The Fallacy of the Hot Button Issue

It’s that time again….election time…. a time when people come out of the woodwork touting their pet issues to try and get you to vote for them or for their candidate based on just one issue.

Perhaps the biggest of these hot button issues is the legality of abortions, with Republicans typically lining up to accept huge checks from evangelical “Christians” on behalf of making them illegal and Democrats typically lining up on the side of allowing women and doctors to make such medical decisions.

I navigate these turbulent waters by taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. I am a lifelong Democrat, and such I have studied many candidates and their positions on this issue. Despite what the negative ads and selectively bribed politicians will tell you, Democrats are not “in favor of abortion.” I don’t believe anyone is. What Democrats believe is that abortions should be – say it with me – safe, legal and rare. It’s a medical procedure that will impact the pregnant woman’s life in immeasurable ways, and it should be left to that woman and whomever else she wishes to involve to make that decision. We don’t feel the government has any business making decisions for women, any more than we feel the government should force men to have vasectomies, which would perhaps be a more humane way to address unwanted pregnancies.

When we are children we often try to get our way by evoking an authority. We tell our siblings, “Mommy said you have to share your ice cream with me.” We tell our classmates, “Mrs. Teacher said you have to give me a turn with the computer.” Sometimes Mommy and Mrs. Teacher really did make these requests, and sometimes kids simply say those things to try and get what they want. It is this approach that the ant-abortion crowd tends to use in their efforts to make the practice illegal. They, of course, evoke “God.”

What I look for in a political party and candidate is consistency. “God,” of course, is silent on the issue of abortion inasmuch as it is absent from the Jewish Old Testament and the Christian New Testament. What the anti-abortion crowd does is label abortion as murder, which is clearly defined as a BIG no-no in pretty much every religious text, and use that to justify any and all actions (even, ironically, violent actions) taken in an effort to stop the practice. The argument over what some ancient text says and how to apply it to modern times can go on forever and resolve nothing. Rather than engage in that, let’s take a step back.

What I care about is the quality of life and the opportunities afforded children. Being “pro life” has to be about more than just birth, but rather extend to life beyond the womb. To be a truly humane society we must assure that children have access to education, affordable health care and employment opportunities. Only one political party is genuinely interested in these post-birth aspects of life for all people equally, and it’s not the “pro-birth” party. If a candidate talks about being a Christian and abortion being murder but isn’t willing to embrace Christ’s mandates to feed, clothe and care for the poor, I can’t get behind them.

Besides, the party that calls abortion murder is also the party that thinks it’s perfectly fine for people to have unlimited access to military-style weapons by evoking another ancient and anachronistic document. You can’t say abortion is killing babies and then defend the killing of thousands of school children and have any rational credibility.

There are no easy issues to solve in our society. It may sound easy enough to say abortions should be illegal, but you’ll only stop them in the poorest of the poor communities. In Texas, where I live, Planned Parenthood was forced to shutter the majority of their locations, but it had an unintended side effect. You see, while Planned Parenthood does perform abortions, they are also a primary provider of low cost or even free contraception, counseling and other services for young women. When they began closing we saw the incidents of unwanted pregnancies skyrocket in the poorest communities – the ones that are most likely to produce children who need taxpayer support for food, health care and basic survival. These communities tend to have the highest crime rates and fill the highest percentages of our prisons.

Does this sound Christian to you?

No, it doesn’t to me, either.

To put it in evangelical terms, what’s the bigger sin? You stop a birth (preferably very early on), or you force a birth and then wash your hands of the child entirely?

It’s important to look at the bigger picture, and most especially on election day. A dangerous person is a dangerous person, even if that person might do one thing you care passionately about. Can God use bad people to accomplish good things? I suppose so. But if God can use bad people to accomplish good things, can’t God just as easily use good people?

The best thing we can do, in this person’s humble opinion, is vote for the best person on the ballot and then call, write and email them to express our opinions and hope that they will work on behalf of the issues we care passionately about.

Namaste.

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