Posted by: minnow | October 15, 2012

Single Issue Voters

A few of you may be expecting a VP debate report card.  I apologize this is not that. I watched the debate two days after the fact.  I’d already heard some of the criticism and so was braced before I saw it.  For that reason I was not overly annoyed by the Vice-President’s grin though initially it was off putting.  I must also say that he did not, in my opinion, interrupt Congressman Ryan as much as I expected him to have interrupted given the degree to which the Republican pundits wanted to focus on that aspect of the debate.  In the end both men performed as I suspected they would.  Ryan, like his running mate wanted us to think his team is so much more principled than the opposition that they do not need to have a plan.  Even the moderator because frustrated by how few specifics the Congressman was willing to offer.  On the other hand, Biden came out swinging, though in a few places his frustration was more evident than the cause.  At one point in the debate the moderator asked the candidates to invoke their personal faith and explain their stand on the issue of abortion.  Honestly, I was less than impressed which makes for a great sag-way to the following post.

I have heard fellow Christians state they can’t vote for a certain candidate because he or she does not hold their same view on a certain topic.  These people fall in the single issue voter category.  Sometimes being a single issue voter might be a straight forward yes or no choice, but rarely.  For this post I will focus on the single issue of abortion.  Some might insist that the choice is simple either a candidate is pro-life or pro-choice, end of discussion.  But, if you’ll bare with me a little while I’d like to explain how saying you are pro-life is not necessarily the same as committing to reduce the number of abortions in this country.  If you still believe voting for former Governor Romney because of his stance on this one issue is better than voting for President Obama I will respect your right to a different opinion.  Frankly, I would be interested in hearing, in light of this post, why you would continue to support Romney, so please feel free to comment.

To begin, let’s take a short look back at fairly recent history.  During President George W. Bush’s term in office Republicans had a majority in both the House and the Senate from 2003 to 2006.  In other words, for three years the party that claims to be pro-life, that says it would turn over Roe VS Wade and make abortion illegal if it could, FAILED to do so.  It had a chance but it didn’t take advantage of the chance it had.  In 2003 the Partial Birth Abortion ban Act was passed  by both the House (282-152) and the Senate (64-34), and signed by President Bush.  In 2007 its constitutionality was upheld, indicating that even the judiciary was favorable.  Yet, other than this specific procedure the only legislation which has passed regarding abortion had to do with federal money, even during the three year window that the GOP–the supposed anti-abortion party–had majority control of congress and a sympathetic president.

The history of this issue is relevant because it illustrates the point that what candidates and parties says they believe and what they actually work to achieve are often very different when it comes to legislation.  The abortion issue is a perfect example.  If you see abortion as legalized murder and therefore believe it isn’t as simple as a woman having the “right” to do with her own body as she sees fit because another life is for a relatively short period of time dependent on her body then, actually lowering the number of abortions ought to be your focus.  So, short of making abortion illegal, how might we achieve our goal and who is most likely to help?

A solution can be found by asking some questions.  Why do women decide to have abortions?  Can we do anything  to change those decisions?  And, which candidate is more likely to follow through by doing what can actually be done?

Let’s look at some relevant statistics.  Approximately 20 percent of the women who get abortions are 19 years old or younger.  57 percent are in their twenties.  72 percent are not and have never been married.  More than 60 percent are below the federal poverty line and fewer than half have college degrees.  13.8 percent of all women live in poverty and 25 percent of these women already have children.  Of single parent families 8 out of 10 custodial parents are women and 69 percent of all unpaid caregivers for both children and adults are women.  What make these statistics relevant?  Simply this–real economic hardship and the lack of a support system are the number one reason women give for why they choose abortions, followed by the fact that having a baby would threaten their ability to stay in school or keep their current jobs.

When we look at the attitudes held by Republicans verses the policies promoted by Democrats which group actually works toward reducing the number of abortions in this country shifts.  Due to their circumstances, many women reluctantly choose to have an abortion, thinking they have no other realistic choice.  Addressing the economic and educational concerns of those who face unwanted pregnancies and providing them with support gives them real options.

We have reached a point in our social/moral debate where we need to ask ourselves some tough questions.  Republicans must be held accountable for the impact their policies actually have on the issues they claim to champion.The facts don’t add up when you say you’re pro-life but then turn around and cut the funding for every existing program which supports women facing unwanted pregnancies. The facts don’t add up when you say you’re pro-life but then refuse to support programs that promote equal pay, prenatal healthcare, family leave, on-site childcare, or contraceptive education.  The facts don’t add up when you say you’re pro-life but then vote your pocketbook.

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