Religious Rightism in the Democratic Party has Consequences

One of the consequences of the creeping Religious Rightism in the Democratic Party has been the steady erosion of reproductive rights and access to reproductive health care for women, especially abortion care.  

Two items in the news underscore the situation. A special issue of Conscience  magazine questions whether the Obama administration’s policies can be considered prochoice.  And an article in the Los Angeles Times, outlining the current “torrent” of draconian antiabortion legislation being proposed, and sometimes enacted in the states.  The latter is, of course, but an indicator of the still-cresting wave of state level anti-abortion public policy work in the generation since the Casey decision of the Supreme Court, which allowed considerable, medically unnecessary, state regulation of access to abortion care.

Journalist Jodie Jacobson, writing in Conscience, reviews the highlights of Obama’s prochoice 2008 campaign stances and his record so far as president and concludes,

“The president has presided over the greatest erosion to women’s reproductive health and rights in the past 30 years, and a continuing degradation of our rights at the state level.”

None of this will surprise those who have been following Democratic Party’s dubious “faith outreach” schemes — which have sought to attract antiabortion Catholics and evangelicals,  while mostly ignoring, and marginalizing the prochoice religious community. In terms of policy, this has also led to what could be generously described as inattention to the steady decline in access to abortion services in most of the country.

Towards this end, we have seen a down playing of the so-called “culture wars” to the point of claiming, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the Religious Right is dead or dying, and that the culture wars themselves are over or just about.  This has been accompanied by calls by political consultants for eliding the phrase separation of church and state from the vocabulary of Democratic candidates for federal office because it is not in the Constitution; and even unsupported claims by some faith leaders and even candidate Obama that “secularists” are driving religious people from public life.  

All this is part of the context of the way the antiabortion term and elements of the agenda of “abortion reduction” have emerged in the Democratic Party.  In 2006, for example, a Party faith outreach consultant Eric Sapp, declared at an event sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life:  

On abortion you are seeing a shift within the Democratic Party in the way they’re talking about the issue. Talking about abortion reduction is a very effective political step, but it also moves the discussion forward; it wasn’t just talk. In the House two different legislative packages were proposed that would have truly targeted many of the core causes of abortion. It would not completely end abortion, but it would do a whole lot better than we’re doing right now.


More recently, a staffer at the liberal Washington, DC think tank Faith in Public Life claimed that the Democratic Party platform and candidate Barack Obama in his 2008 Party convention speech specifically supported “abortion reduction,” when in fact, neither was the case. The candidate and the Party promised something much different.  

Page 1 of 3 | Next page