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Pro-Life and Rush Limbaugh

In 1991, when I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from San Diego, my friend from college, Chris Hull (attending grad school at UC Berkeley) told me my pro-life views probably wouldn't be accepted here.

I countered that there are liberal pro-life groups, like Feminists For Life.

Chris reacted with disbelief, mimicking Richard Nixon leaving the White House in disgrace in 1974, his hands outstretched, giving the "V-for-Victory" sign... as if by referring to pro-life liberals I was describing some nonexistent "silent majority."

In early 1992, I contacted Feminists For Life, and told them I'm into animal rights and pro-life feminism. Feminists For Life gave me contact information for SF Bay Area residents Rose Evans and Ruth Enero.

I was told Rose Evans, editor and publisher of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, a "consistent-ethic" periodical on the religious left, is supportive of animal issues.

Rose sent me back issues of Harmony, and some pro-life liberal bumper stickers. When I asked her about the Seamless Garment Network, referred to throughout Harmony, she explained:

The Seamless Garment Network (SGN) is a coalition of peace and justice organizations on the religious left. The SGN takes a stand against war, abortion, poverty, racism, the arms race, the death penalty and euthanasia. Animal rights, like ecology, nuclear power, gun control, or the drug war, is a topic of serious discussion among SGN members. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has signed the SGN Mission Statement.

"We are committed to the protection of life, which is threatened in today's world by war, abortion, poverty, racism, the arms race, the death penalty and euthanasia.

"We believe these issues are linked under a consistent ethic of life. We challenge those working on all or some of these issues to maintain a cooperative spirit of peace, reconciliation, and respect in protecting the unprotected."

When I attended a pro-life meeting in Pleasanton, CA, I was surrounded by conservatives. They reacted with mild skepticism when I said I see many parallels between animal rights and prenatal rights (thoroughly documented in my 2006 book, The Liberal Case Against Abortion).

They could tell right away that I'm a pro-life liberal. They were all praising Rush Limbaugh, who I'd never heard of before, and saying, with mild amusement and mild sarcasm, "Oh, you'd like him..."

One woman said she was home-schooling her kids, distrustful of the public schools, and said she was pleased by Rush Limbaugh's referring to feminists as "feminazis."

When I told her it's hard to trust Bush Sr. on abortion as being genuinely pro-life as he ran for president in 1980 as a pro-choice Republican, saying he disagreed with Ronald Reagan about Roe v. Wade, etc., she replied, "I'm voting for Pat Buchanan."

"I couldn't do that," I responded, and said instead, "Jerry Brown. If he were pro-life, he'd be perfect."

One gentleman was a high school biology teacher and clearly a conservative. When I asked him how he deals with teaching his students evolution, he said he teaches evolution, but points out the flaws in evolutionary theory as well.

But he said with regret that America has been on a moral decline since prayers were removed from the public schools.

I was thinking to myself, "My God, there are actually people who hold these views!"

As I was leaving the pro-life meeting, the woman who said she was home-schooling her kids and a friend of hers saw me near my car, adorned with pro-life liberal bumper stickers (thanks to Rose!), and said, "Oh, we wondered whose car that was. Liberal and pro-life bumper stickers."

I said, "Haven't you heard of the Seamless Garment Network?" (even though I hadn't heard about it myself until earlier in the year!)

She responded, "Yes, we've heard of it. It was started by some leftist Cardinal. We refer to it as the 'straightjacket network.'"

"Seamy!" said Ruth Enero, in a phone conversation years later, saying that's how one of her relatives referred to the SGN.

In 1993, when I was working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a contract employee (fortunately, none of my work was defense-related!), my friend Terry Burt, a Vietnam veteran and a pro-choice Democrat, liked to listen to Rush Limbaugh, even though he disagreed with Rush Limbaugh on abortion... Terry considered opposition to abortion to be an extremely conservative position... and couldn't understand my being a pro-life Democrat!

“I have always thought it peculiar how the liberal and conservative philosophies have lined up on the abortion issue,” observed pro-life feminist Rosemary Bottcher, in the Tallahassee Democrat. "It seemed to me that liberals traditionally have cared about others and about human rights while conservatives have cared about themselves and property rights. Therefore, one would expect liberals to be defending the unborn and conservatives to be encouraging their destruction."

The only frustration I have with the left, therefore, is its failure to see abortion as a secular human rights issue…especially those who claim to espouse nonviolence, e.g., are antinuclear or antiwar, or support nonviolent civil disobedience.

During the spring of 1989, for example, a huge pro-choice rally in Washington, DC was endorsed by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Studies in Atlanta. I found this incredibly Orwellian! It’s like many on the left have trouble seeing abortion as a secular human rights issue; seeing it as an act of violence against the unborn.

Similarly, in the mid-‘90s, a group of various recording artists released an album benefiting the abortion rights movement, entitled Born to Choose. The title also struck me as Orwellian: We are “born to choose” whether or not someone else may be “born” to choose.

And in 2007, I saw a car with two bumper stickers: one of them read “Create Peace” and the other read “Pro-Choice.” The owner of the car apparently saw no contradiction between the two slogans.

If pro-lifers really want to end abortion, opposition is going to have to come from across the political spectrum, and not just from the far right.

Some pro-life liberals who immediately come to my mind are former Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff -- a self-described “liberal Jewish atheist”; writer and former Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy; the late governor Robert Casey of Pennsylvania; and Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, human rights and women's rights activist, and environmentalist. Of course, I can’t forget Carol Crossed of Democrats For Life, either, who was kind enough to write the foreword to my own 2006 book on the subject.

Democrats For Life of America
601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, South Building, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20004
phone (202)220-3066

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