Pro-Life & Voting Obama?

pro-life-cartoon.jpg A few weeks back, I made an “offhand” remark on one of my Saturday links posts about “single-issue voting” where I suggested that voting solely on the basis of a political candidate’s stance on or willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade was a poor strategy, one that wouldn’t work. In the comments on that post, Dan Edelen took me to task, saying that a pro-life stance wasn’t single-issue voting, it was just establishing a baseline.

I felt some of Dan’s conclusions were a bit of a stretch, but he presents his case in a comment and a response to my reply. The ball was in my court for a response when I dropped it, so here I am raising the matter again. Normally abortion is not an issue I choose to get into here on the blog… not because it isn’t important or because I don’t have an opinion or that I need convincing on the moment at which life begins, but because it is such a volatile issue. To be honest, I’ve always been pro-life, but in the past year as I’ve re-evaluated a lot of the conclusions which once seemed obvious to me, I have found many of the “arguments” for them to be rather weak under scrutiny. Not that they are invalid, but that they aren’t that conclusive when presented to someone who doesn’t already share the same opinion.

All of that is a kind of rambling introduction to a post by Will Samson, Pro-Life and Pro-Obama. I enjoy Will’s posts on politics when he hits the topic on his blog — he’s consistently insightful, and this post is no different. In this particular post, Will outlines his own political “cred” as background to his thoughtful engagement of the question of how he reconciles his vote while holding some apparently contradictory values. He in fact does a much better job of presenting some of what I was getting at, and he takes it further as well.

So what do you think of Will’s case? Does his evaluative approach make sense, or is the pro-life/abortion question the end of the matter, the single determining factor? The question isn’t directly about the rightness/wrongness of abortion, but about whether or not it should be used as a simple litmus test. Being a polite and civil bunch, we rarely have any comment issues around here so I don’t need to issue any warnings about the nature of the comments.


  1. I think Will articulated this holistic pro-life approach very well. I relate to his journey in many ways and have come to many of the same conclusions. One of the things he left out though was a discussion on the hope of supreme court appointments. We’ve been pinning our hopes (or hedging our bets) on justice appointments with so many administrations already – and then “conservative” justices who were appointed by pro-life presidents surprised us with their rulings. So, I think it’s wise to learn from the past and not assume that voting Republican is going to translate into anti-abortion legislation. Not only that, but I think we should look at the case of South Dakota – a state that legislated abortion bans recently. Pine Ridge Native Reserve (in S Dakota) has stepped into the gap, and is promoting their reserve as an abortion provider for residents of the state, since they are not subject to state law. While I do believe that legislation has an effect on cultural development, I do not believe that legislation is the end-all-be-all solution. Anyway, if Roe vs Wade *was* overturned, the states would still be allowed to determine their own abortion legislation. So, I just can’t see how voting for an anti-abortion President is the best strategy for dealing with the abortion problem. But, there are many who disagree with me. And I don’t think they are misguided or not smart just because we differ on this point. I just see it differently, and Will put words to a lot of my conclusions.

  2. I guess that abortion is a litmus test for me. I can vote for a pro-abortion candidate, but I cannot, will not vote for a candidate that support “partial birth” abortion and opposes a “born alive” bill.

    When a person can listen to the testimony of a nurse who held a dying infant in a dirty-laundry room and then vote “present” – what group of persons can we expect that candidate to respect?

    The protection of the weak and helpless is absent in that candidate.

    I work with mentally and physically impaired people and the majority of people that I work with have a respect for life – and it extends to the weak and helpless. Those who do not respect life in the early stages will have a more difficult time respecting life in the later stages…

    And right now, that’s important to me. One of my students was beaten outside of his house the other night…preying on the weak and helpless. It angers me.

  3. I agree with Will that being “pro-life” has to have a broader definition. I’ve never been able to vote for someone solely on this issue — it just never made sense to me to neglect all the living for the sake of the thin hope of doing something to protect the unborn.

  4. Maria, you seem to be forgetting that the unborn are living, too. They are dead once they’re aborted. Please explain how protecting the unborn neglects “all the living.” Just what is the “broader definition” of pro-life? If it excludes the unborn, isn’t that a narrower definition?

  5. The only question about the next US president is which is the next country they want to bomb into the stone age — an how anyone who does that can be called “pro-life” is beyond me. You have a choice between a pro-death candidate and another pro-death candidate.

  6. I used to vole only according to abortion. No pro-life candidate has ever succeeded in changing anything and I believe that it’s not about LAWS, it’s about HEARTS. Abortion, like slavery, like the subjugation of women, will stop when the majority of people realize that it is not an ethical thing to do.

    Meanwhile, it is a sad fact that most pro-life candidates fall clearly on the conservative side of the spectrum, the side that ideologically believes in an unfettered free market (where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and it becomes even harder to birth and raise a child) and a small government (which results in fewer social and health programs that can assist families). The side which is pro-life ironically does the most to promote abortion. Some of the most powerful things we could do to prevent abortion are to establish a national child care system, raise social assistance rates and drastically increase the amount of public housing. The conservatives will not be likely to do any of them.

    In Canada with the election looming I am alarmed that the poor and the powerless do not even seem to be on the agenda. In meeting today with others working in the FASD community I was reminded at how complex health, social and justice problems are. Abortion fits into that mix. SImply claiming to be pro-life does not translate into a candidate who has the wisdom to know how to actually promote birth and parenthood rather than just blathering on with ideaological catch-phrases.

  7. I think people are too tied up on the notion that It’s about pro-life or pro-choice. The important gauge is right vs. wrong. That’s right w-r-o-n-g. That is a concept that people turn from these days because they don’t want to be labeled as judmental. But, there is such thing as right and such a thing as wrong. The taking of a human life in any form is a wrong. It might be legal, but that does not take away the FACT that it is wrong to kill another human being, fetus or otherwise.

  8. At the moment of conception, God instills a Soul, a Portion of Him. This makes all human life precious. It is then totally wrong to stop this life.

  9. Ann wrote, “At the moment of conception, God instills a Soul, a Portion of Him. This makes all human life precious. It is then totally wrong to stop this life.”

    Without wishing to appear the troll, is it reasonable to make blind assertions about souls, and further, exactly when one is imbued with it, and further still, that “someone” does? That’s an awful lot of presupposition when these ideas rest in a relative vacuum of empirical knowledge- that is, if we consider honesty of value.

    The idea that life is precious simply because we assert the involvement of a deity is rather a poor one in my view. There is so much one could site to affirm how wonderful life is and why we should protect it. However, it’s not all black and white and I think people drag a god into the abortion issue in the interest of simplicity or to argue from authority their opinion on religious grounds.

    My personal view is that once the nervous system has developed to the point where it is likely that outside stimulus can be perceived and, indeed, some level of consciousness is likely, there are ethical considerations to weigh, the health and well being of the mother ranking highly among them.

    When providing a rationale for one’s views (especially when asserted as fact) it’s probably more useful to draw upon what is empirically known rather than mystery to back them. Not wishing to sound mean… but it comes across rather silly to make the above assertions when one cannot speak to the veracity of those claims in any meaningful way.

    As to one’s position on the abortion issue serving as a litmus test for suitability of political candidates, it hinges for myself upon where the candidate sits on the spectrum- cellularly underdeveloped or anywhere near full term abortion. I personally think it unethical beyond my view stated in a previous paragraph and on those grounds would withhold my support much as I would any white/blue collar criminal, sex offender etc. as this, in my view, demonstrates a lack of empathy not conducive to public service which would concern me far beyond this one issue.

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