OMDAHL: Abortion issue remains in public square
Many of the social issues made contentious by sincere Christians should be moved from the public square into churches. However, abortion is not one of those issues.
One of the primary reasons for the creation of governments is the protection of life. This makes abortion both a sectarian and a secular issue. So conflict and compromise in the public square make up the fight for resolving this thorny issue.
The pro-life advocates hope that a more conservative Supreme Court will tip the scale in their favor. It is for that reason that evangelicals voted so heavily for Donald Trump, disregarding his un-Christian demeanor. In any case, the Supreme Court will not overturn Roe v. Wade, a decision that has prevailed for 45 years.
According to a new poll reported by the Pew Research Center, close to 70 percent of evangelicals believe that abortion should be illegal in almost all cases. Compare this to mainline Protestants where 70 percent feel that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
The decision in Roe v. Wade recognized the role of the state by developing a 3-level paradigm that acknowledged the need to protect the life of the mother and to protect the potentiality of human life.
The Court said that women’s right of privacy rules in the first trimester, leaving the question of abortion to the woman and her physician.
Some pro-life advocates believe that the right of privacy was invented for Roe v. Wade but this right was established in the Griswold v. Connecticut case decided in 1965, creating a judicial precedent for Roe v. Wade.
In the second trimester (from the end of first trimester until fetal viability) the state could regulate abortion when related to “preservation and protection of maternal health.” When the child reached viability in the third part of the paradigm, the state could prohibit abortion.
At the heart of the pro-life rationale is belief in the sanctity of life. Rank and file evangelicals are most committed to the principle. The Catholic Church is also committed even though more members favor abortion than not.
Some pro-choice advocates may be frustrated with the intransigence of the Catholics on the issue but on the whole Catholics are more consistent in their faithfulness to the sanctity of life than the evangelicals.
The Catholic Church is not only protective of the pre-birth period but it supports programs for hungry children more than do evangelicals; it opposes capital punishment and end of life procedures.
The American electorate is evenly split on the issue of abortion. Because regulations are under control of states and every state has a unique political makeup, the range of regulations is quite broad from state-to-state.
Given this configuration, the pro-life folks may get a win here and there but when push comes to shove women looking for abortion can go to a neighboring state where regulations are less stringent. However, wealthy women may find this a much easier route than the poor.
While restrictive regulations may appear regularly at the state level, our fragmented policy system at the federal level will never produce national regulations. To enact anything at the national level requires more than a simple majority. Evenly divided, neither side has enough votes to pass federal legislation.
So the abortion issue is appropriately in the public square where both sides will continue to cause social turmoil. The end is not in sight. Public opinion polls indicate that both sides have maintained unwavering support for decades. There is no indication that either side will see a breakthrough.
An armistice would be welcome.
Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor and former political science professor at UND.
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