Abortion has been at the forefront of the Religious Right for almost fifty years—since the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1973 that recognized a woman’s freedom to abort a fetus based on the constitutional right to privacy.
That decision was decided by a 7-2 majority, with five of the Republican-appointed Justices voting in the majority. Since that time, Republican presidents have added another ten justices to the Supreme Court while Democrats have added only four. Nevertheless, the Court voted 5-4 this year to strike down restrictions on abortion in the state of Louisiana.
Why is it the so-called Right to Life movement has been unable to outlaw abortion in these United States?
In part, because abortion is a smoke screen behind which its opponents hide.
Being against abortion gives many people a way to be righteously indignant about something, enough to match the fierceness of others who fight against poverty, sexual trafficking, racial injustice, environmental degradation, and a global pandemic.
Taking a moral stand against something makes us feel good about ourselves, lifts us from the trenches of self-interest onto the battlefield for justice, and camouflages the moral failures of our own life history.
Some people vote for anti-abortion candidates and policies even if they don’t know a single person who has ever sought an abortion, even if they cannot recount a single story of a woman coming into a clinic for pregnancy help. In fact, too many voters disassociate their position on abortion from the lives and loves of the people who most need that service.
That’s not all.
The anti-abortion campaign gives people a cause that demands nothing, save perhaps a few hundred dollars now and then, sent to some organization urging our support of anti-abortion candidates. It rarely calls upon people to sacrifice something, or serve somebody, or support public or private efforts to care for the children born because no abortion is available.
Then there’s this: if the “right-to-life” bunch were really concerned about life in all its manifestations they would be at the forefront of efforts to combat the virus known as COVID 19.
They would be wearing masks, cancelling church, and supporting public health officials. But, led by their denier-in-chief in the White House, Republican officials at every level of American life have projected the pandemic as over hyped and prevented authorities at every level from doing what the American people have most needed this election year—save us from the viral invasion that has already killed 170,000 people in six months.
The doctors tell us the worst is to come, and that will certainly be the case as long as the right-to-life people are in charge of responses and resources. This is the life-and-death issue at the center of the political struggle to lead and serve of America. Decision day is November 3.
Until then, right-to-lifers will continue to fly under the anti-abortion battle flag by which they signal their affection for all their other life-denying issues: capital punishment, militarized police, high incarceration, environmental degradation, and showing up at public events cloaked in every kind of deadly weapon one might imagine.
This is what I see and sense when I watch these “pro-life” protesters demand an end to abortion. How tragic that their “pro-life” President has failed to protect our nation from this pandemic of disease and death and allowed a vicious virus to creep its way into every school, business, and community. His disregard of public health specialists, his refusal to wear a mask, his ignorant assertions that the infections are declining, and his concern for political more than health outcomes falsifies every pro-life posturing he practices and his minions profess.
Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, spoke to this truth in July when he said: “For this president to call himself pro-life, and for anybody to back him because of claims of being pro-life, is almost willful ignorance. He is so much anti-life because he is only concerned about himself, and he gives us every, every, every indication of that.”
Trump and his anti-abortion troops need to redirect their moral indignation and mobilize their political energy to fight the real danger already among us, that virus known as COVID number nineteen.
An earlier version of this commentary was distributed last week by Baptist News Global.