Sarah Palin and Abortion

Yesterday, Sarah Palin ended her attempts to play down her support for forced childbirth, and gave an impassioned sermon on the gospel of Fetus Worship to an adoring crowd in Johnstown, Pennsylvania:


Here is the complete transcript (from the Christian Broadcasting Network, which was the only place I could find it, but that doesn’t mean I have to link to them):

“In this same spirit, as defenders of the culture of life, John McCain and I believe in the goodness and potential of every innocent life.  I believe the truest measure of any society is how it treats those who are least able to defend and speak for themselves.  And who is more vulnerable, or more innocent, than a child?

When I learned that my son Trig would have special needs, I had to prepare my heart for the challenges to come.  At first I was scared, and Todd and I had to ask for strength and understanding.  But I can tell you a few things I’ve learned already.

Yes, every innocent life matters.  Everyone belongs in the circle of protection.  Every child has something to contribute to the world, if we give them that chance.  There are the world’s standards of perfection … and then there are God’s, and these are the final measure.  Every child is beautiful before God, and dear to Him for their own sake.

As for our beautiful baby boy, for Todd and me, he is only more precious because he is vulnerable.  In some ways, I think we stand to learn more from him than he does from us.  When we hold Trig and care for him, we don’t feel scared anymore. We feel blessed.

It’s hard to think of many issues that could possibly be more important than who is protected in law and who isn’t – who is granted life and who is denied it.  So when our opponent, Senator Obama, speaks about questions of life, I listen very carefully.

I listened when he defended his unconditional support for unlimited abortions.  He said that a woman shouldn’t have to be – quote – “punished with a baby.”  He said that right here in Johnstown –“punished with a baby” – and it’s about time we called him on it.  The more I hear from Senator Obama, the more I understand why he is so vague and evasive on the subject.  Americans need to see his record for what it is.  It’s not negative or mean-spirited to talk to about his record.  Whatever party you belong to, there are facts you need to know.

Senator Obama has voted against bills to end partial-birth abortion.  In the Illinois Senate, a bipartisan majority passed legislation against that practice.  Senator Obama opposed that bill.  He voted against it in committee, and voted “present” on the Senate floor.  In that legislature, “present” is how you vote when you’re against something, but don’t want to be held to account.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, described partial-birth abortion as “too close to infanticide.”  Barack Obama thinks it’s a constitutional right, but he is wrong.

Most troubling, as a state senator, Barack Obama wouldn’t even stand up for the rights of infants born alive during an abortion.  These infants – often babies with special needs – are simply left to die.

In 2002, Congress unanimously passed a federal law to require medical care for those babies who survive an abortion.  They’re living, breathing babies, but Senator Obama describes them as “pre-viable.”  This merciful law was called the Born Alive Infants Protection Act.  Illinois had a version of the same law.  Obama voted against it.

Asked about this vote, Senator Obama assured a reporter that he’d have voted “yes” on that bill if it had contained language similar to the federal version of the Born Alive Act.  There’s just one little problem with that story: the language of both the state and federal bills was identical.

In short, Senator Obama is a politician who has long since left behind even the middle ground on the issue of life.  He has sided with those who won’t even protect a child born alive.  And this exposes the emptiness of his promises to move beyond the “old politics.”

In both parties, Americans have many concerns to be weighed in the votes they cast on November fourth.  In times like these, with wars and a financial crisis, it’s easy to forget even as deep and abiding a concern as the right to life.  And it seems our opponent hopes that you will forget.  Like so much else in his agenda, he hopes you won’t notice how radical his ideas and record are until it’s too late.

But let there be no misunderstanding about the stakes.

A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for activist courts that will continue to smother the open and democratic debate we need on this issue, at both the state and federal level.  A vote for Barack Obama would give the ultimate power over the issue of life to a politician who has never once done anything to protect the unborn.   As Senator Obama told Pastor Rick Warren, it’s above his pay grade.

For a candidate who talks so often about “hope,” he offers no hope at all in meeting this great challenge to the conscience of America.  There is a growing consensus in our country that we can overcome narrow partisanship on this issue, and bring all the resources of a generous country to the aid of both women in need and the child waiting to be born.  We need more of the compassion and idealism that our opponent’s own party, at its best, once stood for.  We need the clarity and conviction of leaders like the late Governor Bob Casey.

He represented a humanity that speaks to all of us – no matter what our party, our background, our faith, or our gender.  And no matter your position on this sensitive subject, I hope that spirit will guide you on Election Day.  I ask you to vote for McCain-Palin on the November fourth, and help us to bring this country together in the rational discussion of compassion and life.”

When I first read about this speech, I thought maybe Palin was actually attempting to change the subject from that of inciting mob violence against Obama (I mean, after all, not very pro-life, that). But now, having read a little more, I think the timing has more to do with (a) wanting to distract the public’s attention from Troopergate, and (b) casting herself in the role of Anne Baxter in her very own remake of All About Eve.

Jim Henley thinks Palin is prepping for 2012:

Remember the perennial conventional wisdom of presidential politics: play to the base in the primaries and the center in the general election. The public’s memory is short, and attention on the primaries by the general population is light. So if you say some “extreme” stuff over the winter or early spring, you’ve got months to walk it back to where the squishy center feels okay. …

… She can be as fierce as she wants this campaign and has four years to dial it back as much as the middle requires. Meanwhile, she’s forging a lasting loyalty with the most hardcore elements of the GOP primary electorate. …

In closing, I want to highlight two specific parts of Palin’s speech:

The first is near the beginning of the transcript:

Yes, every innocent life matters.  Everyone belongs in the circle of protection.  Every child has something to contribute to the world, if we give them that chance.  There are the world’s standards of perfection … and then there are God’s, and these are the final measure.  Every child is beautiful before God, and dear to Him for their own sake.

And the second, toward the end of the transcript:

In times like these, with wars and a financial crisis, it’s easy to forget even as deep and abiding a concern as the right to life.

It seems to me that these two quotes perfectly illustrate the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy of Palin’s brand of pro-lifer (as opposed to those who think abortion is wrong but don’t support overturning Roe v. Wade). For Palin, it’s not human life that’s precious — it’s innocent human life. And “innocent,” of course, is defined in this context as “not born yet,” or, stretched to the definition’s limits, just born.

This is what makes it possible for her, and others like her, to blather about the “right to life of the unborn” while ignoring or, worse, denying, the right that every human being on this planet has to their own life. Just consider, for one moment, how extraordinary it is that someone who calls herself “pro-life” could utter a sentence like the above: “In times like these, with wars and a financial crisis, it’s easy to forget even as deep and abiding a concern as the right to life.” I mean, it almost robs me of the power of speech (not quite, though). Could it be any clearer that Sarah Palin thinks of “the right to life” as a subject separate from war, unrelated to it? When she speaks of “life issues,” war is not one of those issues. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, that have taken the lives of thousands upon thousands of children, is not a “life issue.”

Palin says that God’s standards of perfection “are the final measure,” and that every child “is beautiful before God and dear to Him for their own sake.” But my religious tradition teaches me that God’s standards and God’s values are manifested in the world through human beings, and only through human beings. If we don’t get the work done, God ain’t gonna do it. God will not, and cannot, and never will, be present in the world except through what we humans say and do. So if God’s standard is perfection, and if every child is beautiful before God and dear to God for their own sake, then every time a child dies from a preventable cause, like war, or poverty, or hunger, or disease, it’s a negation of God.

Obviously, the material world is not perfect, and probably never will be. No one person can end hunger or poverty or war. But we can try to make it better, and, failing that, at the very least, do no harm. And to preach about the sanctity of innocent human life while actively supporting human actions and policies that directly cause horrendous harm to innocent human life, is truly deplorable.

5 Responses to “Sarah Palin and Abortion”

  1. MarilynJean says:

    Brilliant post. I hate the repeated use of the term “born alive”. The uber right tries to shade abortion as this act of murdering whole, live babies and paints anyone who is pro-choice as despicable and indifferent to human life. These are the same people that support blowing up innocent Iraqi civilians, left thousands of people to die during Katrina and could care less about social programs that would add quality to one’s life. The hypocrisy is so crazy, its laughable.

  2. Dynamic says:

    By the same token, once you’ve accepted the premise that human life begins at conception – and this is not a radical or purely religious premise, though many take it as such – it seems just as hypocritical to be against the war but in favour of abortion.

    Obviously this is an extreme – I think that overturning a woman’s right to proper medical care in the event of the necessity of an abortion is a terrible idea, because no matter how vigerously I oppose abortion I recognize that there are times when a family will be forced to choose between the life of the mother and the life of the child, and it is not our place to make that particular decision for them – but from my position about halfway between, both worldviews seem a bit inconsistent to me.

    I’m opposed to the war, I’m opposed to abortion, I’m opposed to the death penalty – pro-life across the board. Every single human life is precious. This is not a religious principle or partisan platform building; it is a simple principle that every person, I feel, can find common ground with.

  3. Kathy says:

    I respect your position. And I agree that there is inconsistency in the pro-choice position. I think, however, that inconsistency is inherent in what is unique about pregnancy, in that even if one believes that human life begins at conception, and that prenatal human lives have a right to be born, one still has to grapple with the issue of where that prenatal human life is located. There is an inherent, unavoidable conflict of rights that is unlike any other situation in which individual rights are in conflict. The issue here is always going to be which party’s rights are prioritized. When a pregnancy is planned and wanted, that conflict is less problematic, but when the pregnancy is either not wanted or not viable for whatever reason, that conflict is *very* problematic. I don’t see how that inconsistency can ever be completely resolved in the context of abortion without placing one party’s body rights above the other’s.

    Then, too, a fully principled and consistent belief that all human life is precious would have to take into account the conditions in which human life exists. It’s not consistent to oppose the taking of human life across the board (other than in direct self-defense) while simultaneously opposing all or most societal efforts to feed, house, educate, and ensure access to health care for human life after birth. (I’m not referring to your position here, Dynamic, as I’m pretty close to certain that you would agree with this. But many people who consider themselves pro-life do not consider it part of a pro-life position to improve the quality of life for already born people.)

  4. Dynamic says:

    Both excellent points Kathy. I agree that it’s a one-of-a-kind conflict of rights when it comes down to pregnancy, and because of this there will always be conflict. Ultimately it is always going to have to be an arbitrary placement of the rights of one party over another.

    I feel that it’s not really my place to say that a baby has more rights than a mother; but I do feel it’s important to get away from this notion that the baby is not alive until some arbitrary timeline in its development. A human being is ALWAYS developing, from day one; to say that it isn’t “alive” until, say, 2 trimesters, is to ignore basic biology and cheapen human existence. A woman should have the right to a healthy medical procedure – it is beyond ridiculous to ban abortion and send womenback into the back alleys for dangerous illegal ops – but we should be aware of exactly what that procedure is: killing a human being.

    And yes, believe me, I’m aware of the blatant hypocrisy rampant on the pro-life front; they make it difficult for people like me to argue reasonably about it, because they’re too busy screaming about God’s wrath to get a word in edgewise. :\ It is distinctly frustrating to be a rational pro-lifer. 😆


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