Saturday, September 6, 2008

Single issue voting

So, I'm a Christian.

I am not looking to make America into a "Christian country", but I do believe that "Christian policies" are important when considering a candidate for office. Contrary to what some may believe about me, I do think that a candidate's position on abortion is important. And so as I was reading today at Starbucks I happened upon a thought: "I wonder what the abortion statistics look like during the Bush years compared with the Clinton years."

Obviously, the number should be down if the pro-life aspect of his platform meant anything, right? Well, I did a quick google search and found the article of which many may already be aware, written by a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary around 2004. His findings at that point based upon limited data (I think 16 states) suggested that the number had increased. He gave his analysis and reasoning for this: lack of a social net for people who are poor and getting pregnant when they shouldn't be. His facts were obviously controversial and inspired more research to be done. When this was done and more states were included, it seemed that the number had not risen but that it had also not decreased.

I also found some links to blogs by people who are clearly not fans of Obama decrying his statement at the Saddleback "debate" (?) that the numbers had increased during the Bush presidency. They were wondering if his statistics came from "his wazzoo." I believe that was the technical term employed and stated that research showed that it had gone down and cited a website that I looked at and found them to be accurate . . . at least according to that report.

So, which report do we go with? Obviously the one that is the most comprehensive, objective, and recent. To be honest, I wasn't looking to spend my afternoon in internet research on the topic so I don't feel inclined to verifying which report best represents what actually took place. The findings did support my original hypothesis: the very fact that different reports have found different conclusions suggests that there is much more involved in being a pro-life citizen than voting for whatever candidate describes himself/herself as such.

It seems to me that it shouldn't be debatable that under Bush abortions went down statistically if I am to vote for someone like him simply because of his stated position. It seems that we should be able to guarantee a much better return for our vote than the mixed findings suggest. One might be tempted to say that the original report that I have referred to must have just been written by a "liberal Christian" who doesn't care about the abortion topic because he's probably a socialist moron or something. To do so would be inaccurate as he calls himself a Christian ethicist who is pro-life and has a severely handicapped son to prove it. The data seems to be more unclear than some would like to believe which begs the question: is single issue voting really responsible voting?

Further, how many pro-life voters have even asked themselves this question as they prepare for November's election. How many have taken the time to verify that indeed their voting Bush into office actually furthered the one cause that they truly care about? My guess is that far too many satisfy themselves with political rhetoric.

Finally, one could argue that Bush put two justices on the bench that are conservative and that a Democrat would have appointed other people to those posts who would most likely have been pro-choice and likely to "legislate from the bench" to ensure the protection of Roe v. Wade. Granted. And so if you are satisfied with voting for a candidate based upon the hope that when a position opens up on the bench, your candidate will appoint a pro-life justice, then I have no argument with you. Just keep in mind that conservative judges who are supposed to stick to the Constitution are going to have to hold their peace until someone figures out a way to bring the topic all the way to the Supreme Court. In other words, your vote may be very limited in its projected purpose and there may be many unintended consequences (for example see Tom Delay, Mariana islands, and reports of forced abortions).

In conclusion, even if the statistics demonstrate clearly and universally that abortion declined during the eight years of Bush's presidency, to what end? Are we going to naively believe that we will be able to keep a staunchly pro-life candidate in the White House long enough to eradicate abortion once and for all? The very fact that we may end up with a strongly pro-choice President Obama in the White House clearly demonstrates that this is unrealistic. 

Perhaps we need to expand our vision to consider other aspects in this fight against a very real evil. If nothing else, we at least need to do our homework beyond listening to a few carefully crafted speeches meant to gain certain segments of the electorate.

3 comments:

Tammy said...

good job on presenting the problem of one-issue voting!

Brian C said...

Hey Trey-

I felt like commenting on this post too! This really nails the pilgrimage I've been on over the past 5 years or so. I can't relay all of that pilgrimage in this space, but I can tell you of my experiences in our developing country. I live in a country where abortion is illegal. And yet I watch the news and it seems like once a month there is a story about some teenage couple that got pregnant and b/c of the shame of it (which is much, much greater than in the States) they have sought out an abortion. This abortion was not safe and thus they suffered (at least the girl did). I hate hearing those stories. So, now they have not only endured great trauma, but now they're going to jail too. I am certainly pro-life. But I would hate to see the States adopt some sort of policy that simply made abortions illegal (with penalty of jail-time) without ministering to the needs of the woman (physically, mentally, and emotionally). I do like when I hear politicians speak of reducing the number of abortions. I can't disagree with that, but maybe I'd like a bit more. But certainly not what staunch pro-lifers want. Anyway, that is just a testimony to add to this dialogue.

Andrew said...

Congressman Ron Paul had the answer to this, but nobody paid attention. In his "Sanctity of Life" bill, he established as a statement of scientific certainty that life begins at conception, and removed the federal court's jurisdiction from the issue altogether.

Waiting for the Supreme Court to be entirely "pro-life" is taking too long, and millions of people's civil liberties are being violated in the meantime as women across the country choose to end another person's life.

But I think we have to step back and ask ourselves if "pro-life" should mean more than just anti-abortion -- the way I see it, I can either vote for one candidate who will maintain the rights of women to commit arbitrary infanticide on this side of the ocean, or I can vote for the other who will ensure the government and military's rights to kill innocents on the other side of the ocean.

And that, my friends, is the real failure of the two-party system.