The Tea Party and Christian Right's Sneaky Anti-Abortion Crusade
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The U.S. is facing resurgence in the war against a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Congress contained the Bush administration’s more virulent anti-abortion efforts, especially after the 2006 election. Since Obama’s election and the Democrats' takeover of Congress, abortion has been a hostage to political horse-trading as evident in the Stupak compromise restricting abortion from insurance coverage that finally got the health reform legislation passed.
Unfortunately, as national media attention has moved on to other matters, the battle over abortion and other culture-war issues has shifted from the Congress to state legislatures. Across the country, especially in what are known as red states, the Christian right has moved stealthily, yet aggressively, to further tighten restrictions on “legal” abortions. These efforts have been remarkably successful, likely foreshadowing a major campaign against Roe at both the federal and state levels following a likely strong showing by right-wing Republicans in the 2010 Congressional elections.
This new anti-abortion movement is a continuation of the old religious war against a woman’s right to choose and for sexual freedom, but with some important new twists. The domestic and foreign policy crises Obama inherited from the Bush administration, combined with Obama’s own compromises, have provided a great cover for a refocused anti-abortion movement. The just-say-no Republican party, together with the inflammatory Tea Party movement, has refocused the mainstream media away from abortion and other cultural issues to “big” government, the national debt and immigration.
The anti-abortion warriors have used this cover to wage campaigns requiring women considering abortion to undergo an ultrasound of the fetus; banning abortion coverage in the state employees’ health plan; and restricting public funding of abortion under the new health-insurance exchanges. In addition, they are employing provocative public media campaigns like the billboards in Georgia targeting African Americans (i.e., black babies as an “endangered species”) and slick posters on the New York City subways (i.e., “abortion changes you”) to push a more sophisticated anti-abortion message.
Today’s anti-abortion warriors, like other disaffected right-wingers, are finding renewed fervor under the banner of the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party folks rally behind the anti-big-government banner and often insist on avoiding culture-war issues. Yet, with a few exceptions, the Tea Party movement continues the fervent campaign to overturn Roe and end legal abortions.
Today’s new anti-abortion movement draws upon the evangelical right’s longstanding efforts to impose its moral values on all Americans. The most successful of these efforts was the temperance movement, which after nearly three centuries of effort finally succeeded with the passage of the 18th Amendment imposing Prohibition during the 1920s. This effort turned out to be one of the greatest social, political and moral failings in American history.
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According to the Guttmacher Institute an estimated 370 bills regulating abortion were introduced in state legislatures in 2010, compared with about 350 in each of the previous five years. This is up from an estimated 250 bills introduced during the early 1990s. At least 24 bills have passed so far this year and the final total may top the 34 laws passed in 2005.
A snapshot of some of these state legislative efforts reveals the tenor of the new anti-abortion war.