John Fea, an Associate Professor of History at Messiah College, has an interesting overview of the “Compassion Forum” held there on Sunday night at Religion in American History, a group blog to which he is a contributor. (Fea’s book, The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America is hot off of presses.) He’s got some interesting observations, especially about the shallowness of the news media generally (and John Meacham in particular! What a shallow jerk–it’s good to know that Historiann is not the only one unimpressed with his so-called erudition on the subject of, well, religion in American history.) Fea writes, “Meacham had a particular fascination with asking strange and quirky questions and then chuckling like a giddy little kid who just stumped his fourth grade teacher.”
Bottom line for Fea: “When faith and policy questions were addressed, Obama seemed to offer insights that were deeper and more theologically informed than Hillary. Clinton at times seemed to ramble on endlessly without making any real point.” However, he admits that the college kids crowd seemed very pro-Obama, and writes that “it is hard not to get caught up in the traveling rock star spectacle that is the Obama campaign. The guy has charisma.” Nevertheless, he notes that “[t]here were also many students who were disappointed with the candidates’ pro-choice answers to questions about abortion. This issue is still very important, even to younger evangelicals who are tired of the culture wars.”
I don’t question Fea’s assertion that anti-choice politics are still important to his students, even as they’re apparently energized by the appearance of pro-choice Democrats on their campus, and even as many of them are apparently excited in particular about Obama’s candidacy. But, I wonder if overturning Roe v. Wade is also something that evangelical women in their 20s support more than women in their 30s or 40s, who may have had unwanted or complicated pregnancies and either sought an elective abortion or had to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons. Just as many younger women today don’t identify themselves as feminists because they’re confident (up to age 28 or so) that feminism is unnecessary because of its victories, it may be easier for younger women to believe that abortion is uncomplicated and only about fetal death. Women in their 30s and 40s tend to have more complicated lives–and thus, the decision to get an abortion is usually done in a context that considers the living child or children they have already, their health and future fertility, the prognosis of the fetus, and the effects of continuing with a complicated, dangerous, and/or futile pregnancy on their families as a whole.
Before she moved out of state, one of Historiann’s best friends here was a woman who performed abortions at one of the few places in this state that provide abortions. It was a revelation to me to learn that, in her estimation, about one-third of her patients had recorded moral or religious objections to the procedure they were seeking. (Contrary to anti-choice propaganda, abortion clinics put patients through extensive counseling to ensure that an abortion is indeed what they want.) So, it’s clear that evangelical women and Catholic women are seeking out and getting abortions–even though they still believe abortion is wrong–and that has got to have an effect on the way they view abortion politics. If not–if they and their husbands or partners return to their parishes and megachurches and take up the banner against abortion–that’s got to be the most cowardly and morally offensive position: safe and legal abortions for me, but not for thee.