Rev. Jim Wallis may be spoiling for a fight on reducing abortion, but he's picking on the wrong side of the political spectrum.
The Rev. Jim Wallis lives in a world where his self-reinforcing ideas become his divine reality. Today he has called for the Democratic Party to adopt an "Abortion Reduction Plank" to the party's platform. What Wallis should realize is that many Democrats and moderate Republicans are already doing the hard work such a plank would call for. As opposed to picking a fight with the left, Wallis should be working with reproductive health advocates, asking why it is the far-right gets away with opposing common sense education and prevention ideas.
Comprehensive sexuality education, contraception and the prevention of unintended pregnancies, improved adoption and foster care and better health care for low-income familes that include pre- and post-natal care, are all issues that progressives have been pushing for quite some time.
At one time Rev. Wallis believed social issues like sexual health and rights were too divisive, choosing to focus on the environment and poverty instead. Apparently abortion is good for headlines again.
"This is going to be a big Denver conversation," said Wallis. "You
don’t have to call for criminalizing anyone. You don’t have to take a
different stance about a woman’s right to choose. But you begin with
the need for reducing abortion dramatically."
The abortion reduction plank that Wallis envisions would call for
making adoption easier, supporting low-income women, and stepping up
pregnancy prevention efforts.
Without calling for restrictions such as parental consent laws,
Wallis believes that if the Democrats were to alter their abortion
platform, it could help them make inroads among young evangelicals and
"Taking abortion seriously as a moral issue would help Democrats a
great deal with a constituency that is already leaning in their
direction on poverty and the environment," said Wallis. "There are
literally millions of votes at stake."
Yes, Rev. Wallis there are millions of votes, as well as women's health and lives at stake, which is why the reproductive health community has been leading the fight for education and prevention issues. For us, it is not an issue of political convenience, or publicity, but the ultimate question about women's health and rights to determine how, when and how often to bring life into the world.
Instead of taking time to learn what advocates in the reproductive health care community actually believe and work towards, Wallis has at times bought into the "pro-life" social conservative talking points that would have people believe the GOP is the "big tent party" as he said in 2004, more accepting of pro-choice views than Democrats are of "pro-life" views.
Ironically, the Republicans, who actively and successfully
court the votes of Christians on abortion, are much more ecumenical in
their own toleration of a variety of views within their own party.
He might want to consult some pro-choice Republicans on that, like this piece on RH Reality Check from Darlee Crockett, Chair of Planned Parenthood's Republicans for Choice. He could also see that pro-choice Democrats are already seeing common ground with "pro-life" Democrats on prevention issues, and see that the real divisiveness on this issue is in the GOP, in two excellent pieces by Dana Goldstein.
Rev. Wallis has supported some education and prevention measures in Congress so he should understand that his ideas about pro-choice advocates are dated, and colored by social conservatives who DO NOT believe in education and prevention. The far-right wing of the GOP (and complicit Democratic Congressional leadership) prefers to keep using federal tax dollars on failed abstinence-only programs, denying the integration of family planning and HIV services to better help women and girls abroad, and persuading people to ban contraception, with slogans like "The Pill Kills."
As opposed to picking a fight with the left, he should start asking his fellow religious leaders on the far-right why they are so opposed to common sense education and prevention efforts. Anyone truly interested in reframing the debate about women's health understands that's where the real problems are.