Like so many issues corrupted by America’s increasing political extremism, the cartoonish contours of our public abortion debate belie the more benign, uncontroversial realities on the ground.
For example, despite very loud attempts at turning abortions into celebratory occasions by some on the far left, most Americans do not believe in unfettered, unrestricted access to abortion, according to Gallup. Most believe it should be restricted in the second and third trimesters.
And despite a recent spate of state laws that would effectively ban abortion — the barbaric Texas version even paying vigilante citizens to arrest “abettors” like cab drivers and bank tellers — most Americans believe abortion should be legal, and Roe v. Wade upheld.
Most Americans take a measured approach to the issue, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans and right-wing media from making unfortunate comparisons to condemn the procedure.
Many, from former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to Fox News contributor Rachel Campos-Duffy, have awkwardly compared abortion to slavery. One Oklahoma Republican lawmaker even suggested slavery was the preferable scourge. “If I had my choice, I guess I’d be a slave,” Rep. Jim Olsen said in April of — yes, inexplicably — this year. “At least the slave has his life.”
Abortion’s been compared to the Holocaust. Fox News host Tucker Carlson compared abortion-supporter Gloria Steinem, who is Jewish, to... yep, you guessed it, Hitler. In a misguided attempt at encouraging bounties for abortion providers, one Texas lawmaker got his point so confused, he inadvertently ended up comparing Republicans to the Taliban.
Now, one can believe that abortion is objectionable and lamentable, as I do, without believing it is at all similar to slavery, the Holocaust or other historical atrocities. One can oppose abortion without wanting to criminalize it. I argue one can advocate for life more effectively by encouraging parenthood.
So, if you believe genuinely that aborting unborn babies is the worst possible option for dealing with unwanted pregnancies, doesn’t it stand to reason that you’d celebrate any other option that saved them?
Like the life-saving decision to adopt, for example. Stories of parents who patiently spend years — and a good amount of money — trying to adopt are abundant and often heartbreaking.
One such couple recently shared their decision to adopt, waiting for babies who had been abandoned or surrendered with little notice, describing a rigorous process that included “home studies and parenting workshops, writing up descriptions of their family values and ideal weekends.” There was the excruciating rollercoaster of expectation and disappointment, once getting a promising call from a birth mother in labor, only to find out a few hours later she’d changed her mind.
“We tried so hard for you. We waited so long for you,” the adoptive parent imagines telling his future child.
Well, that story is real, and it belongs to Pete and Chasten Buttigieg, as told to the Washington Post earlier this year, before they got the news that they were finally expecting twins through adoption.
But instead of congratulating the former Democratic presidential hopeful and his husband on their new family, the predictable voices on the right slammed his absence from his Transportation Department post for paternity leave, and even mocked him for his decision to spend time with his prematurely-born babies.
Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted, “Pete Buttigieg was completely unqualified to serve as Secretary of Transportation. But Biden still picked him. Now Pete is absent during a transportation crisis that is hurting working-class Americans.”
This is the same Cotton who argued the value of life, especially for premature babies who survive abortions: “These are precious little children, made in the image of God and endowed by Him with the same worth and dignity as you and me and all of us,” he said.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn piled on, slamming Buttigieg for “sitting at home” — or what millions of new parents call family leave.
And Tucker Carlson, the very same who likened abortion proponents to Hitler, welcomed the news of Buttigieg’s adoption by sneering, “…paternity leave is what they are calling it. Trying to figure out how to breastfeed — no word on how that went.”
It’s almost as if — almost — Republicans are playing politics with abortion. They sound less than committed to “family values” when they mock adoptive parents for, you know, parenting. Call me crazy, but it seems like the sanctity of life loses its luster when applied to the adopted babies of a liberal, gay couple.
In a world that made sense, opponents of abortion would be the loudest proponents of adoption, including gay adoption. The Buttigiegs would be heralded by the right for adopting two babies that might have otherwise been aborted. And Pete’s decision to stay home with his babies for a month or so would be celebrated as good family values.
But the Buttigieg reaction proves that, amidst a long line of hypocrisies, moral failures and intellectual dishonesties in today’s Republican Party, we just don’t live in that world.
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