Ex-Vice President Mike Pence often said “I am a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” I view myself as an American constitutionalist, a rationalist with moral choices. The difference is telling.
The First Amendment’s philosophy is that truth will eventually win out. Our experiment with freedom of thought and expression is worth the melee of opinions. Thus, whatever my position on a policy, I’d desire all relevant information be freely available, confident that a decision based on rationality after full investigation would not falter before facts.
Abortion policy’s consequences on the woman, her family and society would be analyzed, including society’s investment in the woman. The link between Roe vs Wade and the huge reduction in violent crime about a generation later would be considered, as would the precedent of a government’s coercive dictate over a person’s body.
In an overpopulated world, I’d advocate preventing potential abortion situations by supporting extensive sex education for teens covering all forms of birth control, and easy availability of contraceptives here and abroad in welcoming countries.
I’d investigate why the abortion rate is generally lower in abortion-liberal countries, examine the experience of those countries with countries that penalize it, and research the link between our “Mexico City Policy” denying aid to foreign organizations having any link to abortion and a surge in Sub-Sahara Africa abortions.
This differs from most anti-abortion groups, who generally oppose sex and birth-control education or making contraceptives easily available, and support censorship of birth-control information here and abroad. The same groups largely oppose government policies assisting infants after birth.
Few abortion-deniers defend their position using the common staples of political discussion: who benefits; who is hurt; what are the costs and implications; historical and contemporary experience; consistency with our governing documents, etc.
Most retreat into “human life begins at conception.”
That’s wholly a religious, not scientific assertion. A one-celled zygote can easily be distinguished from a 5,000,000,000,000+-cell human. If critical thinking makes humans unique, a blastocyst’s lack of neurons compares poorly to a human brain’s 86,000,000,000 neurons with more than 125 trillion synapses. The slogan does not answer when life should be recognized for governmental purposes.
The anti-abortion movement is basically pro-theocracy: its religious beliefs on abortion should become governmental policy on that basis. Its contradictory positions are not hypocritical, but consistent with religious tenets which prize orthodoxy, not rationalism nor consistency nor free speech nor unfettered access to opposing views.
The young U.S. was revolutionary, eschewing official religion when the Western world was awash in theocracies. The Declaration of Independence avoided the common words for the Judeo-Christian deity in favor of more-muted terms. Political rights were deemed “self-evident” rather than god-given.
The Constitution lacks reference to any god. It’s the Constitution’s view that religion and government should not mix. The Constitution starts, “We the people,” declaring that governmental legitimacy arises from the consent of people, not divine right. No official religion; all religions recognized and their exercise protected; no religious tests for office; officers may affirm rather than swear, etc. Our government was not intended as an evangelical institution.
Imagine the reaction if Muslims demanded laws that all females wear burkas, or Jews demanded a ban on pork, or Hindus sought to outlaw beef. We would reply: “Live your life the way you wish. Don’t hijack our government to impose your religion upon others.”
The Constitution rejects resolving public-policy issues by abdication of reason to religious beliefs. I like it that way.
Jed Somit is a resident of Kapa‘a.