The Evangelical Left has tried desperately to corral liberal evangelicals behind Obamacare by promising protections against government funded abortion. But at the same time, the old Religious Left is loudly protesting the U.S. House of Representatives’ Stupak-Pitts restriction against government health insurance funded abortions. Leftist church officials are urging constituents to ask the U.S. Senate to drop the abortion restriction.
“It is now up to the Senate to keep health care reform free of religious doctrine and restrictions that will prevent women from making their own reproductive health care choices,” explained the Reverend Carlton Veazey of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). Veazey’s group includes the United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, Catholics for a Free Choice, and several Jewish groups.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State also joined RCRC’s November 16 press conference because the abortion restriction is ostensibly a theocratic imposition.
For the mostly new Evangelical Left and the old Religious Left, government-imposed universal health care is a totem for which their activists have toiled across years and decades. Politically liberal evangelicals who still are pro-life, or who at least care about gathering support from the majority of evangelicals, remain anxious to preserve Stupak-Pitts. The old Religious Left, which has enthusiastically supported abortion rights since the 1960’s, sees the proposed abortion restriction in Obamacare as a nightmarish stain upon their utopian dream of socialized medicine.
“Women must not lose access to abortion services they may need because of a small but vocal group of anti-choice activists,” Veazey implored. ”Health care reform is about expanding access to health care for all, not rolling back women’s access to needed health services.”
His RCRC press conference included representatives from the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, Catholics for a Free Choice, the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) Justice and Witness Ministries, and the National Council of Jewish Women.
More so than the United Methodists, Catholics for a Free Choice spoke at length at the RCRC press conference. Pitts-Stupak was an “outrageous attack on women’s rights and showed that the bishops are willing to sacrifice health care unless their views on abortion win the day,” insisted Jon O’Brien, the group’s president. “There are many of us who are not willing to sacrifice insurance coverage for abortion for so many women and we are willing to fight to the bitter end.” He claimed that most Catholics support abortion funding by government health care. And O’Brien regretted that 200 bishops in the U.S. purport to speak for the church when actually over 60 million Roman Catholics have different opinions.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State agreed with O’Brien that Pitts-Stupak was an imposition of the Catholic bishops. “We wish to live in the 21st century, not an echo of Medieval Spain,” he dramatically insisted. And Lynn claimed that Congress was subjecting “intimate decisions” to a “large and powerful church’s governing body,” making government health care “no reform at all.”
Once a fixture of the old Religious Left aligned with Lynn and RCRC types, Jim Wallis of Sojourners has repackaged himself in recent years as spokesman for liberal evangelicals, a larger and more dynamic demographic than what the old Mainline Protestant lobbies typically can claim to represent. Although not personally favoring legal restrictions on abortion, Wallis has urged evangelicals to support liberal Democrats as a supposed route to a greater government social net that will reduce the demand for abortion.
Deeply troubled by controversy over Stupak-Pitts, Wallis has dispatched a long and rambling memo to supporters evasively urging “common ground” instead of allowing a “resurrection of the ‘culture wars’” to stymie the long sought dream of government-created universal health care. He urged Obamacare supporters: “Don’t walk away!” Health-care reform is about social and economic justice, Wallis pleaded, “One of the most critical moral issues of our time, and itself an issue of ‘life.’” He implored his liberal religious supporters to “hold on, hold on.”
Of course, Evangelical Left activists like Wallis desperately want Obamacare, even if it entails abortion restrictions, and see Stupak-Pitts as a sweetener for their constituency. Hard-line old Religious Leftists portray Stupak-Pitts as an outrageous accommodation of theocracy. Both Evangelical Left and Religious Left are united in their messianic hopes for socialized health care and almost certainly will support Obamacare ultimately in any form.
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