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Domestic policy

Politics aren't something I write about much, but yesterday I received my absentee ballot and had a political conversation with a friend. We're close, although we disagree wildly in worldview and thus in politics. Our ballots will cancel each other out.

I'm a platform voter, and a single-issue voter at that. The world would have me believe this is foolish, but the same world has completely screwed-up values and no sense of moral absolutes. As long the United States' domestic policy allows for the wholesale slaughter of unborn children via legalized abortion, I'm unlikely to find another issue or set of issues that will override this concern. God tells His people to be concerned with the poor, the orphans, and the oppressed. No one is so poor as the unborn child who has nothing. No one is so orphaned as the one who is unwanted sight unseen. No one is so oppressed as the one whose life is wholly subject to the choice of others.

My friend's perspective is not uncommon: "I'm not in favor of abortions, either, but since they're going to happen, let's keep them safe." Oh, come on. That's conceding the point in a way that attempts to dodge guilt. If it's not human life that's being extinguished, why not be in favor of abortions? If we're just dealing with a zygote, let's make it like a blood drive, complete with juice, cookies, and "I aborted today!" stickers at the end of the line. Ludicrous? Of course it is. Honestly, most of us know better.

One of his driving issues, like many Americans, is the Iraq conflict. I can blame no one for being similarly concerned. It's a big deal. He was fairly speechless, however, when I told him that his concern pales in comparison to what I feel as a citizen every day, believing as I do. Have as many lives been sacrificed to our international policy as to our domestic policy? From where I sit, it's not even close. Right or wrong, and invariably flawed, our international policy is shaped by (perceptions of) national security and interest. Our domestic policy? Choice and convenience, sprinkled with some economics. Who's being killed? Largely the poor and underprivileged, under the auspices of "a better quality of life." Such a policy rivals or exceeds even the most draconian analysis of our actions in Iraq. And the numbers are overwhelmingly greater.

Cold as it sounds, Iraq is a blip in comparison. The numbers are lower, the motivations and choices of the casualties more varied. It doesn't mean it's right (or wrong) to be there. But even if I believed the worst about that conflict, could it honestly be a surprise based on our nation's domestic policy toward the unborn?

Could I honestly believe we will care about the rights of others at home and abroad when unborn infants have none?

Could I be shocked at loss of life in conflict when we cavalierly end the lives of those whom we have never met and never been in conflict with?

Could I be incensed at preemptive military strikes abroad while I condone preemptive civilian strikes against their own children in doctor's offices here at home?

The logic collapses like a house of cards.


So I guess you're voting Peroutka?
Not beyond consideration.

Some of that depends on whether, when, and how much one applies triage principle: since resources are limited (I have one vote), considering which patient (candidate) has the best chance of survival when making decisions.

I'm inclined to think of this stage of the electoral process as triage. And unfortunately, there's massive hemorraging.
In situations like this, I'm always tempted toward the pragmatism of making a deal with my friend: You stay home from the polls, and I'll stay home from the polls. Presuming you can trust one another, you both save the unproductive time of waiting in line.

Of course, there are other things to vote on, too. And I might be tempted to break my promise and vote anyway.
I forgot to say: I agree with your position.
thank you for this post. i've met so many people who try to decide who to vote for based on how many issues they agree with them on, but they forget to prioritize those issues. if i agree with one candidate on 10 minor issues, and another on 2 major issues, i have to look at how minor and major the issues are, and not just at the numbers. thank you for doing that, and voting based on your values and priorities. if only the rest of the country would do that too.
I'm a christian and have never been able to decide on the issue of abortion. I'm just not so sure that ending the life of a clump of cells is the same thing as ending the life of a baby or fully developed human. When does causality end? Sometimes I joke with my friends when we discuss this "every time I refuse sex I'm ending a potential life." Again... when does causality begin and end when it comes to the life of a human being? Are you against contraception?

I don't like abortion either, I think it should be avoided at all costs- but it will happen no matter what. I have to agree with your friend on that point. There is no way to completely end the practice. And until someone can convince me more fully that the death of a couple of cells is the same thing as a human being I'm not going to be adamantly against all abortions.

But regardless- even if you are morally outraged at the death of unborn children, you should be no less outraged at the death of some 100,000 Iraqi civlilians http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/29/international/europe/29casualties.html The Bush administration's reasoning for going into the war has fallen flat (just watch Colin Powell speak to the UN Sec Council again). I don't think its our job to decide whether the death of one kind of person is a bigger deal than the death of another. I honestly believe that another four years of the Bush administration would mean a great deal more pain and suffering for the poor and oppressed on many different fronts.

And besides I think Bush is more likely to pass a ban on gay marriage, which I'll admit is a whole nother can-o-worms. But basically I believe its up to christian churches to decide whether they allow gay marriage within their congregations. It is not up to the christian church to determine what marriage is in the rest of the nation. This is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society- by definition we cannot have both freedom for all and a theocracy.

And Bush will probably continue to roll back environmental laws that keep us safe.

OK, here's where I'm lost: if you don't at least have the sneaking suspicion that "the life of a clump of cells" is human, why do you believe abortion "should be avoided at all costs"?

It brings to mind all kinds of horrible questions with horrible answers: is it "kind of human"? "Three-eighths of a man," perhaps? Can those we classify as sub-human be disposed of as one pleases, as long as one (or one's insurance) can afford the means of disposal? The mouths we don't want to feed should just never be allowed to open outside the womb? Maybe sterilzation of the lower class is in order (check out the ads on a local bus for details). Is there anyone else, particularly in the lower class, we find inconvenient?

Seriously, if it's definitely not a human life, let's go for it! There's money to be made and lives to be made better! But if there's a doubt, you've got to wonder why...
Please don't take this as a disagreement, merely as a discussion. It's the one phase of the question I haven't worked out for myself yet.

If people are going and getting abortions, something is wrong--seriously wrong--in their lives. Often it has to do with drugs, abuse, rape, incest, something.

If we're to create a culture of life and actually get rid of abortion--not just ban it, but get rid of it, so it's not happening in back alleys and shadows--don't we have to try to do something on those problems?

I have major problems with the way the Republicans have handled domestic issues this year. I would imagine a direct correlation between {widening the gap between rich and poor, unemployment, etc.} and people feeling they need to get an abortion. Also, with education and social services so woefully underfunded (under GWBush, under Clinton, and as far back as I know), adoption isn't nearly the alternative people would think of. My family was a foster family for 10 years; I know far more about the dark side of the system than I wish I did.

Aside from doing what one can privately--through charity work, through donations, etc.--what does one do?

The other issue like this that pushes my buttons a lot is the death penalty. How can we stand up and talk about not murdering others when we execute criminals? We're not supposed to seek an eye for an eye...

(There's also environmentalism--protecting the rest of the life and of God's creation because we are its stewards--and foreign policy, avoiding killing hundreds of thousands of people in other lands...)

Ok, this is mostly jumbled, but I'm also interested in feedback. One of the frustrations I've found this election cycle--the first since I truly became Christian and started trying to live like one--is that both sides' hands are soaked in blood, and I find myself confused on what to do next.
It's OK to disagree. And I don't think you or anyone has raised an invalid issue.

The underlying question I read in your comment is, "Where do I begin?" Personally, I begin by saying the thing that I know to be wrong and murderous, without a twinge of doubt in my mind or heart, must not be allowed to be legal. Legality is the purvey of government, thus I vote as I do.

Overall, I think there's more to do than just vote. Pursuing justice and peace and helping the poor and oppressed isn't something I can do passively at the polls. It's a life, and I need to be faithful with my resources and means. One is my vote, but there are many others.

What I don't believe I can do is become so paralyzed by the volume and complexity of the world's issues that I fail to uphold what I know to be right and fail to oppose what I know to be wrong. When I make the list, abortion is 100% clear and trumps other issues in priority, so I will begin there.
Lee, do you think that the passage, "One can put a thousand to flight...." applies to voting? What I'm wondering is: Does my vote - as a christian - somehow count for more? Or .... something. I don't know how to phrase what's in my head :)

I've been thinking of this for a few weeks. And since you're the political poster of the day, I'm posting my comment here :)
Hm, I honestly have no idea. For me, the voting thing is yet another place where I ask, "What does it mean to be faithful?" I have been given this resource, this opportunity, this responsibility. How will I execute it?

Even more mysterious than the Electoral College, God is sovereign over this process and the leadership He places me under. Part of the good news is that I don't have to elect a Savior or a King—I have one. I think much of the U.S. doesn't realize, acknowledge, or believe that, so we're frantic. And in that case, no wonder!


Pretty strong argument there, and I don't disagree with its foundations. But I think there's a couple pretty big flaws.

Is voting for the Democratic candidate really a vote for abortion, then? I cannot condone abortion and do not think that it is a "right" to end a life, but I do not believe that political action will end this grievous wrong. I wish there were a candidate who truly defends the rights of all the "orphans and widows in their distress," but I do not expect politics to always reflect or even defend Biblical values.

Do you believe that God judges nations in the same, ledger-like way that you apply here? Should we be concerned with how God judges 'our nation?' On these questions I am unsure.

Also, the choice to end a pregnancy is still one left to the individual, and hearts can change with every new day. The president doesn't, and I don't trust this one any more than I do a mother-to-be with a conscience.

Still, you've given me pause about the decision.

Re: food

Also, the choice to end a pregnancy is still one left to the individual...

The decision to end any life, pre-birth or post, is the decision of the individual. The laws simply make that decision legal or not.
Have you ever gotten this many comments before? ;-)
hmm, this post made me stop short.

For one thing, I seriously doubt Bush gives a crap about abortion. He mouths the rhetoric of the people he needs to vote for him, many of which are fundamentalists Christians. He will make no move against Roe Vs. Wade-- he'll hint at it, talk about it, pretend he is seriously considering it, but he'll never do it.
It's too risky, there would be a huge outcry against him, and he would loose the support of many of his pro-life republican cronies.
Overturning Roe Vs. Wade would require a Supreme Court move, and the Surpreme court is no longer known for its radical moves against anything.

I would not have an abortion because I am uncertain about when life begins, but the idea of robbing people of that choice scares me.
I'm thinking of stories like the one about the 13 year old girl in Ireland who was raped by her father and refused an abortion by the Catholic government. sure, this is an isolated case, but this seems like the worst kind of violation.

There are good reasons I don't discuss politics often here.

One is that politics almost invariably tempt us to put words in others' mouths. I haven't mentioned Bush in my entry, and only by request in the comments. That's not an accident. I think lots of people want to talk about Bush and Kerry. I don't. I'm voting on party platform, not personalities. Both men are figureheads of machines, one of which will be elected to run the Executive Branch for the next four years. Does Bush give a crap? Record indicates he does more than his opponent, but ultimately, I don't care what he thinks. These men will come and go. No solution is likely to be crafted in four years, or eight. But will there be steps forward, backward, or will we just hold?

If I believe something is abhorrent, as I believe abortion to be, I can't sit idly by and accept its legality as unchangeable. If I told people they should do this in regard to Iraq, I'd be condemned as a fascist. Yet it's OK in many minds to suggest that abortion's opponents simply and quietly accept the horrors this policy has wrought, and vote on other things instead. That's misdirection. I can't. I won't.

The case you mention is horrific, one of the worst kinds of evil. Does the legality of another kind of evil that has ended tens of thousands of lives mitigate the first? I tend to think not.

My mother was adopted. She was born out of wedlock in the 1940s, to a young woman in poverty and of poor reputation. Her birth mother died not many years afterward in an auto accident, on a rural road in a car with two men, neither of whom were her husband. None of these things were ever talked about on the quiet Iowa countryside. Better to keep it all quiet.

Under current policy, my mother's life was a choice. Under those circumstances—poor, unwanted, scandalous—she likely would have been killed before birth, and her mother may have also been sterilized (by choice of course) to accomodate her lifestyle. That's barbaric. I cannot condone a policy that results in the death of tens of thousands based on the possibility of other horrors such as rape and incest. That's not why abortion is legal, and we all know it.

My stark tone isn't in response to you at all (I love your thoughts and comments); it's in response to the realities of this policy. Were it enacted earlier in our country's history, I likely wouldn't be here to write.
i have been going to back to this post all day...reading some comments and skimming others.

it seems to be a moral quagmire, whichever way you slice it.
given that: here is a statistical fact: the number of abortions performed in this country were on the decline for several years, and declined sharply during the clinton administration.
under the bush administration, however, for the frist time in a decade, the number of abortions performed in the u.s. has increased.

the reasons people do and do not get abortions rarely has to do with whether or not they believe an abortion is morally wrong. it has to do with how viable it is for that person to have a baby, and how educated that person is as to the birth control methods available. the bush administration has decreased funding for education on birth control issues(hence the "poor" that are getting abortions are less educated on how to prevent pregnancy). Also decreased is the funding for social services that would help make having these babies a option for the average dirt-poor 19 year old working fast food.

when it comes to having a baby (an incredible and traumatic thing to happen to a female body) if there is not help available to a mother-to-be then she will not have a baby. one way or another.
what's more important? a leader who will try to legally force women to have unwanted children, or a leader who will promote a society that can welcome them?

i see this every day. i work with and read about the unwanted children who do make it to birth. believe me that bush may stand for their right to be born but after that point his policies do nothing for them. that's just not good enough.
It's been interesting to have so many thoughtful responses. I'm glad people are reading and thinking. I really didn't set out to convince anyone of anything, and I think that's made it more OK for people to speak from where they are. I hope so, anyway. I really respect your thoughts, so I'm glad you commented.

With a sociology and counseling background, I can respect that those statistics exist in the timeframe given. What I can't do is infer a causal relationship (or any relationship at all) between the timeframe, the rates, and the person in the Oval Office. Even if there were a relationship, it would be subject to timelag and hundereds if not thousands of intervening variables. So without more data, I can only say that I love when the rates decrease, hate when they increase, but can't really tag responsibility for rates on the policies and programs of either president. I could just as easily tag who's top of the music charts in those timeframes; that has a lot of influence, particularly on the young. Good science needs more data (unfortunately, candidates take credit and place blame using this method all the time).

I'm not sure can agree with the "wanted children society" construct, though I understand the appeal. First, regardless of morals, there has to be accountability for parenthood and the steps that get you there. Pregnancy doesn't just happen to a female body. It's a result of a process, usually a consentual one. We are attempting to divorce consequence from action, yet we wonder how our societies values got all wonky? You and I both know abortion also has severe consequences to mothers (this excludes others involved). Better choice? I'm not convinced.

Second, where should we stop with that logic? Schools can't accommodate everyone as well as they'd like with limited resources. Shall we have smaller schools for those we want to learn, and dispose of the unwanteds? A walk down Broadway or the Ave shows us people don't have enough housing or food or money, regardless of the reason. Can we have some kind of disposal method in place so that we can better care for those we do love?

I'm way overstating, no doubt. But the difference, I submit, is nothing more than voice. The unborn don't have it. Heck, they aren't even visible if we play our cards right. And in that state, we can debate whether they are even viable lives at all, rule that they are not, and get on with our lives as we want to live them.

I'd rather the unwanted show up, call us outside ourselves, and demand our love, as uncomfortable as that may be and as much as that may force us to change and even suffer, than to kill them to leave us some more breathing room with the rest.
Do you think abortion will eventually be disallowed much in the way that slavery was?

What would you do for a woman who was pregnant and you knew was considering an abortion?

Wouldn't it be great if pregnancies were transplantable like hearts? Like for the people that want to adopt, but not enough birth mothers are willing to go through with the pregnancy? They could just donate the baby in the stage it was in instead of having to wait 7-8 months to give her baby up for adoption?
Do you think abortion will eventually be disallowed much in the way that slavery was?

No idea what the future might hold. I'd like to see these lives treated like other lives, though.

What would you do for a woman who was pregnant and you knew was considering an abortion?

I used to be on the board of directors for a crisis pregnancy center, and that taught me that there's rarely short answer to this question; loving a person in a difficult spot isn't always simple or easy. I'd want to be sure that she knows she's loved and not forgotten or abandoned, that, though perhaps difficult, her pregnancy isn't a disaster or "impossible" (many needs that seem insurmountable aren't nearly as imposing with some support), and that whatever choice she makes has consequences and results, but no choice is beyond God's love for her. That's for starters.

It's often helpful for women with unexpected pregnancies to be able to speak candidly with other women who've been in the same spot—women who've carried to term and kept their babies, women who've given their babies for adoption, and women who've aborted. When I worked in your field, I had a woman from a local crisis pregnancy center's speakers' bureau come and speak with students about her three abortions and how she's dealt with the aftermath. They were shocked—mostly, all they'd ever heard before was debate or perspective from health educators. We talk and talk but rarely hear from women who've actually had this experience and all that it entails.

Wouldn't it be great if pregnancies were transplantable like hearts? Like for the people that want to adopt, but not enough birth mothers are willing to go through with the pregnancy? They could just donate the baby in the stage it was in instead of having to wait 7-8 months to give her baby up for adoption?

This happened in the Deep Space Nine episode "Body Parts." And you thought Star Trek wasn't cool!

The truth is, we were designed for just that sort of Leader. We just need to learn to look elsewhere.>>>

For me, this is the message of this entire thread. It's easy (and convenient) to level this conversation up to the passions one holds on the abortion issue, but in the end, this sentence alone puts us face to face with the one who wants to control our passions. And it's hard to give Him the control.
Could we be more in agreement?
I waited until after I voted and after the polls closed here to comment on this post, but I've been thinking about it a lot. You can probably tell that I'm not a one-issue voter. Yours is the best explanation I've come across for voting on one issue, particularly this issue. You always make me think, and that's a good thing.

I'm curious where health care comes in to this in your estimation. I can understand voting by platform (I think most folks do this, whether they admit it or not). I worry about a platform that opposes abortion, but doesn't encourage universal health coverage. If abortion were made illegal *today*, many unborn would still be at great risk due to the lopsidedness of healthcare in this country, particularly amongst the poor and ethnic minorities. For example, African American, Latina and Native American women have far higher pregnancy complications (including preventable miscarriage) and infant mortality rates due directly to prenatal care issues than white women. But what I get from the Republican party isn't much in the way of caring about that issue. I respect that you didn't name names in your post, but on my side of the country it's moot anyway, so I'll name names. When Dick Cheney expressed surprise at the rates of HIV amongst African American women during the VP debates, it was just another case of a party that doesn't actually care about certain people's health - and that translates to certain pregnant people and the babies they're carrying. I personally think the best way to make sure fewer (and hopefully eventually none) abortions are performed is by providing better health care and education for women so if they don't want to get pregnant, they don't, and when they do want to get pregnant, they receive the best care possible in the richest country in the world.
I'm so glad you commented. I hoped you would.

These are great thoughts and considerations. When I whittle it down from where I sit, however, I come up with something far more simple: if it were legal for someone to kill me, my health care plan (or the health care plan of the person who could legally kill me) wouldn't top my list of concerns. Important? No doubt. But as long as it's legal for me to be killed, I'm just not convinced that the idea of health care (universal or no) has a shred of integrity.

That's where I believe the unborn are. I don't think there's a Republican messiah, or a Democratic one. However, I also don't believe that, until and unless "the least of these" are counted as lives worth protecting, we can expect any greater respect for any of the rest of us. The system is uncompassionate and eroded because it is built on the concept of disposable lives. Great when we want to get out of a jam; rotten when we find ourselves or those we choose to be concerned with tossed aside.

As our friend Jean-Luc said, "The line must be drawn here. This far. No farther."
I thought I should lift my head out of the sand a little, and so I looked at my friends' journal. I'm appreciative of what you had to say, and how you said it. It is what I've thought for years, but have never put voice to it in quite that way. So thanks. I may use some of that if I ever get into a debate with a "pro-choice" type (which is SUCH a misnomer.) Anyway, it IS the defining issue of our time, whether we know it or not. Nicely said. I just wish it didn't need to BE said. :(