28 October 2005

Perhaps it is time for those who strive to be "pro-life" to have a change of heart about their strategy

Yesterday, on the Andrew Tallman program, the withdrawl of Harriet Miers Supreme Court justice nomination was discussed. A great deal of the conversation was centered on the goal of making abortion illegal, and how this should be accomplished (the host righteously argued) via the framework of the constitution as opposed to judicial fiat. That, to blindly select candidates that will overturn Roe v. Wade strictly motivated by their own personal bias is to committ a grievious error on par with that of the "judicial activism" decried by conservatives. Which is a consistency to be commended, given the current conservative political climate where it seems the the ruling philosophy is guided by "the ends justify the means".

But all of the political discussion on abortion, from the perspective of a "pro-life" voter, is predicated on the hypothesis that rendering abortion an illegal act will promote a "culture of life". Is this a true assertion, or is the issue bit more complex, with other unconsidered variables weighing heavier?

James M. Wall, senior editor for Christian Century offered some poignant insights in a recent editorial.

Wall points out that around the globe, the presence or absence of legal restrictions seems to have little to do with whether women decide to have an abortion. For instance, in Belgium and the Netherlands, abortion is legal and covered by national health insurance. These countries report an abortion rate of about seven per 1000 women. In countries such as Peru, Brazil, Chile and Colombia, where abortion is restricted by law, the abortion rate is about 50 per 1000 women. In the United States, the rate is presently about 22 abortions per 1000 women.

Wall asserts in his commentary that a culture of life is flourishing more in Western Europe than in Latin America for several reasons. For one thing, the Belgian and Dutch have access to government-supported health care, child care and parental leave. All of this, Wall notes, "means raising a child is a more sustainable prospect."

Wall points to other studies that seem to indicate that when economic and other social factors are favorable, the rate of abortions drop significantly. He writes, "They will choose against abortion if they have some confidence that the community around them will help them with medical care and child care."

The United States, in terms of abortion rates, is positioned between Western Europe, where abortion is legal and subsidized and Latin America, where it is illegal. Yet, the U.S. rate is three times that of Western Europe, but less than half of that in Latin America. If the preservation of life is the ultimate goal, a more holistic solution is needed.

I would wholeheartedly support an amendment to ban abortion (except for cases or incest or rape, which I realize to some pro-lifers, is rankling), if government-supported health care, child care and parental leave were also enacted.

4 October 2005

Gerrymandering is not only about one party trying to squeeze a few more representatives for its party’s congressional delegation

David Brin, in the midst of a ten part series on the evils of gerrymandering.
There are other purposes and goals that go much farther and have more debilitating effects upon democracy.

One of these has been the aim of creating as many safe districts as possible. Not only for the majority party in a state, but also for members of the minority party! In effect, the practice creates job security for professional politicians, at the expense of competitive elections all across the United States.

Out of 435 seats in the US House of Representatives, only a couple of dozen are considered “open” or truly competitive in Campaign 2006, with both Democrat and Republican starting even, ready to be judged primarily on the basis of policies, politics and personality.

Here is a partial index of the articles written by Dr. Brin thus far.

  1. The worst insult to 21st century liberty: ... the Gerrymander Gambit
  2. Gerrymandering at the surface: ...the “harmless” way it’s generally portrayed
  3. Hidden Goals of Gerrymandering: ...protect politicians from fickle voters

Many argue for the implementation of term limits to address the ills of lifetime politicians who remain detached from the public interest, but this issue of redistricting and carving up safe districts (and the minority party equally eager to accept "for sure" slots at the expense of sacrificing chance to gain a majority of seats for their party) disenfranchises the average American voter.