Even when the Whitehouse and both houses of Congress are controlled by the same party, there is practically no movement on abortion. George W. Bush had a Republican House and Senate for four years. Obama had a Democrat House and Senate for two years. Movement on the abortion issue: zippo.
There have been battles along the way--a partial-birth abortion ban that was overturned, supreme court appointments, whether government health plans should cover the morning after pill, etc. Those partisan battles are the point of this political debate, because: we've always been at war with Eastasia!
Abortion is a perpetual political war that gnaws at our polity by inflaming equal and opposite responses from Republicans and Democrats. A war where we learn to hate the "other" so we don't notice the kleptocrats looting the treasury.
Welcome to my dystopian view of the American two party system.
America is a pluralistic society rooted in the separation of church and state. While religious arguments may sway one's view on any number of issues, they are unconvincing in this secular theater. Civility in our pluralistic society requires that we respect each other's beliefs even when we do not agree with them; therefore, appeals to religious tenants and traditions contribute to the rancor of the debate.
While America's founding was influenced by Judeo-Christian thought, those beliefs were circumscribed by our founders in the 1st Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." To find an American creed--a belief that is widely shared among Americans--I think we must limit ourselves to America's founding documents and omit references to God to have the widest secular appeal.
Our public policy discussion about abortion should be based on this phrase from the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all... are created equal..." That simple phrase establishes these tenants of our shared American creed:
- Our equality begins when we are "created"
- Our equality at creation is self-evident
- Collectively we agree to this truth
I'm not trying to settle this debate, rather I would like to see thoughtful discourse on the issue. This re-framing establishes premises that all Americans can accept. This will not bring our perpetual political war over this issue to an end, but it will create a common foundation for discourse--a sort of Geneva Conventions for the war. And that, I think, will remind each side of the basic humanity of those with whom they disagree and hopefully foster some civility.