The Common Good

A Step Forward on Abortion

Sojomail - August 14, 2008


In the Olympic Village, you can find religious freedom. Maybe some foreigners can worship. ... But I tell you, the real crisis in China now is that there are no reformers left. The power struggle among the leadership is for power, not reform. To have real political reform, they would lose their power.

- Fan Yafeng, a law professor at the Institute of Law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a leader of an unregistered house church. (Source: The Washington Post)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

A Step Forward on Abortion

Abortion is a moral issue, felt deeply on all sides of the debate. That debate has also been deeply divisive, becoming a “third rail” of American politics. It often influences outcomes of elections, and therefore the direction of the country in other important policy areas. Consistent polling shows that most are between the polarized extremes, simplistically named “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” A majority is both concerned, even alarmed, about the abortion rate in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />America, yet is hesitant to criminalize it. We have sorely needed new common ground that focuses on reducing the need for and number of abortions. Such common ground could be supported by both sides and affirmed by many in the middle.

This past weekend, the Democratic Party’s 2008 platform language was approved. Many have been waiting to see their language about abortion for this election season. The 1996 and 2000 Democratic platforms contained a clause that read, “The Democratic Party is a party of inclusion. We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue, and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of our party.” The draft language of the 2008 platform builds on that clause by supporting two choices that a woman might make—both of which the Democratic Party “strongly supports.”

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First, the platform states that the Democratic Party “strongly and unequivocally supports Roe vs. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” That traditional position of the Democratic Party was to be expected.

Then the platform says the Democratic Party “also strongly supports access to comprehensive affordable family planning services and age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.”

The platform takes a significant step forward in affirming those whose moral convictions lead them to make a different decision than abortion. It reads, “The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.” That position will help make room for people, especially in the religious community, who have strong moral convictions about abortion. Many pro-life Democrats (and there are many in the party) have been looking to be heard, respected, and given a valued space in their own party (as pro-choice Republicans have in their party).

There is indeed some chance for common ground here in the mutual respect for different moral convictions and a shared desire to decrease the need for abortion. There is also a deep and growing conviction among evangelicals and Catholics that the “life issues” also extend to the 30,000 children who die globally each day from poverty and preventable disease, issues of genocide in places like Darfur, human trafficking, the domestic issues of poverty and health care, the foreign policy issues of war and peace, and even in threats like climate change. This election provides us with a pivotal opportunity to transcend old polarities and attempt to bring people together on common ground in a “consistent ethic of life” across a range of issues.

To read the rest of Jim's column, click here.


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Edwards: 'I Sin Every Day'

In the Sojourners/CNN candidate forum in June of 2006, John Edwards said, "I sin every day," in response to a question on sin and forgiveness. Some journalists thought that was a throwaway line from a politician. But as the nation shockingly heard one week ago, Edwards was speaking honestly and even confessionally. Here was a man in a good and strong marriage, known to be a wonderful father, and yet last Friday he painfully and publicly confessed to the terrible mistake of an affair with another woman, which caused great hurt to his wife and the family he loves so much.

Sudan's Lost Boys Pursue Olympic and American Dreams (interview with Dominic Maurice)

Virginia Mitchell and Charlton Breen of the Michigan Darfur Coalition (MDC) recently sat down for an interview with Dominic Maurice. Maurice is a former "Lost Boy" refugee from Sudan who has become a U.S. citizen and resides in Michigan. Last week, Maurice's friend, Lopez Lomong, was selected by Team USA to carry the American flag at the Olympic parade of nations in Beijing.

Power-Sharing in Zimbabwe (by Nontando Hadebe)

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Wedge Issues (Part 2, by Romal Tune)

Two weeks after my grandmother died I received a call from my mother, who is also now deceased, telling me that there was a drive-by shooting on my cousin's house. He, friends, and other family members were sitting on the porch that night when a car drove up and shots were fired. My cousin's girlfriend was in the house with the baby. She laid him on the couch and ran to see if everyone was okay. When she returned to get the baby, he was dead -- a stray bullet hit him in the head. What's my point in sharing this tragedy? These were two young people living in poverty who decided to have their child, not because they are Christians, not because of their understanding of the Bible, or not because of any change in legislation related to abortion, but simply because they wanted to raise and love their child. However, that dream was taken away from them because of a drive-by shooting.

South Africa's Complex Challenges (by Seth Naicker)

People are feeling the pinch of living in a South Africa where democracy has seemingly celebrated a capitalistic culture that does very little for a large population of impoverished people in this developing country. Within an environment where democracy is in need of a social consciousness, reform is needed for the large majority of people who have been denied their rights to basic needs of education, housing, water, etc.

Wedge Issues (Part 1, by Romal Tune)

As we draw closer to the candidate forum at Saddleback Church, I've had several conversations with clergy on the West Coast. Many are wondering if candidates will be asked about abortion and gay marriage. In California there is a ballot initiative on gay marriage, and I'm also hearing that this issue is on the ballot in Florida. No matter how much some people don't want to talk about it, these issues are not going away and they cannot be ignored. I am also among those who have attempted to avoid discussing these two issues, fearing the backlash or getting people off track from talking about other issues on which I work. But perhaps we can engage in a far more healthy discussion about them than we have in the past.

Beer and Bible Night at Kudzu's (by Phyllis Tickle)

One of the great recent joys of my life has been a thing called "Beer and Bible," which happens every other Tuesday night at a small neighborhood pub in Memphis called, appropriately enough, Kudzu's. Kudzu, our bar's namesake, is the South's most ubiquitous form of plant life. It vines its way over almost everything else in sight, giving a vitality and lushness to landscapes that by this time of year would otherwise be sere and faded in our extreme southern heat. Kudzu's, the pub, is a lot like kudzu the plant. It gives vitality and cool to a lot of landscapes that might otherwise have wilted from the heat or just from life in general.

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Commenting on the Daily Digest (by Duane Shank)

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Will an Apology for Slavery Lead to Real Repentance? (by Ben Sanders III)

On July 29, 2008, history was made in the United States House of Representatives – well, kinda. Last week, the House formally apologized for slavery, Jim Crow, and for the racist social consequences that have followed. Never before has the U.S. government publicly apologized for the social institution that reduced Africans to chattel. On one hand, I was humbled, not by the apology, but by the tremendous sacrifice that led to it. To be in a moment where the U.S. House of Representatives publicly apologizes for slavery is certainly a testament to some level of social progress. And because any and all societal progress that black people have experienced is due mostly to the courage, perseverance, and radical love of everyday black folk, this progress should certainly be acknowledged. So I want to preface the remainder of this piece by paying homage to those who have paved the way.


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Top Stories:

Interfaith leaders call for political conventions to focus on poverty
The Dallas Morning News religion blog
Jim Wallis and Richard Cizik are among those signing on to a letter asking that Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama use the presidential nominating conventions to talk - in primetime - about poverty. +read more

U.S. Faith Leaders Press Presidential Hopefuls on Poverty
The Christian Post
High-profile religious leaders urged U.S. presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama to make a major commitment to fighting poverty at their respective party’s national convention. +read more

Democrats Seek Unity in Preparing Party Platform
The Wall Street Journal
"What has been sorely needed is new common ground that focuses on reducing the need for abortions," says the Rev. Jim Wallis, an evangelical leader and liberal political activist who pushed for the new platform to include alternatives to abortion. +read more

Will conservatives listen to new language on abortion?
The Chicago Tribune blog

Dems Reach Middle Ground on Abortion?
The Dallas Morning News trailblazers blog

Party of Intolerance
National Review Online

Dem Party Platform's New Abortion Language
CBN News

We need insight into what level of tolerance exists in our community
The Tennessean

Dems Adopt Platform in Pittsburgh
ABC News political blog

Pro-Life Democrats: Oxy-Morons?

"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way - whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.


Ten Shekel Shirt's Lamont Hiebert has watched as his songs have impacted listeners across the globe. But sometimes actions speak louder. Lamont co-founded the organization Love146 to help end child slavery and exploitation. Love 146 quickly gained national recognition for their work, earning the MySpace Impact Award for Social Justice, among others. Lamont's experiences as a modern-day abolitionist are at the heart of many of the songs on Ten Shekel Shirt's new album Jubilee.

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