Abortion and the Art of Making Distinctions

One of my “dirty little secrets” is that, when I lived in St. Louis, I enjoyed listening to the Lutheran (LCMS) radio station in town — particularly the show Issues, Etc. (which has since moved to another station in town for reasons that have been well-chronicled elsewhere). While I didn’t always agree with the show I appreciated their clarity of thought and courage in addressing current events from a Christian perspective.

I also came to appreciate the Lutheran definition of theology as “the art of making distinctions.” This is an art that is, sadly, lacking in much of what passes for discourse today. This is especially true in conversations around pro-life issues. Others more eloquent than I have bemoaned the distillation of various policy positions into the tidy packages of “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” implying that Americans fall into one camp or the other without nuance.

Two recent surveys make some important distinctions that rarely filter through the pervasive “pro-life”/”pro-choice” dichotomy. The first, conducted last fall for the Knights of Columbus by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, shows that only 8% of Americans favor totally unrestricted access to abortion. In fact, while 50% of Americans label themselves as “pro-choice,” 84% of all Americans believe that abortion should be restricted (either within the first three months; in case of rape, incest or for the mother’s health; or never permitted).

A new USCCB poll came to similar conclusions, finding that “four out of five U.S. adults (82 percent) think abortion should either be illegal under all circumstances (11 percent) or would limit its legality.” It also found that 95% believe that abortions should only be performed by licensed physicians and 88% favor parental notification laws.

In a couple weeks I will be traveling to Washington, D.C., to take part in the activities surrounding the March for Life. This will be my first such pilgrimage and I am hoping to use the opportunity to a) engage and educate myself more closley with life issues, b) encourage the young people of my diocese to do the same and c) try to find out more about the gap between the political discourse surrounding abortion in this country and the actual held beliefs of Americans.

Please pray for me and all of us making this pilgrimage.