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Abortion Debate Needs To Be Separated From Religion

Abortion, without a doubt, is one of the most controversial issues of our time—an issue that mixes religion with politics with public health and more.

But, when it comes to the political arena, abortion and religion need to be separated once and for all. In the political arena, abortion should be treated as a public policy issue, not a religious call-to-arms.

In a recent column, William F. Buckley, Jr., criticized Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry for being a Catholic who is personally opposed to abortion but who believes it should remain legalized.

That position by Catholic politicians ("I am personally opposed to it, but others aren't, and I respect their rights to their positions") is hardly novel. Teddy Kennedy and Mario Cuomo come to mind, famous expositors of the imputed obligation to transcend private opinions in the service of public consensus. Buckley notes.

Buckley's very comments fully illustrate the need to separate religion from abortion when it comes to politics.

While the U.S. Constitution provides for separation of church and state, it seems as though there is no such fine line when it comes to abortion, especially for some Republicans and far-right extremists.

While a religious hot button, abortion should be treated like any other public policy issue when it comes to campaigns and politics. Either you support it because you believe it is necessary public policy, or you oppose it because you think it is poor public policy. Sure, your personal beliefs on the topic may be shaped by religion, but bringing religion into the discussion simply polarizes an already polarized issue.

There is probably no candidate--present or future--who would advocate abortion as the greatest thing since sliced bread. I certainly don't.

But, some candidates realize that what the Supreme Court said with its Roe vs. Wade decision is true--it is a woman's right to choose--not the government's.

Abortion is a deeply personal decision that must be made by a woman at a what is no doubt a traumatic time in her life.

Separating the abortion issue from religion for the purpose of politics and campaigns would promote more honest discussion about the subject--from parental notification to late-term abortions to regulation of the procedure in general.

A shift from treating abortion as a religious issue for the purpose of campaigns would also help voters make something other than a single-issue vote when they enter their polling places.

The individual voter can bring their religion, their personal beliefs and the like to play when they cast their vote--and they should.

But, for the purpose of politics, treating abortion simply as a public policy issue will help the issue move from its seemingly permanent place at the center of campaign politics--a position Republicans would no doubt prefer it continue to occupy to help polarize voters--to allow for more frank discussion about other issues that matter to the majority of voters like the economy, unemployment, and national defense.

As it stands now, the abortion issue has become a bully pulpit for the Religious Right--they want a candidate who will appoint fewer activist judges. Meaning, in part, they want judges who will overturn Roe vs. Wade. The average voter, however, doesn't vote for a candidate because of what type of judges he or she will appoint to office. They vote for the candidate who they believe will work to make their life better.

Moving abortion from a religious issue to a public policy issue for the purpose of campaigns would serve to help quell extremist activists on both sides of the issue, promote more dialogue on other topics, and ultimately make for campaigns that make voters think more--which is never a bad thing.

Posted by at March 14, 2004 5:49 PM