Barack Obama in his books and numerous speeches has talked about the importance of faith and values in the public square. He acknowledges that "our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition". He was one of the first Democratic leaders to warn secularists in his own party that "to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity." He has been highly critical of the close alliances and political marriages made by the GOP and the so called Religious Right and has called it a "highjacking" of faith. Many throughout the country agree with him and no longer wish to be used or taken for granted by any political party or candidate. Yet somehow he seems to have stopped short in his failure to carefully examine the same "highjacking" of the Democratic Party by secular extremists and to demonstrate his own independence.
Organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League which have consistently given him a 100% rating and demand ideological purity for keeping abortion legal and accessible for any reason throughout pregnancy have vowed to punish any candidate who will not toe the party line. This is in spite of that fact that Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood called abortion 'murder' and they referred to it as such up to 1968. Instead he told Planned Parenthood Action Fund in July of 2007 that "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing that I'd do". This act would codify Roe v. Wade and guarantee abortion on demand throughout the United States and make any state regulatory statute invalid.
However a new generation of young voters many whom are supporting Obama's candidacy in record numbers are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the extremist ideology of abortion on demand. With new ultrasound technology they see clearly that the unborn child is a person no matter how small and that a lot of fast talk about reproductive rights and choice cannot answer the horror of a partial-birth abortion.
In a nation where nearly 1.4 million abortions are performed on women annually they are asking if things have gone too far? What if they emerge as the new frontier in compassionately championing the unborn against corporate medical interests or in the name of equality? What if they make the connection between slavery and the eugenics movement of 1920s and 1930s which eventually lead to the holocaust and approach it from the vantage point of civil rights and once again decide that it is wrong for a society to decide that some persons are equal, have rights and are more "legally human" than the unborn child? What if they transcend party ideology, labels and stereotypes?
What if somehow the debate was reframed and fueled by a younger generation who not wanting to make it always illegal saw it as an unmitigated tragedy and that government did have a greater role to play? What if civil rights leaders for instance began to seriously examine the disproportionate numbers of abortions performed on black women? It is estimated that approximately 36% of nearly 1.4 million abortions performed annually are performed on black women. A disproportionate number when you stop to consider that blacks represent a total of about 13% of the overall population in the U.S and certainly something to consider when you think about reasons that Hispanics have surpassed blacks as the largest minority group in the U.S.
America's history with slavery and abortion may be headed on a collision course which is unavoidable. What if it was no longer a religious issue but a civil rights issue? Influenced by faith but not driven by it. What if it became a bonafide human rights issue? What if a new generation who has grown up benefiting by the advancements in human rights and civil rights start seeing it in this framework? Recognizing that in the 20th Century it was the Democratic Party for the most part that did more to advance the cause of civil and human rights not the GOP it could become an issue that is no longer a forgone conclusion with many civil rights organizations or within the Democratic Party itself. While it certainly is to early to tell these shifts are entirely possible particularly now that the Democratic Party is no longer running from a discussion of faith and politics but reaching out more and more to younger voters and people of faith. If this trend continues these questions will inevitably be raised at some point and the old rules may no longer apply.
It remains to be seen whether Obama can yet exhibit the kind of leadership that will apply intellectual honesty and common sense to this issue and not just toe the party line. Can he really reach across the divide and find common ground? All indications thus far prove doubtful however he may wake up one morning and wonder where these winds of "change" came from and where they are headed?
© Nicholas J. Stojakovich 2008/Raging Grace Publishing