The Common Good

Moving the Abortion Debate Beyond Partisan Purists

In books and speeches, I have often said that God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I have contended that to make either party "The God Party" is idolatry. This, however, does not mean that Christians should abandon political activism. It has been said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Consequently, I have long called for Christians to be involved in both political parties, striving to be the "leaven" that permeates both parties with biblically-based judgments and values derived from Christian beliefs.

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Taking my own advice, this year I played a part in framing the abortion plank of the Democratic Party's platform. I helped the party to take what some have called a "historic step" by having the party become committed to abortion reduction.

More than 60 percent of all abortions are economically driven. The reality is that without provisions for hospital coverage; pre- and post-natal care; maternity leave so that a woman giving birth will not lose her job; and nursing assistance to help single mothers transition into parenthood, millions of women who want to carry their pregnancies to term will not do so.

The good news is that, with help from Jim Wallis and others, the party platform now calls for these needs to be met. It also calls for educational programs to reduce unwanted pregnancies, with room for the teaching of abstinence, and asks for government agencies to make adoptions easier.

These achievements were lauded by Democrats for Life and by the Catholic Alliance for Life. While at the Democratic National Convention, religious leaders of other faith traditions personally thanked me for my efforts. Even leaders of some pro-choice organizations hailed this compromise, claiming that at last they could find some common ground with pro-life advocates.

Purists, on the other hand, have had hard words for me, claiming that I should not have been involved in any way with a political party that is pro-choice. While I understand their desire to settle for nothing less than the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, I nevertheless believe that my decision to work for abortion reduction was a good one.

Consider these questions: If 10 children are drowning in a swimming pool, and you can only save six of them, should you save the six? Or, should you wait until help arrives that can save them all, even if you know that the six you could save will be lost in the meantime?

To my Christian brothers and sisters who are part of the party that has a pro-life platform, I have to ask whether they are willing to hold the Republican Party to its pro-life commitments. For several years, the Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, and had a Supreme Court wherein seven of its nine judges were Republican appointees. Yet no effort was made to overturn Roe vs. Wade -- and very little pressure to do something about this was put on Republican leaders by evangelicals who had given them 82 percent of their votes in 2004. And, are they willing to demand that provisions such as I worked for in the Democratic platform become policies of their party? To fail to do so would be to protect the unborn child and then abandon that child and the mother in the delivery room. And do not raise the matter of how much money these proposals will cost. We all know better than that.

For those who condemn any compromise on this divisive issue of abortion, may I suggest that they consider not paying their taxes since they are financing a government that supports a woman's right to have an abortion -- and in some instances even puts money into organizations that perform them.

There are legitimate concerns about my actions, but I decided that if some of the unborn could be saved, it would be wrong for me not to do what I could to save them.

Tony Campolo
Tony Campolo is founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE) and professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University.

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