You may have never heard of Defenders of the Catholic Faith or its host Steve Ray, one of dozens of anti-abortionist crusaders whose singular mission is to prevent women in this country from the right to choose what is best for them and their families. Ray has been on active duty as a soldier for this cause since the mid-1970s, and his message is as clear as it is unforgiving.
No one, no matter what the circumstance (rape, illness, poverty, etc.), should ever be allowed to have an abortion in this country. And with a stroke of unabated absolute extremism, he will prognosticate that the next abortion (despite overwhelming scientific odds against it) may prevent the world from the next great composer like Ludwig van Beethoven or gospel singer and actress Ethel Waters or even the Christian savior Jesus Christ, all who came into this world under difficult circumstance.
The beliefs of Ray, his allies, and followers are worrisome and, in some isolated cases, dangerous to abortion providers, but they are not representative of our nation, for the majority (and that includes men and women) believe that choice is a woman’s right that should be protected.
Enter the Republican party …
The pro-life movement has for over 30 years been the backbone of the Republican Party. It is an absolute that any candidate from that party who wants to run for President of the United States must be pro-life. The pro-life groups have flexed their muscle whether it be financial in backing politicians running for office at all levels of government or picketing abortion clinics with the intent of stopping women from using their services. Our history is checkered with the killing of abortion doctors, the bombing of abortion clinics, and all the while the perpetrators claim they are carrying out God’s will. And all of this despite the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973.
With the election of President Obama in 2008, Republican strategy has been to run candidates promising jobs and working to restore a depressed economy — only once they are elected, they ignore these pragmatic policies and work to pass some of the most onerous legislation against women’s rights to have a legal abortion. Republican governors and state legislators (a considerable amount of whom are Tea Party followers) have passed laws closing abortion clinics and requiring women to undergo unnecessary procedures like vaginal ultrasounds, and have used doctors as a tool to describe fetuses to their patients against the patients’ wishes and robbing their personal dignity. In some states even access to birth control, an issue thought to be decided long ago, has been put back on the table of political opportunism.
From the time of Ronald Reagan abortion has been a wedge issue that Republicans have employed to garner votes and portray the left as anti-life. They have homesteaded the mythical high ground of this issue and opened a revenue stream for their party and their candidates. But what they have also done is polarize a nation and given anti-abortion extremists cover, some of whom have gone on to commit violence and murder in the ironic paradigm of being pro-life.
Conservatives have created an oasis for the hypocrisy that a pro-life philosophy be reserved only for the unborn while simply choosing to ignore the suffering of the babies and children who are already here. From cutting food stamps or lunch programs to neglecting the necessities that all children need to succeed in life, such as health care, proper housing, and a good education, the right wing’s behavior is akin to a child who wants a puppy desperately but has no thought for taking care of it once it’s born.
When President Obama prepared to give his State of the Union address in January, the annual oratory on how we should go forward to solve the crucial problems of our time, including extending unemployment benefits to 1.6 million people who must battle each day to put food on their family’s table, House Republicans found only one issue of true importance. They passed a sweeping anti-abortion bill, HR 7, that the mercurial Senator Steve King from Iowa later exclaimed was necessary to prevent federal dollars from being used to fund abortion. This statement flies in the face of the reality that the Hyde Amendment, passed some 30 years ago, already accomplishes this task. Trying to pass redundant and gratuitous legislation, when many of the very children already brought into this world are without nutrition, only underlines the fanaticism the pro-life stance has brought to the party of Lincoln.
In a world where the term obscenity is often defined in the narrow context of explicit sex, the justification of forcing women to have babies they cannot provide for has an obscene nature far more profound. Anglers like Steve Ray and Steve King throw their lines in the waters of mendacious and self-righteous propaganda in their attempt to catch the next ambiguous phrase or image to convince the uninformed.
This has ultimately led one of the two major parties in our political landscape to keep one eye on the till as they continue to collect financial support for supporting a stunted definition of pro-life while turning a blind eye to the cognitive dissonance the anti-abortion movement has really become.
Jeffrey R. Moualim lives in Santa Ynez. He is treasurer of the Committee of Ten Thousand, a national grassroots advocacy organization for people with hemophilia, HIV, and HCV, based in Washington, D.C., and Santa Barbara.