Single-Issue Voting: The Problem with Abortion


We have a problem in this country. Well, who am I kidding? We actually have many. One, however, I would like to address today. That is “single issue voters.” I knew a girl once who was a devout Catholic. I recall her saying, in 2004, that she couldn’t vote for John Kerry because he was pro-choice. That bothered me considerably, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was 2004. The Iraq war had been going on for something like 8 months. We were setting record budget deficits. The country was caught in a huge debate about how to fight global terrorism, and yet preserve American’s freedom. Still, this woman was concerned only with whether a candidate supported or opposed abortion rights. That lack of perspective left me dumb-founded.

It’s important that we remember a few important things. One, virtually no elected official has any say on whether abortion rights are legal. In 1973, the Supreme Court assured abortion rights for a number of reasons. The only way to overturn that ruling is for the current Supreme Court to do so. It is unlikely that they would. It takes extreme circumstances for the Court to overturn precedent. So when you vote for a senator of congressman, it makes no sense to vote simply on their views on abortion. They can’t do anything about it. Presidents can have an effect perhaps. They do appoint the Justices of the court, but even that can be unreliable. Liberal Walter Brennan was appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford, for instance. Supreme Court Justices are given lifetime appointments. It’s hard to guess how a person’s views might change over that amount of time.

More important than any of that is looking at the reality of the situation.  People who oppose abortion want to make it illegal. The facts show that illegality doesn’t stop abortions from happening. I prevents them from being regulated. It prevents them from being tracked. Making abortion illegal prevents us from knowing for sure how often abortions really happen. If we want to prevent abortion, must prevent unwanted pregnancy. This will only happen with comprehensive sex education in our schools. Unfortunately, the pro-life crowd is generally also the “abstinence only education” crowd.  Their position on these issues seems consistent. However, it does nothing to prevent teenage pregnancy, or abortion.  If we want to prevent abortions we must teach kids how not to get pregnant. Like it or not, teens are having sex. You, me or the will of god is not changing that fact. So let’s stop acting like we can. Let’s do something that might actually help instead.

At any rate, we should stop voting because of any single issue. Electing our leaders is much more complicated that. We need to find the people we can most agree with on the most important issues, and work to persuade them where we disagree. Democracy can be a great form of government, but only if we all get informed and get involved.

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