By Jim Daly
Jim Daly is president and CEO of the global Christian ministry Focus on the Family. He is recipient of the 2008 World Children's Center Humanitarian Award and the 2009 Children's Hunger Fund Children's Champion Award. While Dan's away, we've asked a selection of prominent guest bloggers from a variety of perspectives to give their thoughts on religion and public life.
Nineteenth-century French novelist Alphonse Karr is credited with coining the phrase, but his words ring true nearly 200 years later, especially when it comes to American politics.
"The more things change," he wrote, "the more they stay the same."
There is a new round of discussion centered on a desire to find "common ground" regarding abortion—a topic raised on and off for the past 20 years at least. I must confess it leaves me with mixed emotions. On one hand, how could anyone with a love for life turn down an opportunity to discuss ways to save innocent babies from being killed in the womb? When it comes to the idea of sitting down with people with whom I disagree, but who could make a difference in a subject I care deeply about, I'm reminded of what John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, once said. "If I was drowning, I would rather be seen by a burglar who can swim than a bishop who can't."
I believe on most issues, it's healthy, wise, and yes, even sometimes advantageous, to hash things out with "the opposition" when so much is at stake.
Yet, on the other hand, when it comes to abortion, history suggests these overtures for "dialogue" are often born out of political expediency, even electoral survivability. During his two terms in office, President Bill Clinton repeatedly stated that he wanted to make abortion "safe, legal, and rare"—but those of us who vehemently oppose legalized abortion on demand were never quite sure how he planned to make good on that last point. Apparently, he wasn't, either. It seemed to be a sound bite buttressed by little executive action.
President Obama has attempted to echo that sentiment, but his walk, unfortunately, has not matched his talk. Consider the comments he made during his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in May:
"So let's work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term."
This is a great place to start the conversation—Focus on the Family has, in fact, launched a new initiative to encourage churches to adopt children off the foster-care rolls, and the early results have been encouraging. But if President Obama is truly serious about making abortion rare, he shouldn't be forcing Americans to subsidize it as part of his healthcare reform package. Even many abortion proponents don't support that extreme position.
He also shouldn't have reversed the Mexico City policy, which for eight years banned federal funding to international groups that perform abortions. And he shouldn't have appointed the radical abortion advocate and former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius to head up the Department of Health and Human Services.
So, what should President Obama do?
At a minimum, he should promote policies ensuring a woman's informed consent before she receives an abortion, including the opportunity to view an ultrasound image of her child. Our research indicates that of those women still at risk for abortion after counseling, 65 percent expressed their intent to carry their baby to term after viewing the ultrasound image.
Women deserve the full picture before making a decision as painful and irreversible as having an abortion—and an ultrasound provides it to them. Parental consent should also be the law of the land. Affirming and extending the adoption tax credit would also encourage those families intimidated by the cost of welcoming a new child into their home.
Pastor Rick Warren, a personal friend of President Obama, has been even blunter on the subject. Speaking shortly after being invited to pray at the inauguration, Warren flatly stated, "It is kind of a charade in that people say, 'We believe abortions should be safe and rare.' Don't tell me it should be rare. That's like saying on the Holocaust, 'Well, maybe we could save 20 percent of the Jewish people in Poland and Germany and get them out, and we should be satisfied with that,' " Warren continued. "I'm not satisfied with that. I want the Holocaust ended."
Sadly, just a little over 200 days into his term, President Obama has done little to make good on his promise to reduce the number of abortions. Those of us still inclined to engage in civil discourse on the matter would be wise to remember a quote regularly uttered by President Reagan in dealing with the Soviet Union: Doveryai, no proveryai. Trust, but verify.
That said, we must also remember that the battle to save the unborn is not only, or even primarily, fought in the halls of government. Politicians don't save; Jesus does. Our nation will be transformed into a culture of life only, ultimately, to the extent that our hearts are transformed by Jesus.