Thursday, January 24, 2013

President Obama Talks Human Rights, and Religious Right Replies, "Abortion, Abortion, Abortion"

On inauguration day, as the president gave a speech affirming the human rights of LGBT citizens that lifted the hearts of many of us, I wrote the following

And as these historic affirmations of human rights--for all!--are made today in the American capital, the important centrist Catholic publications and blog sites are eerily silent, as if today is a day of mourning. As silent as they have been when the human rights of their gay brothers and sisters have been recognized in referenda and legislative and gubernatorial and court decisions according gay human beings the same right to civil marriage that other citizens enjoy.

Later in the day on which I posted the preceding observation, I saw that Kevin Clarke had published a piece at America's "In All Things" blog pointing to the president's affirmation of gay rights in his inaugural address. It's interesting to note that this statement has had no response from readers, in contrast to the two subsequent postings at "In All Things," both of which were on the topic of abortion.

And this strikes me as noteworthy. Even as the inaugural address was playing on television Monday, I began to see one comment after another popping up at various religion and politics blog sites about how abortion is the issue. Abortion's what we ought to be talking about.

Give me gay rights, and I'll give you abortion.

Talk healthcare for the poor, and I'll change the conversation to abortion.

Tell me about gun control and a culture of violence, and I'll tell you about abortion.

Want to discuss "the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain / the empty desks of twenty children marked absent / today, and forever"? I prefer to talk abortion.

Give me your murdered children, your minority groups excluded from basic human rights, your deeply entrenched culture of violence, your lack of healthcare for those on the margins, and I'll give you abortion. Abortion, abortion, abortion: I can trump any and all human rights issues you bring up with that single-word mantra.

With that single issue about which I intend to talk no matter what life issue you mention alongside it.

Most of the abortion, abortion, abortion discussions I was reading on Monday (Tuesday, we arrived home to find that the U-verse internet problems had shut down our internet access) were, it should be noted, being posted by dyed-in-the-wool religious-right Republicans like SalineRepublican with his opening salvo at this Arkansas Times blog discussion of the inauguration events.

And that's worth noting, it seems to me. It's especially significant for Catholic "pro-lifers" to note.

Are you aware, I want to ask my fellow Catholics, of what your religious-right bedfellows in the "pro-life" movement actually believe about 1) healthcare for the poor, 2) the rights and needs of immigrants, 3) the obligations of the rich to the poor, 4) militarism, 5) ecumenism (particularly vis-a-vis Islam), 6) endemic violence and gun control, 7) global warming and climate change, 8) workers' rights and the need for a living wage and solid benefits, 9) women's access to contraception, 10) the connection between access to contraception and diminishing abortions, etc.? Do you have any idea why, precisely as a Democratic president is being inaugurated and delivers an address that gives many Americans who believe in human rights cause for hope, your Republican religious-right bedfellows want to talk abortion, abortion, abortion?

Many of you fellow Catholics also spent inauguration day talking abortion, abortion, abortion and turning a deaf ear to the president's affirmation of the human rights of all citizens. What are you really talking about, I wonder, when you say abortion, abortion, abortion?

But when you won't talk about the human rights of marginalized minority groups? And when you actively oppose programs offering healthcare to more citizens on the margins? When you tout your unbridled right to carry firearms and throw cold water on attempts to address the proliferation of guns in our society? When you pooh-pooh climate change and environmental destruction by unrestricted corporate exploitation of the natural world? When you adulate the super-rich and blame the poor? When you try to block the access of poor women to contraception?

I frankly don't believe the abortion, abortion, abortion mantra any longer. I'm tired of hearing it chanted as if the word itself is the end of all  discussion. As if it points self-evidently to values of life that all of your other political and economic stances belie.

In fact, insofar as you use the abortion issue to shut down all those other conversations and to trump any and all discussions of the seamless garment of life which is the only context in which the discussion of abortion itself makes any sense, I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the "pro-life" movement is demonic and is about precisely the opposite of the value of life.

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