvenes after the Christmas/New Year holiday, we are told that anti-abortion legislation will be a high priority. Now that Republicans are firmly in charge of both houses of Congress, they intend to enact laws further restricting a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
It is easy enough to discount the significance of this initiative; after all, why worry about access to abortion when the Bush Administration is leading us into war, trashing the environment and taking from the poor to give to the rich? Isn’t it only those single-issue feminists for whom reproductive rights takes priority over all other issues? Why should those of us who are long past childbearing age, or men, even care about abortion policy?
For many years, when I was still a Republican, I thought of abortion as a single, discrete issue. So did many of my pro-choice friends. And we disdained “single issue voters”—those ideologues who seemed incapable of evaluating candidates by looking at the totality of their positions. After all, we told each other, have you ever voted for anyone that you agreed with 100%? Look at the whole picture; if this person is good on fiscal or tax or farm or environmental policy, why that probably outweighs a wrong position on reproductive choice. We might disagree, but we weren’t going to get hysterical about it. We were moderates, and moderates by definition don’t vote on the basis of single, ideological issues.
We were so wrong.
We were wrong because reproductive choice is not a single issue—it is evidence of a worldview. The single-issue voters on the other side understood that. Anti-choice advocates may talk about unborn babies, but what they really want is a theocracy—a state where individuals are not allowed to make their own moral choices. Indeed—let us be candid here—despite political rhetoric extolling “Judeo-Christian” values, they intend to use government to impose a specific, fundamentalist Christian morality.
Once you accept the notion that government has the right to prescribe morality, other positions are a given. If the state can tell me I cannot abort—even though it is my body, and even though my own religious beliefs allow abortion—it can certainly outlaw same-sex sexual relations. Indeed, the State of Texas is currently defending its sodomy statute on precisely that basis: lawyers for the state argue that Texas has the duty to protect the morals of its citizens, and that homosexual relations are—by the state’s definition—immoral.
If homosexuality is immoral, equal civil rights for gays and lesbians would be tantamount to legitimizing immorality. (If you listen to the arguments made by anti-gay legislators, that is exactly what they are saying.) Gays in the military? Perish the thought.
Anti-choice legislators can be counted on to curtail individual rights and civil liberties. They continue to lead the charge for the drug war, despite its manifest failure, because drug use is “immoral.” They support religiously-based “abstinence-only” sex education programs. They support the Justice Department’s assault on due process and equal protection in the name of “Homeland Security.” They cheered when the President spent three hundred million of our tax dollars to promote marriage. They support the President’s “Faith-Based Initiative” because they believe that what poor people really need isn’t jobs, but Jesus. They want public school teachers to make the kids pray, and they want to enforce respect for the Flag by dishonoring the First Amendment. If you doubt the predictability of anti-choice legislators’ support for these positions, take a look at any of the voting guides put out by any advocacy group, left or right.
Moderates who discount the importance of the abortion issue are wrong, because “anti-choice” is not just a position on abortion. It is a signal— shorthand for a belief that government should dictate and enforce a very specific Christian morality.
There is a single issue here, all right, and it has to do with the proper role of the state.