Response to Readers

By Jim Wallis 8-15-2008

I've been reading through the extensive comments on my blog post on abortion reduction and the Democratic Platform. As usual, the comments span the spectrum. But I found it puzzling that those who are so adamantly against the Democrats on abortion (as I have also been) seem so satisfied with the Republicans just repeating that abortion should be illegal, while the abortion rate never changes, even under Republican rule. The Republican position often feels cynical to me -- privately admitting that a total ban on abortion in America will never happen, but using it every four years to get the votes of people who genuinely care about saving unborn lives (as I do).

I would encourage those critics to listen to the comments of Doug Kmiec, a Republican judicial appointee of Ronald Reagan, a Catholic intellectual, and Chair & Professor of Law at Pepperdine University, who cares deeply about abortion but now thinks the Democrats have a good chance to reduce the abortion rate. During a conference call that Sojourners hosted this week with evangelical and Catholic leaders, Doug said, "What this does is commit the Democratic Party to supply real support for the child and for the woman facing this question in terms of pre- and post-natal healthcare, in terms of income support, the kind of support like paternity leave, family leave and an improvement in the accessibility in adoption. These are tangible things and very much related to Catholic social teachings." He also sees a positive step in the Democratic Platform language in the affirmation of abortion reduction and the practical solutions that would support that goal; rather than just repeating a symbolic ban. I agree with him.

Sojourners is on record in support of a ban on partial birth abortions and other restrictions but we don't believe that simple bans are possible or even the most pro-life solutions. Support for women caught up in difficult situations and tragic choices is a better path than coercion for really reducing the abortion rate. Yes, I agree there is never a "need" for abortion except in the case where the health of the mother is threatened. But until we can reach out to women who "feel" the need for abortion and support them in alternative choices, we will never change the shameful abortion rate that both sides seem content to live with while they just attack each other. It is time to move from symbols to solutions.

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