Over Spring Break, I found myself on Capitol Hill in the Cannon House Office Building. As I left my congressman’s office I struck up a conversation with a lobbyist who wanted to exclude federal funding for abortions from the healthcare bill.
We got into a discussion, albeit a one-sided one, about the merits of such a decision. According to this lobbyist, when most Americans were asked if they want their tax dollars spent on abortions, an overwhelming amount say no. Then he said, “I personally believe Jesus Christ would be appalled to see that abortion funding is even a discussion in our country.”
I discovered this lobbyist was passionate about what he was trying to do. He was a father of five, a devoted husband and seemed to be a good man. He was a man representing a small group of people who fervently believe in their cause, not a “fat-cat” lobbyist Obama and other politicians rally against.
Despite his passion, there was a problem with his argument. While he claims most Americans don’t want their money being spent on abortions, who is his sample? How many people did they poll from? Was this pool truly random, or only among members of his faith? What was the language or wording of the question posed to them? Important questions to ask when discussing poll figures.
Also, Americans don’t get to decide what our taxes pay for. Congress does. In elections, we vote for congressmen who represent our political views, but even they don’t necessarily have the final say on where our tax dollars are spent. There are 535 congressmen, and it is their job to make choices for American citizens.
Come Election Day, the people assert their dominance over congressmen. While we can choose who we want spending our tax dollars, and while we can influence them to vote a certain way, in the end, congress chooses—not us.
When the lobbyist finally paused to breathe, I managed to tell him that I was born and raised a Southern Baptist, and though I’m familiar with my bible, I can’t recall Jesus saying anything about abortion. Personally, I feel abortion is a sad and terrible thing. However, there are circumstances where I believe it should be tolerated, such as in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.
If this language were to be adopted, it would disproportionately affect the poor lower-class minorities, whose demographics have much higher instances of teen pregnancy and babies born out of wedlock. In all likelihood, these people can’t afford the child or can’t physically carry a full-term pregnancy because of higher instances of malnourishment.
To withhold federal funding from the people who need it would negatively impact the lives of countless women. Pregnant girls are pressured to withdraw from their high school. The lucky ones are encouraged to attend an alternative school with programs for young mothers.
Sometimes carrying the baby to term isn’t an option. If federal funding for abortion is withheld, it would continue the downward spiral of our inner-cities and be one more obstacle to escaping the burden of being in the lower-class. The people who can’t afford to have the abortion would be forced to either do it themselves, or go ahead with a pregnancy that could be detrimental to the mother’s health or livelihood.
The man I spoke with was a very nice person, and his heart was in the right place. I don’t want to give the impression that he was unreasonable or blinded by dogma. He was going about changing the legislation in a safe and legal way by trying to influence our nation’s congressmen and getting them to see his side of the coin.
He told me, “it’s a sad thing that our society has devolved to the point where we feel abortion is acceptable.” While I understand where he is coming from, he forgets that we don’t have to accept it. However, abortion is here and isn’t going away just because federal funding is withheld. Attitudes on abortion must be changed in people’s hearts and minds, not through legislation.
One of the beauties of our country is that we have freedom of choice. Teenagers are having sex, whether they understand the consequences or not. Therefore, we need to educate them earlier about methods of contraception and the merits of abstinence. Abortion needs to be an available option to those who choose to use it. Let their personal beliefs guide them in making their decision.
When the option of abortion is available and a young mother chooses not to use it despite the personal cost, she does so of her own free will and personal moral values. The government cannot legislate morality. Rather, it has a responsibility to grant its citizens the freedom to choose. We don’t have to like abortion, but we should educate young teens about contraception, abstinence and alternatives to abortion.
Indeed, it is sad and disturbing to terminate the life of an unborn fetus, but we must recognize a woman’s right to choose whether or not to do so. While we may not be a fan of abortion, we have no right to force a young girl, raped by her father and pregnant with his child, to endure the humiliation of carrying his baby.