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Religious left.

Our campaign to take religion back from the fight recently became less lonely. "More than 350 political liberals of many faiths gathered in Washington," reports The Washington Post, "to begin what some pollsters say is a quixotic task: restoring the voice of the religious left in the nation's political debate." The gathering was brought together by John Podesta, Clinton's last chief of staff, who now heads the Center for American Progress.

One of the speakers was Taylor Branch, the author of Parting the Waters and one of the most distinguished of the Monthly's alumni. Branch explained that the great surge of the Christian left that was a major factor in the civil rights revolution fell apart and lost its steam over the issue of abortion, with most liberals becoming rabidly pro-choice. To reach out to moderate Christians, Branch argues, the left must move beyond polemics:

"Not many people who call themselves pro-choice actually want to celebrate abortion, and not many of those who call themselves pro-file want to put women in jail for having abortions. It's more of a show than a debate with polarizing options that aren't real. Both sides profess that they love children, but you really don't have the two sides doing very much to cooperate to reduce the number of neglected and unwanted and abandoned children, or to care for them."

Branch's speech reminded me of a 1972 article by Suzannah Lessard we published while he was here entitled "A Legal Right, A Moral Choice" its point was that liberals were justified in insisting that abortion was a legal right, but that all too often they were wrong in not acknowledging the gravity of the moral decision involved.

A similar absolutism keeps many liberals from acknowledging that abortion may cause pain to the fetus. As Steve Chapman recently pointed out in The Chicago Tribune, surgeons seeking to correct birth defects now operate on fetuses, and when they do they use anesthesia, not just for the mother but for the fetus as well. Chapman goes on to quote pediatricians who say fetuses can feel pain. Maybe they're wrong, he concedes. But why not err on the side of caution and seek to find ways to terminate pregnancies in the most humane ways possible for both the woman and the fetus?
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Title Annotation:Tilting at Windmills
Author:Peters, Charles
Publication:Washington Monthly
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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