Doesn’t matter how “prolife” the president is.

by K.W. Leslie, 23 September

Abortion politics don’t actually do anything. ’Cause we need to do something.

I’m prolife. By which I mean I’m anti-death.

I know: Most of the time when Evangelical Christians call ourselves prolife, we really mean anti-abortion. We’re against that kind of death. All the other kinds?…

Well, some of us are against the other kinds of death. The rest of us only care about preventing abortion. To them, the unborn baby is the epitome of innocence, and totally undeserving of death. The rest of humanity: Meh, they’ve sinned already. Screw ’em.

In case you’re not clear what I mean by “the other kinds of death,” let me spell out a few of them.

  • Death due to criminal or terrorist activity.
  • Death due to domestic violence or child neglect.
  • Death due to inadequate healthcare.
  • Death due to inadequate gun laws.
  • Death due to inadequate prison supervision.
  • Death due to unnecessary, unjust war.
  • Death due to unnecessary, unjust police shootings.
  • Death due to inconsistent implementation of the death penalty.

Christ Jesus came into the world to defeat sin and death. Problem is, your typical “prolife” individual only frets about one form of death. But has no problem with implementing death of all other sorts, for every other form of sin. Not only that, they’re annoyed when we don’t implement it. All murderers should be executed, they insist, instead of clogging our prisons. All terrorists should be shot. Forget humane forms of execution; draw and quarter them!

For that matter, they’ve no problem with death being the unfortunate side effect their other beliefs. They want unlimited access to guns, and lose their tiny minds over a 5-day background check, yet bellyache against unrestricted access to abortion because it’s “too convenient.” They want free-market capitalism to dictate how healthcare runs—even if it means the sick can’t afford healthcare, and die—but rage when the free market decides abortion services oughta be made available. But I digress.

No, I’m not saying we need to abolish the death penalty, ban guns, never go to war, or nationalize healthcare. I wouldn’t mind way more responsible legislation regarding all these things. Stating, “The system has problems, so let’s be rid of the system,” is stupid. Doesn’t matter whether a liberal or libertarian says it.

But as we’re waiting for Jesus to return and overhaul our system top to bottom, let’s be good and faithful servants. Let’s do what we can to make it work as best we can. Let’s fight sin, and also fight death.

Reducing “prolife” to only being against one type of life, is also stupid. But let’s be blunt: It’s stupid because in its current form, it’s not actually a Christian movement. It’s political.

The prolife movement in the United states exists for the sake of winning the absolute loyalty of prolifers to the Republican Party. That is, so long that the party claims to be prolife. Claims is the vital word; in practice the Republicans do jack squat to reduce or prevent abortion. If they were serious, they’d’ve been successful. They’ve had the authority, the ability, and the mandate of their base. For eight years (from 2001 to ’09) they had control of the White House, and majority control of the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the statehouses. Eight whole years. Changed nothing.

Seriously. Substantively. Nothing.

Well, they did in that time finally get me to stop putting my faith in Republicans. I already distrusted the Democrats and third parties, so now I’ve been disabused of any naïve beliefs that any one party is any sort of savior. (Currently I’m registered as a Democrat, but only for pragmatic reasons. And yes, there are such political animals as prolife Democrats. Lots of ’em, actually. And unlike Republicans, you know they’re really prolife… ’cause they’ve very little to gain within their party for taking up that cause.)

The single-issue voter.

I know a lot of single-issue voters. They might claim, “I look at all the issues,” but that’s rubbish and pure hypocrisy: They may look at many issues, but only one of those issues is a dealbreaker. For nearly all of ’em, that dealbreaker issue is abortion.

And no, I’m not just talking about prolifers. Plenty of pro-abortion-rights Americans are single-issue voters too. That’s why prolife Democrats seldom win the primary elections: They might agree with every other position in the party’s platform—more so than their opponents!—but the single-issue voters fight ’em tooth and nail.

Even for offices which have nothing whatsoever to do with abortion politics. Fr’instance, the California Secretary of State. The federal Secretary of State deals with international diplomacy, but state Secretaries of State do not; it’s a fancy title for what’s basically an elections commissioner. They gotta make sure elections are efficient and fair. That’s the whole job. Again, nothing whatsoever to do with abortion politics. But for a single-issue voter, their view on abortion decides their vote. Not whether they can run the elections; heck, they might be an incompetent partisan who rigs everything for their side. But single-issue voters don’t care about that. They only care about abortion.

Yeah, it’s stupid. But common.

’Cause who cares if he can actually do the job? Doonesbury, 26 Oct. 2008

My prolife friends insist it’s a useful litmus test for everything else the candidate believes in. If they’re prolife, they’ll likely agree with the candidate on every other social-conservative issue. Like same-sex marriage, flag burning, profanity on television, school prayer, and gun rights. And y’know, they’re not usually wrong. ’Cause prolife candidates tend to be Republican, and pro-abortion-rights candidates tend to be Democrat.

Republicans are counting on this. Especially when a prolife candidate lacks character, knows nothing about any other issues, or believe just the opposite of social conservatives ’cause they’re libertarians. Republicans figure prolifers will look past these significant defects and vote their candidate regardless. And y’know, they’re not wrong.

Obviously these statements apply to the 2016 Republican presidential candidate. But I’m actually not trying to single him out. I live in California. In my state, Democrats have a stranglehold on state politics. Two-thirds of Californians are Democrat. If you’re a Republican who wants to get elected, you’ve either gotta live in a predominantly Republican county (and we have a few), or you’ve gotta be far more progressive than your fellow Republicans are used to, or comfortable with. It’s why California’s last three Republican governors were pro-abortion-rights. And y’might not realize that includes Ronald Reagan, who only switched his public views on abortion when he went national. In California, prolife gubernatorial candidates don’t win.

It’s why my prolife friends kinda despair about state politics, and put all their hope in national politics.

I should say this time around, their despair’s going national too: A lot of ’em are horrified at the Republican candidate’s character and behavior. They don’t wanna vote for him at all. In large part because they’re not single-issue voters. Abortion isn’t their only dealbreaker. For many Evangelicals their second dealbreaker is homosexuality: They’re against normalizing gay behavior, against same-sex marriage, against transsexuals using the “wrong” bathroom, against “the gay agenda.” But the Republican candidate has no problem with homosexuality—so now what’re they gonna do?

For others, they only wanna vote for fellow Evangelicals. (And will settle for Catholics… and sometimes Mormons.) Since the Republican candidate leans more towards bad fruit, and is clearly Christian-in-name-only, they’d never vote for him either.

But a lot of ’em are trying to fall back on their one abiding issue, abortion. The Republican candidate may offend ’em, and they’re hoping against hope he’ll surround himself with advisers who straighten him out once he’s in office. (Though throughout the campaign, most such advisers have quit in despair.) They comfort themselves with the idea he’ll nominate prolife judges. With enough prolife justices on the Supreme Court, they still expect the Court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton rulings, and ban abortion outright.

As far back as I can remember, even when I was Republican, this was the argument for holding your nose and voting Republican. It’s tried and true. So of course they’re using it again… even though they really have to hold their noses this time around.

Now here’s why it’s not valid.

What the Supreme Court isn’t.

Prolifers assume if we elect prolifers, they’ll appoint prolifers. Especially to the courts: Prolife presidents nominate prolife judges. Prolife members of Congress confirm ’em. So once the courts are full of prolifers, some day they’ll get the right test case, use it to overturn Roe, and there will be much rejoicing.

Now. The first time someone nakedly tried to appoint a prolife Supreme Court justice was on 1 July 1987: President Reagan nominated Court of Appeals judge Robert Bork. Within the hour, Senator Ted Kennedy attacked Bork on the Senate floor. The subsequent Senate confirmation not only blocked Bork’s appointment; the whole process was so awful, Bork even quit the Court of Appeals. Unless you’re the Swedish Chef, the word bork has come to mean an immediate, take-no-prisoners political attack. Try to put an overt prolifer on the bench, and they’re gonna get borked.

Thereafter, Reagan and his fellow Republicans have only nominated “originalists” or “strict constructionists.” By which they mean judges who believe they should only interpret the Constitution to mean what its authors originally meant. No reading their own interpretations into the Constitution. No eisegesis; only exegesis. If the authors didn’t intend or mean it, they won’t argue it.

Sounds good, right? Abortion isn’t mentioned in the Constitution; neither is the right to privacy, nor the separation of church and state. Sounds like their every ruling should go conservatives’ way. Right?

Nope. ’Cause that’s not how originalism works.

Originalism isn’t political conservatism. It’s interpretive conservatism. It means originalists aren’t gonna invent new interpretations of the Constitution. They’re gonna stick to precedent. They’re gonna stick to how the Court originally interpreted the Constitution. They’re gonna stick to previous Supreme Court rulings.

Including Roe v. Wade.

This is why every time the Court adds another originalist justice, someone sends ’em another abortion test case, hoping the justices will now overturn Roe. But every single time, the justices don’t. And won’t. Because unless you give ’em a compelling argument otherwise, originalists stick to precedent. And Roe is precedent. Has been for 43 years.

You want Roe overturned? You don’t appoint originalists! You appoint activists. You appoint someone who’ll go in there, violate precedent, and filter the Constitution through their conservatism. And that’s not what Republicans have been sending to the Court. Five of the eight current justices are Roman Catholics—a religion which is decidedly prolife. But as originalists, they can’t make rulings based on their religion! They can only rule as the Founders intended, or stick to precedent. And y’notice even the progressive justices largely stick to precedent too. ’Cause originalism makes sense. (And not just ’cause it’s how I interpret the bible. Yeah, I’m a little biased in its favor.)

No, the solution isn’t to fill the Court with prolife activists. They’d overturn Roe, but they wouldn’t stop there: They’d monkey with the Constitution in all sorts of unpredictable ways. Worst case, they’d start nullifying civil rights, like they did with Dred Scott v. Sandford.

You want real change? Amend the Constitution. True, it’s hard to do: Congress has to agree on it, and the states have to ratify it. But we’ve done it before. Dozens of times. Once amendments are in there, the originalists on the bench have to stick to them. They can’t do otherwise.

Of course, that’s if you figure the solution to abortion is political. It’s really not. But I’ll get to that.

Where’s the president fit in this?

In the abortion debate, the president’s role has largely been to disapprove of it in general. If prolife, the president objects to any laws and policies which permit or fund it. If pro-abortion-rights, the president treats abortion as a necessary evil, and permits or funds it. Presidents have their own budget, and can chose to fund (or not) organizations which fund or perform abortions. Most organizations, realizing their funding can vanish in the change of administrations, try to steer clear of the issue. Though there are exceptions.

And yeah, presidents nominate judges and justices. But unless they’re morons, they’re never gonna pick someone who won’t get the Senate’s approval. (Of course, there’s the Senate’s current tactic of delaying approval till they get a president they like better. That’s another rant.)

That’s about it.

Yeah, presidents can give speeches. As can anyone. But y’know, people are pretty entrenched in their positions. That is, till they personally have to face an unintended pregnancy, and either stick with their original positions, or waffle. I’ve known prolifers who folded, and had abortions. I’ve known pro-abortion-rights folks who would never have an abortion themselves. I’ve known people who were on one side of the debate till they encountered this issue head-on… and just couldn’t stay where they were. I’ve known others who did stay where they were, didn’t move, and never would.

Presidents can’t change the nation’s morals. Many Presidents have been prolife, yet abortions still happen—legally or not. Presidents may preach till they’re blue (or orange) in the face, and nothing will change.

So since it ultimately makes no difference how prolife the president is, why is this the single issue which so many voters fixate upon? Because it gets ’em emotional. Therefore irrational. They don’t stop and think about all the other issues which merit a president’s attention, because they stopped thinking as soon as abortion came up. National security? Law enforcement? Drug policy? Diplomacy? They don’t care; they only care about fetuses.

And they never think about what they can do to deal with abortion in their communities. It’s the president’s fault; never ours. It’s all decided by the Supreme Court; never ourselves.

The real solution to abortion is simple: It’s to find women who are going through unexpected pregnancies, and help them. Provide them with resources and options. When they first discover they’re pregnant, many don’t think they have any options. All our political rhetoric has made ’em think they have a binary choice:

  • Drop whatever plans you had for your future, and raise that child.
  • Abort it.

These are not the only two options!

But people don’t always know this. Nor do they always have emotional or financial support. Parents, even “good Christian parents,” will gracelessly disown their pregnant daughters. Boyfriends will selfishly pressure their girlfriends to choose what they want. Women are made to think there aren’t any options beyond motherhood and abortion. So we need to give them options. Find and help them!

Stop giving money to politicians, and start giving them to the pregnancy centers and the needy. Are you irritated by the government using your tax dollars to fund abortion? Then give so much to a non-profit pregnancy resource center, after deductions the government owes you. For that matter, there are certain kinds of healthcare and provision which the government gives grants to. Help your centers tap some of that.

Help the real people in your communities with their real problems. You need to stop expecting the government, especially the president, to solve things. They won’t.

And once you’ve stopped doing that, you need to take another, better look at your political affiliations. Look at some of the other issues, besides abortion. Which of them reflect God’s kingdom? Do any of them? Which politicians are trying to better society, and which of ’em are striving for more lawlessness and unaccountability? Which of ’em are using abortion as a smokescreen for their own dirty deeds?