On October 5th, EXPECT, the Human Life Foundation’s new initiative for college students and young professionals, co-sponsored a panel discussion with Columbia University Right to Life on “Transcending Partisan Politics in the Pro-Life Movement.” We had a strong turnout on campus and our Facebook Live recording has nearly 900 views to date! (You can see it here: https://www.facebook.com/HLRexpect2016/videos/vb.854266574695570/1006641222791437/?type=3&theater).
The topic was inspired by Fordham University professor Charles Camosy’s laudable book, Beyond the Abortion Wars: A New Way Forward for a New Generation, published last year. Camosy, who was one of the panelists, emphasized that the labels “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are unhelpful, given there are areas of commonality among most Americans. For instance, he pointed out, 71% believe abortion should be broadly illegal after 12 weeks—some form of legislation reflecting that consensus ought to be possible. As the title of his book implies, Camosy is looking for ways to move the debate beyond familiar left/right arguments.
Mollie Hemingway, a senior writer for The Federalist, shed light on the media’s history of polarization and bias in abortion reporting, which has had the effect of stifling public conversation on the issue. Hemingway believes there is potential to do what has been done many times in U.S. history: create a third party outside the two-party system, in this case one based on pro-life ideology. She acknowledged, however, that cutting across party lines on the right-to-life issue would face obstacles. Many liberals, for example, would join such a party only if the death penalty were included in the platform.
Pro-life feminist of Feminists Choosing Life New York and president of the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum, Carol Crossed, reminded the audience of how the abortion culture violates not just all the principles of feminism, but also distorts all the communitarian values that liberals hold, including non-violence and caring for the poor. A rarely discussed rationale for abortion, she said, is that $400 of taxpayer money for the procedure is a lot cheaper than childcare, housing, and education for that child. Crossed also stressed that in addition to changing cultural attitudes on abortion pro-lifers must pursue legislation, here quoting Martin Luther King: “Let us never succumb to the temptation that legislation and judicial decrees play only a minor role. They may not change the heart, but they restrain the heartless.”
Human Life Review editor Maria Maffucci spoke about transcending partisan politics through truth-telling in cultural engagement. Our political discourse is so polarizing, she said, with abortion-on-demand at one end and abortion-as-murder on the other—again not reflecting the American people’s views on abortion. An example of a lack of truth-telling, she noted, is the inaccurate labeling of abortion as a women’s health issue, since abortion in fact poses many risks to women’s health. We need honest talk about people’s real experiences with abortion, and we can find common ground—in areas such as sex-selection abortion and disability rights—even with people who are pro-abortion.
The panel was moderated by Christopher White, Director of Catholic Voices USA. For his take on the event, see his recent Crux column, “A Conversation on Abortion that Moves beyond Stale Polarities” (https://cruxnow.com/catholic-voices/2016/10/12/conversation-abortion-moves-beyond-stale-polarities/).