01/23/2013 10:06 am ET Updated Mar 25, 2013

The Abortion Debate

This week, a gaggle of Republican Congresspersons warmed up for the Jan. 25 March for Life in Washington, D.C., by speechifying on the floor of the House about the tragedy of abortion. This litany was directed at declaring legal abortion a national tragedy. Absent, as usual, was honest debate.

The major reason that we never witness a genuine discussion about abortion is that it is relegated to being a subset of the real debate, whether this nation's legislative agenda should be ruled by religion. The Republicans are just fine with the argument the way it is, because their side carries the imprimatur of God's will. The Democrat don't even have the guts to utter the word "religion," let alone remind everyone that the United States does not make laws based on how it will be judged after the Second Coming. Because they're afraid of being accused of having no souls, they grasp at tenuous tenets of personal privacy, rather than support even first-trimester abortion based on the facts that two cells are not a person, or that a ten-week fetus cannot survive on its own.

Making this debate about God deflects it from a discussion of some of our most pressing issues. If Republicans are so concerned with the life of unborn children, how is it that they don't care about children already in existence? Why won't they lift a finger toward gun control, no matter how many children are slain in our schools? Why aren't they interested in spending the money to educate our children and provide proper daycare, measures that would help lift millions of children out of poverty and dead-end lives?

House Republicans repeatedly mentioned a figure of 55,000,000 lost children since Roe v. Wade. Over 10,000,000 of those children would likely have been born poor, many would be forgotten children of color, and many of those would have children by now, most likely poverty-stricken. Why did I get the impression, perhaps unfairly, that this parade of white Representatives was not cognizant of the plight of poor people of color, swamped by births out of wedlock? Is it because, like their last presidential candidate, they believed that the poor, particularly those of color, weren't going to vote for Republican candidates anyway?

These same Republicans could help alleviate the misery of some of the children whose births they are so hell-bent on assuring by getting out of the way of gay marriage and adoption. Regardless of what they think God tells them, studies show that gay couples do just fine raising children, and these same couples are among the most willing to accept children unwanted by anyone else.

One Nebraska Congressman made reference (good taste precludes me from using the word "idiotic") to the "abortion industry." Had he seen billboards at a NASCAR race, or seen commercials advertising abortion on demand on TV? What percentage of medical income depends on this "industry?"

A Southern Congressman made an -- okay -- idiotic comparison between the Dred Scott decision and Roe v. Wade, and how they were both misguided. He was right in one respect. Roe v. Wade never said anyone had to have an abortion, and Dred Scott never said that a civil war and another hundred years of courageous effort were mandatory for getting the God-fearing people of the South to give up their cherished institution of slavery.

These "Representatives" presented one testimonial after another about women enraptured by their decisions to eschew abortion, and children apparently delighted to have been born. This ignores the fact that the decision for abortion can be excruciating even for those who choose it, many of them people of faith. And what about the testimonials from women who chose abortion after they were abandoned; raped; molested by a relative; whose decision was the difference between a family staying above or slipping below the poverty line? What about women too mentally challenged to use birth control or raise children? How many cycles of families with 28-year-old grandmothers were interrupted? How many little girls of color were able to finish high school and, dare I say it, go on to college? If anything, maybe not enough women choose abortion. Why else would our family courts be choked with cases of child neglect and frank abuse; why else would we be forced to carry massive foster parent programs to rescue unfortunate children and crush state budgets?

They talked about the wonders of medical science and the ability to cure the unborn, without acknowledging that many conditions, especially those of genetic origin, are beyond help and responsible for horrible physical and mental disabilities. These same people revile evolution, believe that men ate dinosaurs, and claim the earth is 6,000 years old. They are willing to stunt education by barring books and forcing religious curricula that conflict with the very science they embrace when convenient for reinforcing their arguments.

They claim a monopoly on morals for people of faith, making abortion the tool of atheists. They reinforce their arguments by quoting our Founding Fathers and documents every time God is mentioned, ignoring the basic truths of these documents, that the founders of this nation wanted none of our laws based on religion, all the while supporting the right to practice religion, or to have no religion at all.

For most women, the choice of whether or not to have an abortion is gut-wrenching. The mere fact that it is being considered often indicates a need to make a life-changing decision. It should depend on the exigencies of the situation, and it should be up to the woman making that decision whether religion should be a factor. Forget about privacy; how about the simple decency of letting a woman make her own decision, with or without the help of her God, or, for that matter, someone else's imposed view of their own view of God?