By Kelpie Wilson
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 5 November 2004
--Dan Balz and Mike Allen, Washington Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, November 3, 2004
It has been a truism of American politics that Americans vote their pocketbook. Clinton’s winning slogan in 1992 was “It’s the economy, stupid.” But the election of 2004 was an exception. Fear and loathing have trumped common sense.
Given the reality of the 9-11 attacks, given the utter complicity of the media in the Bush regime’s campaign of lies about Iraq and WMDs, it is not so surprising that fear has ruled the day. The politics of fear has a long pedigree in human affairs.
Hermann Goering, Hitler's right hand man, said: "It is the leaders of the country that determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked."
Karl Rove absorbed this lesson well.
So we have explained the economy vote and the fear vote, but what about the moral values vote? In America, the only moral values ever discussed are gay rights and abortion, otherwise know as “family values.” In the stark political lexicon of America, if you are for gay rights and abortion, you are against families.
In 2000, when pressed on what his candidacy would do to the prospects for reproductive choice, Ralph Nader dismissed abortion as a women’s issue that was not nearly as important as his goal of breaking the American political system free from corporate control. Unfortunately, abortion is one of the linchpins of that control. It does not pay to marginalize women’s reproductive freedom because of the tremendous power that it has.
Although abortion has been practiced throughout history, and across cultures, there has been no consistent moral or legal position on it. Abortion was widespread through much of the ancient world. An herb called silphium, a variety of giant fennel, was so effective that during Greek and Roman times it was harvested to extinction. It could not be cultivated and grew only in the deserts of Libya.
Yet toward the end of the Roman Empire, the state began to outlaw abortion and contraception. As the Imperial economy slowed, more and more subjects refused to birth large families. The custom was to sell unwanted infants as slaves, but fewer families were willing to do that. At its height, about twenty percent of the Empire's subjects were slaves.
Empires need slaves. They need armies. They need growth. Inevitably, when women have the power to control their reproduction, they tend to match the size of their families to the resources available. They do not breed with conquest in mind.
A Nazi newspaper in 1931 published the following: "The family with many children must be preserved.... because it is a highly valuable, indispensable part of the German nation ... not only because it alone guarantees the maintenance of the population in the future but because it is the strongest basis of national morality and national culture... the legalization of abortion is at variance with the function of the family, which is to produce children, and would lead to the definite destruction of the family with many children."
Control of women’s reproductive freedom is at once a moral issue, an economic issue and an environmental issue, yet pro-choice supporters rarely frame it as anything other than an issue of personal privacy or freedom. Most people would agree that when moral values are at stake, personal choices are less important. And so, anti-choice zealots, on their high horses, can look down on women who choose abortion and call them selfish or worse.
It is vitally important that all who want change recognize that abortion may be the biggest issue that divides us as a nation. We must begin to directly address the true moral implications of abortion, which are these:
It is utterly immoral to force a woman to bear an unwanted child. It is immoral not just because of the impact to women but because of the impact to the earth and future generations. Billions of people today live in poverty on the edge of starvation. The World Wildlife Fund reports that we currently consume 20 percent more natural resources than the Earth can produce and that we have permanently reduced Earth's capacity to support life. The skyrocketing curve of population growth is about to meet the plunging curve of resource depletion.
If a woman does not want a child, then the Earth does not want it either. Far better to let a tiny embryo, the merest spark of life, be extinguished, than to risk the lives of so many who are already here. This is a moral choice of the highest order and it is one that all women are empowered to make.
Those who oppose abortion and reproductive choice are the ones who are anti-life.
Those who support a woman's right to choose and who want to help women all over the world gain access to reproductive health care are the ones who are morally righteous and who are on the side of life.
There is no cause more moral than this one: We shall leave a living planet to our children, not a wasteland.