On May 23, a group of pro-life purists distributed a press release entitled, “Rift opens in Christian Right unprecedented criticism of Dobson by major ministries,” to announce they had placed a newspaper ad shaming Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family for supporting the Partial Birth Abortion Ban.
The title of the release revealed the group’s intent: to cause public dissension in the pro-life ranks.
While I admire everyone in this group – Flip Benham of Operation Save America, Judie Brown of American Life League, Bob Enyart of KGOV radio, Rev. Tom Euteneuer of Human Life International, and Brian Rohrbough of Colorado Right to Life – their action disappointed me.
At issue is strategy. Purists believe supporting legislation with compromises or exceptions is supporting abortions of babies not covered by that legislation. Purists also oppose parental notification/consent laws, abortion informed consent laws, fetal pain laws and abortion clinic regulations, because they say those condone abortion, too.
Purists promote the solution to abortion as a human life amendment to the Constitution, giving full personhood rights to all preborn humans from the moment of fertilization.
Incrementalists believe the war against abortion can only be won piecemeal, given hostile courts and the political landscape.
I am an incrementalist, because studies show incrementalism is working. The focus on a human life amendment during the 1980s failed.
That said, incrementalists and purists share the same goal: to make abortion illegal except to save the life of the mother, as was the law in every state before 1967. The ultimate goal of every incrementalist I know is a constitutional human life amendment.
But incrementalists say to focus on that now would be a waste of precious time. Meanwhile, purists say a human life amendment would pass if only all pro-lifers would indeed focus on it. They say to focus on incrementalism is really the waste of precious time.
Those are the strategic differences and arguments.
The problem is many purists do not believe incrementalists share their goal. Purists perceive both pro-aborts and incrementalists as nemeses.
The Supreme Court’s Partial Birth Abortion Ban decision angered purists on two fronts. They thought the ban was meaningless, even counterproductive. And they thought the joy incrementalist groups expressed demonstrated malfeasance.
Colorado Right to Life issued a press release May 30 condemning those groups for “the many years of misleading fundraising pleas, which falsely led pro-lifers to believe that the partial-birth abortion ban had the authority to stop the killing of at least some late-term babies. It has no such authority, and never did. Misled pro-lifers donated tens of millions of dollars to the pro-life industry under false pretenses.”
Purists began requesting their own donations, not under false pretenses but certainly tragically, to place a newspaper ad condemning fellow pro-lifer Dobson for supporting the ban. They have plans under way to condemn another unnamed “national ministry.”
Voltaire’s line, “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” comes to mind. As one commenter on my blog said, “The so-called ‘purist’ position actually ensures that abortion continues because of the lack of effort to support legislation that is proven to lower abortion rates because it is not deemed ‘perfect.'”
As we move from theory to reality, I see this. Three weeks ago an Oklahoma bill became law prohibiting taxpayer funds from being used for any abortions except in certain cases of rape and incest. Previously, Gov. Brad Henry vetoed an identical bill with no exceptions.
Purists would have to oppose this new law because of its exception, even though the pure bill failed. So if purists had their way, taxpayers would still be funding all abortions this law stops, instead of blocking 99 percent. This is fanatical thinking, to be blunt, the equivalent of saying one cannot pull any victims from a burning building if all cannot be pulled out.
Some purists may sense they are boxing themselves into a corner. One friend wrote she could indeed support certain incremental legislation, providing this example: “No baby shall be killed/aborted after the second trimester by any means or it shall be considered first-degree murder.”
When I reminded her she couldn’t support such a law because the purist position would be it condones first trimester abortions, she had to concede my point.
Don’t think I gain any satisfaction from that. I simply want the two-front war to stop. Noting our rift, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards commented, “Whenever your opponents squabble among themselves, it’s a good thing,”
Words of wisdom from the real enemy to ponder.
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