Today’s Courier Herald Column:
There was a time, not so long ago in this state, when declaring you were “pro-life” was generally understood and accepted both within the pro-life movement and those who oppose it. There were, inevitably, uncomfortable situations where those who were pro-life were willing to accept that parents, would-be parents, and higher powers would take precedence over established law. While many within the community generally agreed to disagree over situations involving rape, incest, and the life of the mother, those who generally agreed with most other pro-life concepts were welcome within the fold.
That was then. Today, the community seems more intent on purging those they deem less than pure, and expanding the litmus tests far beyond saving the lives created from an unplanned pregnancy.
The results have been counterproductive. The movement is split. The endorsements of pro-life groups that were -until very recently- required to win a GOP primary may now actually be hurting candidates. And the legislative priorities of the pro-life movement have moved so far from dealing with the issues of pregnancy that many who have taken a break from pro-life activism wouldn’t recognize it if they were to return today.
It seems virtually impossible for an OBGYN to be supported by pro-life groups these days. Those who are responsible for the health of the unborn (and their mothers) during pregnancy are now generally rumored to be abortion doctors if they attempt to run for office. Such was the smear campaign launched against DeKalb Dr. Carla Roberts -one of the nation’s leading physicians for gynecological surgery- and more recently against Dr. Dean Burke, who as an obstetrician seems to have delivered half of the babies born in Southwest Georgia.
Neither Roberts nor Burke were endorsed by Georgia Right to Life, despite their commitment to helping parents bring children into this world. Roberts was defeated in a Republican primary to Chris Boedeker, who later lost to incumbent Scott Holcomb. Burke defeated minister and former State Rep. Mike Keown who had been heavily backed by GRTL. Many after, however, noted that the rumors that the doctor they knew very well was actually an abortion doctor didn’t sit well.
It’s one thing for Georgia Right to Life to cost Republicans a seat in inner metro Atlanta. But for the organization to lose a candidate they supported in one of the state’s most socially conservative areas should be considered evidence that the leaders of the movement are losing their followers, and the battle for their agenda.
It is not much different on the legislative front. After last year’s successful passage of the fetal pain bill – limiting abortions after the fetus has the ability to feel pain – the “pro-life” bill this session is HB 481, calling for the ethical treatment of human embryos. It seeks to ban, among other things, the creation of animal-human hybrids.
It would be much easier to accept the push into these areas had the pro-life movement actually accomplished the goal that once unified them – overturning Roe vs. Wade. Despite the fact that Georgia and many other states have elected majorities that support pro-life legislation with up to three exceptions, the goal from the anti-abortion movement is purity on all parts of the issue, which now extends into opposition to in-vitro fertilization and human cloning experiments that are mostly the realm of science fiction, not science. And certainly not morality.
If pro-life forces wish to regain relevance, they would seek again to win hearts and minds. Instead of demanding purity from their own ranks, or smearing those in the medical community who help families during pregnancy, they should meet the people affected by crisis pregnancies where they are, and how they live.
More effort and attention needs to be given to pregnancy resource centers for mothers seeking an alternative to ending their pregnancies. And especially, the pro-life movement needs to work to help establish support networks for those mothers who choose life and carry their baby to term. Believing that lives begin at conception shouldn’t mean turning our backs on those lives just because they’ve been born.
There are many working in the pro-life community who actively support these centers, and help mothers and children both during pregnancy and afterward. The pro-life cause would be greatly enhanced if this was the focus of the movement, instead of increasingly fringe legislation or underhanded acts of campaign desperation that too often, define the pro-life movement’s public image today.