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Saturday
Jan222005

Democrats and Pro-lifers

[NPR, "Morning Edition," January 22, 2005]

The other night a couple of dozen young professionals and college students, mostly Eastern Orthodox Christians, crowded into my house for dinner. We played a current events party game. We divided the group in two and assigned one side to favor, and the other to oppose, five controversial issues.

At the end of the discussion we went around the room and voted. One after another, these twenty- and thirty-somethings said that one issue was more important to them than any other. They were strongly opposed to abortion.

Abortion was the stealth factor in the recent election. It hadn’t been in the spotlight for a while. Many people may have thought it went away. Yet some polls show the pro-life position is quietly growing, especially among young people.

Perhaps opposition to abortion was underestimated because pro-choicers began to believe their own propaganda. Perhaps they assumed pro-lifers were poor and uneducated, knee-jerk opponents of women’s rights. They didn’t make room for people like me.

I was the first feminist in my dorm, thirty years ago. I fought for abortion rights. But then I came to see that abortion is wrong. I learned that in the most common method the unborn child is sucked into a tiny tube. Well, you can picture the results. Advocates of abortion rights may see it as a medical procedure. My stand against abortion is a stand against violence, and I voted for the only candidate who gets this.

Same with my friend who works at a big-city newspaper. He was very angry about the war, and for awhile swore he’d vote against Bush. But in the end the abortion issue, and related biotech fears, caused him to pull the Republican lever. Another friend, a college professor and life-long Democrat, says his party ought to stand for the weak, the poor, and the threatened. That includes unborn children. He crossed over to vote for Bush.

Here’s an example of the kind of change we hope to see. The recent budget bill included a provision allowing medical personnel to refuse to participate in abortions. It didn’t restrict abortion. It just protects nurses and other medical workers who have conscientious objections to the procedure. It’s an index of how out-of-touch pro-choice advocates are that they acted like this was a catastrophe. If the abortion business depends on forcing people doing them against their will, it was in trouble already.

Another priority is to see that pro-life judicial candidates get a fair hearing. We don’t want to be told their opinion is so unacceptable they’ll be tossed out before they get a chance. We believe this issue has to do with fatal child abuse. So we won’t compromise on it, even if we have to put up with some other party positions we don’t like. At my party one pro-lifer spoke strongly in favor of gun control, and many advocated environmental protection and government aid to the poor. When I asked, "How many of you are *both* pro-life, and against the death penalty?" most of the hands in the room went up.

Democrats would be wise to learn who pro-lifers really are. We’re not snake-handlers running barefoot through the holler. We’re your co-workers and neighbors, your doctor, your auto mechanic. We’ve been here all along. We haven’t been too outspoken, because you made it clear that our views were not welcome. Well, now it’s time for liberals to do what they’re best at. Open your minds. Overcome stereotypes, prejudice and fear. Take a pro-lifer to lunch. You’ll find we’re not so different from you, after all.

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