Despite all the buzz in the Christian world–or more appropriately in the secular press about the Christian world–about no longer voting based on single issues (for most folks, that single issue would be or would have been abortion), there is no doubt that which direction many Christians go at the polls in November will fundamentally hinge upon their answer to the question of which party has greater respect for human life. For some, the answer is still obviously the Republican party, while for others, the movement of the Democratic party on issues that relate to the demand for abortion, as well as the policies of the Republican party on the environment and war have led them to the conclusion that it is the Democratic party that supports a more broad-based pro-life agenda. Â While many want to deny the continued importance of abortion as a political issue, I don’t believe it is becoming less important. If anything it is becoming more important as it now seems as though some Democrats at least, want to make their party safe for pro-life people.
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting write up of the Democrats rightward (or middle-ward) creep on this issue entitled “Tiptoeing to the right on abortion,” by Suzanne Sataline. Basically, the issues raised in the article have to do with the increased prominence and voice given to some pro-life democrats and to the organization Democrats for Life. Kristen Day, the executive director of of that organization put it this way:
“In 2004, we couldn’t get a word in. This time, they reached out to us,” says Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, a six-year-old advocacy organization that sponsored a convention gathering that featured antiabortion Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis of Tennessee. “The big tent is opening up.”
There are those who disagree with this assessment, and believe that the party is actually moving to the left in some ways (you can read about that here). But whether the movement is real or merely perceived, the reaction is certainly real and these changes are not being happily received in some quarters, as evidenced by the response of those in pro-abortion organizations. One response in particular stood out to me, that of Marjorie Signer:
“It pains me that our party holds this pro-life view,” says Marjorie Signer, a spokeswoman for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a national nonprofit group made up of groups from 15 denominations. “I have a big problem reducing the number” of abortions. How would that be achieved, she asks — “by cutting off access and making [abortion] impossible to get?”
Leaving aside the fact that someone would seemingly call the democratic position unequivocally pro-life despite the fact that the Democratic Party platform “strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade,” and “a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion,” I was very interested in Signer’s reaction because of the group she represents. Some of the readers of this blog may remember the fact that the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church chose to affiliate our entire denomination with this group. At General Convention 06 the Diocese of Tennessee was one of several Dioceses to introduce resolutions to remove the Episcopal Church from that organization.
This is the language and position that Ms. Signer finds so objectionable:
But it asserts that the party “also strongly supports access to comprehensive affordable family planning services and age-appropriate sex education” that “help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.” About 1.2 million abortions are performed each year in the U.S.
“This platform, for the first time, acknowledges and supports a decision to exercise choice in a different direction, to carry a child to term,” says Michael Yaki, the national platform director for the Democratic National Committee. “The core value, a woman’s right to choose, has not been compromised at all.”
This begs the question–as though there wasn’t a question before about affiliating an entire body of Christians with a lobbying group that unabashedly takes a position contrary to historic Christian teaching, and does so in a radical way–as to whether the Episcopal Church (or any of the other 15 denominations/religious groups) ought to be affiliated with an organization that believes the position of the Democratic party on Abortion is too pro-life.
Some of us here in the Diocese of Tennessee and at least three other Dioceses of the Episcopal Church were upset enough about this to submit resolutions at General Convention 2006 to rescind our membership in the RCRC. Perhaps as their ideology is shown to be out of step with even democratic orthodoxy this subject will receive a new airing. I pray so.
Here’s the text of the original TN resolution which was tabled at GC2006:
Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church U.S.A. does hereby rescind the affiliation of the Episcopal Church U.S.A. with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice effected by the Executive Council on 12 January 2006.
EXPLANATION On 12, January 2006, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America formally affirmed the affiliation of the Episcopal Church with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a registered political lobby. In 1978, the General Convention declined to affiliate with the organization (then known as the “Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights”). Abortion remains a matter of deepest controversy among this Church’s membership and is perhaps the most contentious issue in American public life. Many Episcopalians in this Diocese are profoundly troubled by this action of the Executive Council and cannot in good conscience support an organization which promotes an act we believe to be gravely contrary to Christian morality. As the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury has written, “For a large majority of Christians – not only Roman Catholics, and including myself – it is impossible to regard abortion as anything other than the deliberate termination of a human life.” The literature and website of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice reveal that it advocates positions on abortion specifically at odds with those of the Episcopal Church, as expressed by a resolution of the 71st General Convention, which resolution declares that, “As Christians, we believe strongly that if [the right to abortion] is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.” It is certainly true that many of our ecumenical partners, including the Roman Catholic Church, are utterly opposed to the agenda of groups such as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and this affiliation will unquestionably hamper these relationships and our striving together toward the unity in mission and ministry for which our Lord prayed. The effect of this action of the Executive Council, an action which involves the Diocese of Tennessee and every Episcopalian, is to preempt dialogue between Episcopalians who find themselves on opposite sides of this issue, further dividing an already polarized Church by taking away one more plot of middle ground upon which we could meet and seek, in charity, to persuade one another.