Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Pro-Life Evangelical Votes for Democrat Obama

Starting in 1984, I have never voted for a Democrat for President, primarily because the Republican candidate expressed a pro-life stance, and had the backing of a party with a pro-life platform. 2008 is different. Here's why:

1. Valuing the dignity of human life goes far beyond opposing abortion. I've decided that being pro-life means:
  • You care about the world that you are leaving to future generations.
  • You care about the dignity of the most vulnerable--the poor, the oppressed, the elderly, the unborn.
  • You care about the eradication of injustice and inequality.
  • You recognize that Americans have no special dispensation from God to act as they please, since all human beings are created equal, whether they are Iraqi, Zimbabwean, French, Chinese, or American. This doctrine leads to a real humility with regard to choosing to invade other countries militarily. I salute the men and women who serve courageously in our armed forces, but I cannot abide the Bush Doctrine and those who uphold it (most notably McCain and Palin).
So my previous view of pro-life policy was far too narrow, because it focused on just one (albeit important) aspect of life. And here I might add that influential Christian thinkers, both Catholic and Protestant, have been preaching this broad view for some time. In fact, the seven principles of Catholic social teaching, as declared in Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum ("Of New Things"), are:

* Life and Dignity of the Human Person
* Call to Family, Community, and Participation
* Rights and Responsibilities
* Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
* The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
* Solidarity
* Care for God's Creation

As I look over this list, I see a lot of areas where Democrats, in my view, hold the upper hand. They do much better in the "option for the poor and vulnerable," especially as this pertains to tax policy. They support the rights of workers to organize and earn a living wage far more strongly than Republicans. They have more consistently expressed a concern for stewardship of God's creation. They have earned my vote.

2. The Democratic emphasis on pragmatic policies to reduce abortions holds greater promise than the Republican emphasis on the ideal of making abortion illegal.

First, the Republican approach of restrictive legislation is preordained to fail due to the legal doctrine of stare decisis (adherence to precedent). Short of a constitutional amendment, Roe v. Wade and other decisions that allow a woman to give preference to her health as determined by her and her physician rather than her unborn child will remain the law of the land. In other words, our next President and his judicial appointments, whether they be pro-life or pro-choice, will have very little influence on the legality of abortion, because the issue has already been decided on constitutional grounds.

Second, access restriction legislation is far less effective at reducing abortion than liberal welfare policies. The "Reducing Abortion in America" public policy study released by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good concludes that abortion restriction policies such as parental consent laws have had a negligible impact on abortion rates. On the other hand, "social and economic supports such as benefits for pregnant women and mothers and economic assistance to low-income families have contributed significantly to reducing the number of abortions in the United States over the past twenty years." Here I will let the report speak for itself:

"[A] two standard deviation difference among states in the reported level of economic assistance to low income families is correlated with a 20% lower abortion rate. Across the entire United States, this translates into 200,000 fewer abortions. The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 allowed states to impose a cap on the number of children eligible to receive economic assistance in low-income families. Removing this family cap would decrease abortions by about 15% or 150,000 nationwide. The findings also suggest that, in the 1990s, states with more generous grants to women, infants and children under the age of five as provided by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program had a 37% lower abortion rate. Finally, higher male employment in the 1990s was associated with a 29% lower abortion rate."

In other words, if you truly desire to reduce abortions in the US,
  • Remove family caps to welfare assistance (which have been enacted primarily in Republican strongholds like Mississippi and South Carolina [my home state]).
  • Increase welfare assistance to the poor, especially in the WIC program. Follow the Democratic California and NY assistance model, not the Republican Mississippi and SC model.
  • Help poor men gain employment skills, and employment.
So which of the major parties, and which of the Presidential candidates, will be more supportive of liberal welfare assistance policies? If you care about reducing abortions, this is the question you should be asking. If you want my vote, stop talking about welfare and tax policy in terms of supposedly promoting socialism and income redistribution, and start talking in terms of compassion and bringing children into the world. This is how the Democratic Party is choosing to frame its policies, and it is quite clear to me that the Democratic policies are dramatically more conducive to reducing abortions.

The great irony of the abortion debate is that some of the most vociferous voices against abortion have, through their conservative welfare policies, contributed to hundreds of thousands more abortions each year. I will grant that this promotion of abortions has been unwitting. Now that you and I know the truth of the matter on what really helps to reduce abortions, though, we need to vote November 4 on the basis of what really happens as a result of policy decisions--not on the basis of a political party's rhetoric. Deeds, not words, are what count.

3. The Democratic Party's new language about the importance of reducing abortions and its embrace of pro-life Democrats such as Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey appear to be genuine. For the first time that I can remember, the Democratic Party has this year recruited dozens of pro-life advocates to run for Congress and has actively supported them with millions of dollars in campaign funds. Pro-choice elements of the party may not be happy with this shift, but they have not prevailed.

Will the Democrats go the distance with this new-found approach to reducing abortions and supporting pro-life candidates, or will it turn out to be a cynical ploy designed to garner votes in 2008? It's impossible to predict the future, but I'm willing to give the Democrats a chance to demonstrate their sincerity. Part of the reason I'm willing to give them this chance is that I have not been particularly impressed with Republican leadership on the issue over the past 24 years; the gulf between Republican talk and Republican action has been quite acute. Even this year, McCain's attempt to select Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman, staunchly pro-choice friends, as his vice presidential running mate do not make me think that a McCain administration would really care about the issue. For that matter, Sarah Palin never took any notable action on pro-life concerns during her tenure as governor of Alaska. She has behaved in an exemplary fashion in choosing to lovingly raise a Down's Syndrome baby, but this personal virtue has not had any corresponding public policy action.

My decision is made. Because I have concluded that an Obama presidency will be more pro-life (as properly defined) in action, he has earned my vote on November 4.

14 comments:

Ronald Falter said...

I think that Mr. Chris Falter should think in graphic detail, not just in theory or generalities, but in GRAPHIC DETAIL, what Mr. Obama has advocated by his votes in the Illinois senate. Three times Mr. Obama has voted that a baby who has survived an abortion does not have the protection of law for medical attention for its survival. Think about that; it has happened at Christ Hospital in Chicago. A baby survived an abortion, and was thrown alive into a dirty linen hamper, but was found by a caring nurse, Jill Stanek, who did all she could by holding the baby in her arms for 45 minutes to give it a loving death. This was not the only case of abandoning a survivor of abortion. According to Mr. Obama, this is lawful and good. Second point: Mr. Obama voted "present" on a vote to ban the most hideous violence ever to be committed in our country against a living human being, given the name "partial birth abortion" by the congress of the United States. Let me describe it for anyone who does not know what this is. Intended for late term abortion, the abortionist turns the baby around in the mother's womb, and pulls it out of the mother's womb feet-first until only the baby's head remains in the birth canal. Then the abortionist takes a scissors, and jabs a hole in the back of the baby's neck at the base of the skull. Now, remember, the baby is alive at this time and feels excruciating pain with every motion of the abortionist's hands. Then, the abortionist takes a vacuum hose and sucks the brain out of the baby's head, causing the baby's skull to collapse. Then, the abortionist removes the dead baby from the mother's birth canal, which completes the execution. Remember, too, that the congress of the United States has voted that this was going over the edge, too much for a civilized nation to endure. But not for Mr. Obama. Now, Mr. Obama has stated publicly that the first act he will perform if elected president is to enact the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). The consequences of the Freedom of Choice Act would be to totally eliminate any restrictions or any regulations on a woman's "right to choose". Besides bringing back the above two hideous acts, the FOCA would also strike out parental approval and parental notification, even where the courts have declared it constitutional. Think about this; a student cannot be given an aspirin at school without a parents approval, yet Mr. Obama wants an underage girl to be able to have an abortion without having to tell her parents. No imagination is needed to know the horrible problem that this can lead to. Mr. Falter and all readers, I ask you: is this really what will make our country a better place for ALL human beings to live in? Mr. Obama thinks it will. Remember that there was a time that the slaves were not considered human beings, thus not entitled to protection by law. Does history have to repeat itself? Since 1973, the Roe v Wade decision has accounted for the death sentence without trial for 47 million innocent helpless babies. How many more must die before we come to our senses?

Chris Falter said...

Hi, Dad. I agree that almost all abortion is a horrible evil--the only exception being when the mother's life is *truly* in danger. That's why I plan to vote for the party and candidate who are going to do the most to actually reduce the practice of abortion in the US... rather than the party and candidate that talk big while, inadvertantly or not, they actually promote the evil practice through their economic and social welfare policies.

The bottom line for me is not who can act the most sanctimonious or pronounce the most pious language. The bottom line is who can deliver the policies that will actually reduce the scourge. My public policy analysis, substantiated by data from Catholics in Alliance for Common Good, is that Obama and the Democrats are the ones who will deliver the goods we pro-life believers truly desire.

McCain and Palin may be able to deliver a speech that tickles pro-life ears. Unfortunately, their economic and welfare policies will act to increase the practice of abortions in the US. Knowing you as I do, I'm sure that you do not desire this outcome.

Warm filial regards....

Pastor Ray Hewitt said...

Hi Chris,
Sorry, I am with your dad on this one. Your reasoning used in your blog is too far of stretch for me to reconcile.

Reading between the lines of this entry, it appears to me that the choice on how to vote is really being driven more by agreement with his economic and foreign policy than for his prolife record.

:)

PR

Ronald Falter said...

Chris,
I was planning to rest my case, but your mention of a "Catholic" source for your conclusion requires comment. I have never heard of Catholic Alliance for Common Good, so I checked their home page. My questions are:
1. I know that you know better than to accept commentary from anyone without checking credentials. Have you looked at the bios of the staff of Catholic Alliance for the Common Good? Loaded with field organizers and social justice workers. I am not saying that these efforts don't have merit, but don't they have anyone who has worked with the Catholic Church in the area of spirituality and faith formation? Don't they have anyone who has worked in the area of life in the womb and studied the Church documents regarding the Catholic Church position on life from the moment of conception to natural death? They have NO bishops on their advisory staff. I don't remember any priests either.
2. The sources that they cited for as their guide for their work are almost totally void of official Catholic Church documents.
3. Isn't it strange that an organization that calls itself Catholic, is so lacking in Church guidance on such an important issue?

To follow up on your phone call and second Email message, I want to recommend to you that you read what the Bishops of the United States have released for their guidance to the body regarding the issue of life, from conception to natural death. Since you seem to value the Catholic perspective on the life issue, I think that at least you should read what the official Catholic position is on such an important issue, and not rely on unofficial opinions. Here is where you can find the Bishops' document. www.faithfulcitizenship.org
click on Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. It's lengthy, but you will get the true picture.
Also, to meet your interest in Dr. Robert George, you can see the interview which was shown on EWTN that I saw yesterday. Here is how to get it.
EWTN.com
Television/EWTN Prime/The World Over
The World Over, Real Video
scroll down to Archived Video, The World Over, 300K

It's on Real Player; the program is 60 minutes long. If you want to go direct to Dr. George, pick Play(at top), Seek to, enter 30 minutes, Seek

Ronald Falter said...

Chris,
I was planning to rest my case, but your mention of a "Catholic" source for your conclusion requires comment. I have never heard of Catholic Alliance for Common Good, so I checked their home page. My questions are:
1. I know that you know better than to accept commentary from anyone without checking credentials. Have you looked at the bios of the staff of Catholic Alliance for the Common Good? Loaded with field organizers and social justice workers. I am not saying that these efforts don't have merit, but don't they have anyone who has worked with the Catholic Church in the area of spirituality and faith formation? Don't they have anyone who has worked in the area of life in the womb and studied the Church documents regarding the Catholic Church position on life from the moment of conception to natural death? They have NO bishops on their advisory staff. I don't remember any priests either.
2. The sources that they cited for as their guide for their work are almost totally void of official Catholic Church documents.
3. Isn't it strange that an organization that calls itself Catholic, is so lacking in Church guidance on such an important issue?

To follow up on your phone call and second Email message, I want to recommend to you that you read what the Bishops of the United States have released for their guidance to the body regarding the issue of life, from conception to natural death. Since you seem to value the Catholic perspective on the life issue, I think that at least you should read what the official Catholic position is on such an important issue, and not rely on unofficial opinions. Here is where you can find the Bishops' document. www.faithfulcitizenship.org
click on Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. It's lengthy, but you will get the true picture.
Also, to meet your interest in Dr. Robert George, you can see the interview which was shown on EWTN that I saw yesterday. Here is how to get it.
EWTN.com
Television/EWTN Prime/The World Over
The World Over, Real Video
scroll down to Archived Video, The World Over, 300K

It's on Real Player; the program is 60 minutes long. If you want to go direct to Dr. George, pick Play(at top), Seek to, enter 30 minutes, Seek

Michael said...

Chris, brother Mike here.

My atheist friends are nice people but tend to hold a dim view of religion. It will be news to some of them that my brother, an evangelical Christian, considered a wide range of moral issues before voting. (And I will bring it up at our next dinner in a few weeks.)

There was an article in the New Yorker this year about an emerging number of evangelicals who are politically motivated not just on abortion, but by health care, education, the environment, Africa, and other moral issues. Rick Warren ("The Purpose-Driven Life") was quoted extensively. You're not alone.

Linda said...

My dear husband,
You are well aware of my position from our lovely talk in the park, but I will none-the-less record it here for the benefit of broadening the discussion.
Senator Obama defines his position on the abortion issue as pro-choice and not pro-life. His motivation for the public policies you eagerly label pro-life is the (admirable) desire to enable choice and enpowerment to the poor, and should not be construed as a defense of the unborn. While he considers every abortion "a tragedy," he considers the societal burdens of caring for an "unwanted" child the greater evil. Your thinking on the importance of a holistic solution to the abortion problem is exactly right, but unfortunately it seems that you are imputing an implied philosophy of the sacredness of life on our esteemed Democratic candidate that simply does not exist.
You are not the only one guilty of wishful thinking, however. Conservative Christian Republicans by the score are choosing to ignore the deeply troubling character issues on record concerning McCain and yes, even Governor Palin.
Thus, I find myself at a loss for a worthy candidate. Is Chris Falter running?

Ronald Falter said...

Chris,
I have dug deeper, and have found the answer to my questions which I asked in my previous comment. The reason that the Catholic Alliance for Common Good is void of representation or advice from any Church authority is that they are composed of people who oppose the official Church position on abortion. You can get the background on this group by going to the web-site of Cardinal George from Chicago, as follows
http://catholickey.blogspot.com/2008/09/cardinal-george-slams-common-good-fraud.html
Chris, I am not trying to tell you how to vote. What I am trying to tell you, is that if you want to use authentic Catholic teaching for forming your opinion on this issue or any issue, you must go to authentic Catholic sources. If you have any problem getting through to Cardinal George's site, please let me know.
Mike, I have known you for many years (44?), and I know that your friends would be good people, as you are a good person. My point in all of this is that human existence, destiny, and fulfillment need some very good explanations that stand the test of time. Also, I believe that those explanations are beyond mere human capability to supply. I have found that the Catholic Church gives me good explanation, guidance, and help that way. And so on this issue, I believe that the Catholic Church is guiding me in the truth of Jesus Christ that will in the end make me more able to contribute to good in this world.

Jennings and Debbie said...

Hi Chris!
This is sister Debbie.
I found a very interesting article written by Robert George, a professor at Princeton University:

Obama's Abortion Extremism
by Robert George
October 14, 2008
You can view this article at:
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/viewarticle.php?selectedarticle=
2008.10.14_George_Robert_Obama
%27s%20Abortion%20Extremism_.xml

Chris, he speaks about the very issues you have brought up in your essay. However, he adds some other important points that you have not mentioned, which according to Robert George could actually lead to an increase of the number of abortions performed if Senator Obama becomes president. Please read this article so you can consider these points.

Debbie Rowell

Chris Falter said...

@ronald falter (Dad):

I never said I was relying on the political philosophy of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG). I said I was relying on the statistical data they published on the effect of various policy options on the rate of abortion. Using statistical techniques common among economists, they concluded that liberal welfare policies reduce abortions, parental consent laws do not, and "conservative" welfare policies increase abortions.

We cannot judge the validity of their data by their motives. The public policy study stands (or falls) on the quality of the statistical analysis. In other words, the CACG's motives, and the Catholic Key's view of them, are completely beside the point. Sometimes a blind hog can dig up a mushroom, and sometimes a poorly motivated organization can stumble upon the truth in spite of themselves.

I read Cardinal George's letter, and the Catholic Key's commentary, but did not see anything that disputed the econometric analysis of CACG's study. In addition, I read the bishops' document, which is outstanding. But again, they are not economists or statisticians, so I don't see any reason to change my policy perspective. I agree 100% with them that we need to strive to uphold the dignity of God-given life; I have concluded that the Democratic platform is superior to the Republican one for that very reason.

All that said, I agree 100% with your statement that the Catholic Church is playing a critical role in providing a moral compass for the all of humanity, regardless of denominational affiliation (or lack thereof).

BTW, I do not have Real Player installed, and do not intend to install it because of the way it installs useless junk on a computer. Is there a transcript of George's talk some place? I could probably read it more quickly than I could listen anyway.

@Pastor Ray:
I cannot deny that my support for Obama extends beyond what I wrote here. At the same time, I hope you will not discount what I wrote about the importance of just wars, stewardship of the environment, and and policies that favor widows, orphans, and the poor.

Almost 100,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives in the Iraq war. I respectfully submit that this makes Bush's cavalier disregard of just war theory in launching an unnecessary war a pro-life issue. And those who insist that Bush was right, and egged him on in 2002 (think McCain here), do not deserve my vote on this important moral ground.

@Linda:
You are such a beautiful woman. Will you be my First Lady?

I too am troubled by the attitudes of McCain and Palin. McCain has called his wife nasty, horrible names in public, among other things. As for Palin, a bipartisan panel of Alaskan legislators unanimously concluded that she had violated Alaskan law and had abused the office of governor. Obama and Biden have also made distressing statements. None of them are messiahs, for sure. That's why I'm trying to focus as much as possible on policy, not rhetoric. I don't trust political rhetoric one bit, whether it be Democratic or Republican.

@Mike:
Love you, bro! The power of Christ is supposed to transform all of creation. "If any man is in Christ, behold--a new creation!" That is why I'm trying to gain a broader perspective of what it means to follow the social teachings of the church.

Chris Falter said...

@Debbie:
Just after I posted my long-winded reply, I saw your latest comment. I will check out George's article.

Chris Falter said...

OK, I've read George's article, which mentions some statistical analysis by Michael New and Tom McClusky about the effects of legislation similar to FOCA. What George does not mention is that the Supreme Court has already struck down challenges to state laws that throw up a shield against the FOCA-style policies. In other words, as reprehensible as the ideas behind FOCA are, I don't think that train's going anywhere, even if Obama does get it passed.

Again, I'm not saying Obama's sentiments are noble, his motives are pure as driven snow, or even that his policies are well-motivated. I'm just saying that the economic and welfare policies he has championed will do a lot of good on the abortion issue, even if he doesn't intend for them to do so.

I disagree with George that the analogy to slavery is apropos. A more cogent historical example is Prohibition, where righteous-minded folk managed to enact a constitutional amendment with wonderful, godly aims. Unfortunately, the means did not enjoy a consensus of the populace, so the new policy was undermined and eventually failed.

George seems to be saying that only the whole loaf is worth pursuing. I respectfully disagree. I think we should gratefully accept any partial loaves offered to us.

I might also add that much of George's analysis is driven by views Obama expressed when responding to a questionnaire over a decade ago. Since he has held public office, he has not followed through on many of those views (such as the idea of repealing the Hyde Amendment, or of removing federal funding from crisis counseling centers). Obama's legislative record indicates that he has relented on those views.

I might also add that in fact, in 1975 the Illinois legislature had already passed a law requiring medical assistance for any babies who emerged alive from the womb, regardless of whether an abortion was occurring. While I share George's dim view of Obama's opposition to the so-called "Born Alive" Act, Obama is almost certainly correct in asserting that the new legislation was redundant.

Finally, George addresses the issue of stem-cell research. Again, I share George's distaste for Obama's views. McCain did not express any view on S.1520 in 2005, but he has voted consistently in favor of embryonic stem-cell research. In fact, it was because of McCain's consistent pro-embryonic stem cell research votes that Dobson vowed this spring that he could never vote for McCain. So based on action, as opposed to the latest campaign rhetoric, I don't see much distinction between Obama and McCain on this issue. George is giving a pass to McCain on this issue, but McCain doesn't deserve it.

Jennings and Debbie said...

Hi Chris,
You mentioned Dr. Dobson's spring letter about McCain. Have you read his October 2008 Focus Action letter? I think you would be interested. Here is the address of the web site to read his letter:

http://www.citizenlink.org/focusaction/updates/A000008358.cfm

Also, I do believe there are some great similarities between slavery and abortion. Pastor Chitty spoke about these in his message this past Sunday (10/26/08) Usually, you can hear his messages at our church's website at ChristianLifeColumbia.com

Lovingly,
Your sister Debbie

Chris Falter said...

Yeah, Debbie, I read the Dobson piece when it first came out. He makes the usual arguments for Republican candidates, based on their sympathetic rhetoric and occasional action on things like parental consent laws. Again, I understand this argument, but I think the statistical analysis of the actual abortion effects of economic and welfare policies trumps it.

Dobson also said some ridiculous things. For example, he castigated Obama for backing age-appropriate sex education in public schools, claiming that educators could not be trusted to teach appropriate materials to kindergarteners. Factcheck.org has firmly backed Obama's depiction of the legislation, however. And Dobson failed to note that the legislation permitted an undisputed no-questions-asked right for parents to keep their children out of any sex education classes they were not comfortable with.

It is also clear that Dobson is in way, way over his head when he discusses economic policy. Dobson writes, "This is not the time to be taking money out of the economy, yet, [Obama] has proposed enormous new federal programs and entitlements that will cost multiple billions of dollars." Ahem, Dr. Dobson, economists ordinarily describe a boost in federal spending as pumping money into the economy.

As to the slavery question, I agree that the lack of personhood and legal protections accorded to blacks in antebellum America does resemble the lack of personhood and legal protections accorded to unborn children today. Given the social climate in the US today, though, I still think that the Prohibition analogy is the one we should pay attention to as we contemplate the next steps for combatting abortion in the US.