"Vote for the Court" and its problems for the pro-life movement

The NPR story below is a tragic reminder of how policy always has unintended consequences: a large number of women are crossing the border from Texas to Mexico to obtain Cytotec, a stomach ulcer drug with the side effect of inducing abortions. With that story in mind, I wrote this post, which comes from my being devoted to both my Catholic faith and to science.

npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/06/09/481269789/legal-medical-abortions-are-up-in-texas-but-so-are-diy-pills-from-mexico

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Many Religious conservatives are lining up behind Trump. Despite all his problems, Trump will be the vehicle by which religious conservatives attempt to fight the battles over abortion and other issues of the culture war. This alignment with partisan politics is a huge mistake (and theologically troubling, IMHO). I will say with a high level of confidence: voting for Trump will not make a significant dent in abortion rates in the U.S., even if he wins.

I am 100% opposed to induced abortion at any gestational age. That said, I do not agree with how the pro-life movement’s strategy. The pro-life movement’s “vote for the Court” strategy to eliminating abortion is destined to fail, even if it succeeds in getting the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. The pro-life movement needs an entirely new strategy. Here are solid, empirically-based reasons why.

  1.   Cytotec, a stomach ulcer drug, is already used by women worldwide, including within the U.S., to induce DIY medical abortions (see story below, plus womenonwaves.org).  Its use would skyrocket if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, probably primarily among the poor.
    
  2.   Most blue states will keep abortions legal if Roe were overturned.  Assuming that the blue states in the Republican-heavy 2004 electoral map represents those that would make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade is overturned, about 59% of abortions now occurring nationwide would remain legal.  Using the Democratic-victory 2012 electoral map, about 75% of abortions nationwide would remain legal.
    
  3.   In states where abortion is illegal, women will travel hundreds of miles to states to obtain a legal abortion.  There is history of this happening before.  In 1971-1972, there were 29,227 abortions performed in New York (which legalized abortion in 1970) among pregnant mothers reporting residents in Michigan ([ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3791164/](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3791164/)).
    
  4.   When abortion was illegal, it still happened a lot.  In 1931, F.J. Taussig estimated 700,000 abortions took place annually in the U.S., the majority of which were illegal; given the population in 1930, suggests rates similar to today, though the estimate is admittedly uncertain.  In the same article in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Taussig wrote, “All efforts to control the incidence of criminal abortion by legislation have resulted in failure.”  There are numerous other publications as early as the 1890s talking about "criminal abortion" as a big problem.  In a 1916 article in the California State Journal of Medicine, O.H. Beckman wrote, "if criminal abortions could be stopped, it would increase the nation's birth rate by, at least, 100%."
    
  5.   Demography is destiny.  A modern legal-regulatory structure that relies on imposing controls on large segments of the electorate based on votes by other segments of the electorate can never be stable.  The largest number of abortions occur among women who are aged 20-29.  Women who are black receive abortions at higher rates than other ethnic groups.  The majority of voters in these two demographic groups also vote Democratic.
    
  6.   The pro-life movement has almost entirely neglected the conduct and dissemination of science, focusing instead on electoral politics and emotional appeal to forward its political agenda.  As a result, organizations like the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute dominate health and medical research and publication.  As a result, while Guttmacher has gained enormous influence over medical and health education, professional societies, legal writing, and public policy at state, national, and local levels.  To give just one example, in 2016, Guttmacher partnered with the prestigious journal The Lancet to establish a joint commission on sexual health and reproductive rights to define long-term development goals for global health worldwide.  Organizations like Live Action do influence people "on the ground," but influencing particular policy decisions requires a commitment to science.
    
  7. “Global warming can’t be real because… abortion.” In other words, due to the Republican platform, single-issue pro-life voters develop cognitive preference for information that downplays how their voting might create problems in other ways. It’s perfectly possible to be a skeptic of global warming or Keynesian fiscal policy for independent reasons, but the pro-life “vote for the Court” strategy pushes many voters toward the default Republican position. However, there’s no inherent link between, for example, strict immigration control and opposition to abortion. The modern “American Conservative” is an ideological construct, as is the modern “American Liberal.” I certainly don’t mean to imply that this tendency to prefer information that confirms one’s underlying assumptions is restricted to the pro-life movement.

  8.   The pro-life movement has neglected alliances with interest groups that are part of the Democratic Party's electoral coalition.  As a result, it has lost opportunities to influence their decisions.  For example, environmentalists and pro-lifers might both be interested in discussing declining sperm counts and increasing rates of early puberty.  Studies do show that fish living in waterways near contraceptive pill factories are experiencing hormone-related sex changes.  The number of potential connections and alliances has yet to be explored.

On a lighter note, Cytotec is also used to accelerate normal labour. They gave it to my wife in the afternoon and told us to wait till the night. A couple of hours later, RPR Junior emerged, wide awake and kicking. :):thumbsup:

On the issues addressed in the article: there’s a quote I once read on a Traditionalist website which I agree with strongly - “To assume that God works through the agency of worldly politicians is to deny Divine Providence”. The “vote for the Court” solution may not be ideal, but allying with kooky environmental interests and the like is hardly better.

Thanks for adding that! Welcome to the world, RPR Junior! God bless you!

On the issues addressed in the article: there’s a quote I once read on a Traditionalist website which I agree with strongly - “To assume that God works through the agency of worldly politicians is to deny Divine Providence”.

I would add that every single verse in the New Testament that discusses Christian involvement in politics explicitly argues against Christian involvement in temporal politics (e.g., Mark 10, Matthew 28, Luke 24, John 18, Acts 1, Romans 12-13, and verses in 1 Peter, Hebrews, Revelation). Pope Francis’ recent exhortation suggests that exercising the spiritual and temporal works of mercy within our own communities is how we should change the society around us.

The “vote for the Court” solution may not be ideal, but allying with kooky environmental interests and the like is hardly better.

Hate to say it, but the categorical labeling of environmental interests as “kooky” kind of illustrates the point I was making about how “vote for the Court” creates a cognitive bias in favor of information that supports other planks of ostensibly pro-life political parties. If you look at Flint, Michigan, it’s awfully hard to tell people there that they shouldn’t worry about their families’ health because the health concerns associated with water pollution are just “kooky.”

I would point to the fact that declining sperm counts and greater rates of early puberty might well be linked to the increasing use of hormonal contraceptives over time. That’s something that links NFP advocacy with concern over toxics in the environment. That’s just one example, but the key point is that there’s no reason to think that being pro-life means discounting environmental concerns. In fact, Pope Francis’ “integral ecology” makes it clear that we can’t ignore environmental concerns and that incorporating ecological thinking into the Christian mission is part of the evangelical call of the Church.

Beyond environmental groups, I’d also point to the fact that more than 100 years ago, Rerum Novarum called for wages for workers sufficient to cover the costs of a family at home. To me, that dovetails very nicely with the goals of industrial unions. Peeling unions away from a hyper-political focus on the Democratic Party in the U.S. could be an effective way to change the culture in ways that don’t involve voting.

As I said, it’s entirely possible to be a skeptic of the environment, unions, or any of the members of the electoral coalition of the left in the U.S. However, to me, it seems incumbent on Catholics to reach out to these groups in a way that might break up the hyper-polarized political culture in the U.S.

He says hi and thanks, but in his own language! :slight_smile:

I would add that every single verse in the New Testament that discusses Christian involvement in politics explicitly argues against Christian involvement in temporal politics (e.g., Mark 10, Matthew 28, Luke 24, John 18, Acts 1, Romans 12-13, and verses in 1 Peter, Hebrews, Revelation). Pope Francis’ recent exhortation suggests that exercising the spiritual and temporal works of mercy within our own communities is how we should change the society around us.

An excellent point. Thanks for reminding me of this. :thumbsup::thumbsup:

Hate to say it, but the categorical labeling of environmental interests as “kooky” kind of illustrates the point I was making about how “vote for the Court” creates a cognitive bias in favor of information that supports other planks of ostensibly pro-life political parties. If you look at Flint, Michigan, it’s awfully hard to tell people there that they shouldn’t worry about their families’ health because the health concerns associated with water pollution are just “kooky.”

Ouch, you got me there. Point fully conceded. :o:)

I would point to the fact that declining sperm counts and greater rates of early puberty might well be linked to the increasing use of hormonal contraceptives over time. That’s something that links NFP advocacy with concern over toxics in the environment. That’s just one example, but the key point is that there’s no reason to think that being pro-life means discounting environmental concerns. In fact, Pope Francis’ “integral ecology” makes it clear that we can’t ignore environmental concerns and that incorporating ecological thinking into the Christian mission is part of the evangelical call of the Church.

I really must read Laudato Si properly one of these days. Work and fatherhood keep me pretty busy. :smiley:

Beyond environmental groups, I’d also point to the fact that more than 100 years ago, Rerum Novarum called for wages for workers sufficient to cover the costs of a family at home. To me, that dovetails very nicely with the goals of industrial unions. Peeling unions away from a hyper-political focus on the Democratic Party in the U.S. could be an effective way to change the culture in ways that don’t involve voting.

As I said, it’s entirely possible to be a skeptic of the environment, unions, or any of the members of the electoral coalition of the left in the U.S. However, to me, it seems incumbent on Catholics to reach out to these groups in a way that might break up the hyper-polarized political culture in the U.S.

You certainly have given me a lot to think about. Thank you for the learning experience. Looking forward to discussing these issues with you when further opportunities arise. :thumbsup:

God bless than little guy!

You certainly have given me a lot to think about. Thank you for the learning experience. Looking forward to discussing these issues with you when further opportunities arise. :thumbsup:

I really like to have open conversations among those with differing perspectives. Thanks for engaging! :smiley:

He’s looking at you from my avatar! :slight_smile: (And, hey, I actually call him “little guy” from time to time. Nice coincidence.)

I really like to have open conversations among those with differing perspectives. Thanks for engaging! :smiley:

I guess I’m just so embarrassed by my liberal past (not that I was an activist or anything, but I was a near-universalist who wasn’t overly concerned about abortion, contraception or gay marriage - my friends from those days would probably find me weird now :)) that I tend to overcorrect. But your post was a timely reminder of something I keep telling myself: that the Catholic Church, following Christ, is neither “left” nor “right”, neither “conservative” nor “liberal”. That’s a lesson I can use these days. :slight_smile:

A conservative would retort that this doesn’t seem any more different than the derided “seamless garment” philosophy/

In what sense? I’m using evidence.

Yes, yes your are.

It seems like the interjection of other issues, besides that of that “family” would be upsetting to a majority of pro-lifers.

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