The long season of Pennsylvania’s primary discontent is now coming to a blessed close.
Marred by candidate stumbles, the six-week trek through the Keystone State also put the spotlight on Pennsylvania’s Democratic party maverick, Sen. Robert Casey, Jr.
Why are there not more Democratic leaders like this anti-abortion, anti-Iraq-war Catholic native son who is vocal about his concern for working people and for economic justice? In a party that professes to care for the oppressed and the powerless, politicians who advocate for fetal life are few and far between.
The lack of articulate voices from the left advocating for a consistent life ethic, or the sacredness of life from conception to grave, illustrates the rampant individualism that seems so endemic to the American character.
In its relentless focus on one particular woman and her “right” to terminate a pregnancy, the position taken by Democratic Party frontliners is also profoundly out of step with a Christian perspective in which decisions are weighed with community welfare in mind.
In his first letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul called that turbulent congregation to greater care for each other. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (I Cor. 12:26).
The Jesus I meet in the Gospels is much less concerned with individual welfare than with the spiritual and physical health of the community.
As I interpret these ancient Scriptures in the context of the contemporary abortion debate, I can’t help but conclude that the fetus, as well as the mother and father, must have a voice, an advocate, a metaphorical seat at the table when decisions are made.
In the party’s obsession with the notion of individual choice, the Democrats and their allies on the Christian left eerily echo conservatives in the Christian right and their stance on gun control laws.
Take away our right to unfettered abortions, and you will soon reduce women to slavery. Take away our guns, and you will put us at the mercy of the enemies who howl at our door.
These positions have very little to do with faith — and a lot to do with fear.
The two Democratic candidates have been vocal about the ways in which their faith traditions and values inform their decisions.
Yet they seem captive to the reigning orthodoxy that will not allow any room for dialogue, let alone a third way.
In the Illinois State Senate, Obama voted against a bill to ban late-term abortions, a position that puts him out of synch with the majority of the American public. Clinton has repeated the mantra that abortions should be “safe, legal and rare,” while doing relatively little to make that a reality.
The candidate’s positions do not reflect the reality on the ground — that while Americans favor keeping abortion legal, they continue to want to limit easy access by imposing constraints, some quite rigorous.
Which bring us back to Casey, and his principled attempt to build a consensus based on the greater community good.
Late last year, he sponsored a Senate bill that would move to support pregnant women before and after they give birth, provide tax credits for those who adopt, and help pregnant students stay in school.
It would be wonderful if politicians, clergy, and people of faith were able to look beyond ideology by working for that a time when pregnant women can make a decision based on the health of two lives in the knowledge that they will have access to the help they so indisputably need.
Doing so would be one step towards healing the national wound so deeply rooted in the false rhetoric of “choice” versus “life.”
After more than two hundred years, it is high time that believers, particularly Christians, seek common cause on behalf of the weak, vulnerable and voiceless ones, both born and not yet born.
Jesus hasn’t left His post. Perhaps it is we who have wandered.
Elizabeth E. Evans is a freelance writer, columnist and Episcopal priest who lives and writes in Glenmoore, Pa.