FaithWorld

Support for abortion rights declines in America

Public support for abortion rights is ebbing in America while the issue’s importance has fallen on the public agenda, especially for liberal Democrats, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

In 2007 and 2008, Pew found that supporters of abortion rights outnumbered those saying it should be illegal in most or all cases by a 54 percent to 40 percent margin.

By contrast, in two major surveys conducted in 2009 among a total sample of more than 5,500 adults, views of abortion are about evenly divided, with 47 percent expressing support for legal abortion and 44 percent expressing opposition,” Pew said.

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You can see our full story here and the Pew report here.

What I want to ask readers in this blog is what they think all of this means, especially in light of President Barack Obama’s agenda and other polls which show similar trends. (PHOTO: Anti-abortion protestor holds sign in front of US Capitol during March for Life in Washington, January 22, 2009/Jonathan Ernst)

In May, we blogged on a Gallup poll that showed “pro-life” Americans (who oppose abortion rights) outnumbering “pro-choice” Americans (who support them) for the first time since the organization began asking that question in 1995. It found 51 percent of Americans referring to themselves as “pro-life” on the issue of abortion versus 42 percent who described themselves as “pro-choice.”

Huckabee wins round one in 2012 Republican race

Former Arkanas Governor and Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee has won the first informal round in what will no doubt be a long race to head the party’s White House ticket in 2012.

The affable Baptist preacher, who won the hearts and minds of conservative evangelicals during his failed 2008 bid for the Republican presidential nomination, topped other possible Republican presidential contenders in a straw poll at a summit of Christian conservative voters in Washington.

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Out of a field of nine, Huckabee garnered the most votes or 28.5 percent. Delegates to the convention were asked: “Thinking ahead to the 2012 presidential election and assuming the nomination of Barack Obama as Democtats’ choice for president, who would you vote for as the Republicans nominee for president?”

Anti-abortion rights activists target “personhood” amendments

When Americans go to the polls for the congressional elections in 2010, in some places they may also be asked to vote on state ”personhood” amendments that would effectively define life as starting at fertilization or the “start of biological development.”

A proposal like this was rejected by voters in Colorado in November but anti-abortion rights activists hope to get similar ballot measures together in at least a dozen states for 2010.

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This could have broader political implications as initiatives in the past on so-called hot button social issues such as gay marriage have brought conservative Christians — an influential voting block in the out-of-power Republican Party — to the polls.

U.S. religious conservatives and progressives profiled

The first ever comparative surveys of U.S. conservative and progressive (or liberal) religious activists has just been published by the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron and Public Religion ResearchClick here for a link to the survey.

Many findings of the study – based on a detailed survey answered by 1,866 progressive religious activists and 1,123 conservative ones — will come as no surprise to followers of the U.S. political scene. But they will no doubt be closely scrutinized by both Republican and Democratic strategists.

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Republicans are sure to take note of the fact that religious conservatives are still preoccupied with the issues of abortion rights and gay marriage, which they staunchly oppose. The Democratic Party will note that progressive religious activists care deeply about poverty, health care and the environment.

Poll – Should Ted Kennedy have a Catholic funeral?

kennedyOur post “Catholic comments on Ted Kennedy, pro and con” showed readers were deeply split on whether the late senator should have a Roman Catholic funeral. The naysayers argued that his support for choice on abortion and other disagreements with Church doctrine disqualify him from a religious ceremony. Those for a church funeral argued that he helped advance many causes championed by Catholic social teaching.

Those opposing a Mass of Christian Burial for Kennedy predominated, but not all readers take the time to write a comment. One-click poll questions sometimes give a different picture from comment pages. So here’s a simple question:

poll by twiigs.com (Photo: Ted Kennedy in the Senate, 8 Jan 2009/Larry Downing)

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Catholic comments on Ted Kennedy, pro and con

Much of the Roman Catholic commentary on the passing this week of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy — who was a practicing Catholic — has applauded his record on civil rights, immigration reform and economic justice but deplored his support for abortion rights. Kennedy died on Tuesday at the age of 77.

(PHOTO: A photo of Senator Edward M. Kennedy sits at the entrance to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

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The Catholic News Agency for example ran a report saying “Ted Kennedy leaves mixed Catholic legacy,” noting clerical discomfort with his support for the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that granted U.S. women a constitutional right to an abortion and related issues.

Religious Right TV ad links “Obamacare,” abortion

The Family Research Council, a leading activist group among America’s “Religious Right,” has launched a new TV ad in five key states that claims President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan will lead to publicly funded abortions — a charge disputed by the president’s allies and abortion rights groups.

You can see the new video, Life and Death, below.

FRC President Tony Perkins told reporters in a telephone conference that the ads will run on cable news programs in Arkansas, Nebraska, Louisiana, Alaska and Pennsylvania — five states that have significant numbers of social conservatives but are represented by more moderate lawmakers who can be swayed.

The announcement came just ahead of a “phone in” featuring liberal and left-leaning faith leaders — or the Religious Left – and Obama seeking to galvanize support for the president’s bid to overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system.

Could abortion law backfire on Spain’s Zapatero?

zapateroIn a country like Spain, where a large majority still identify themselves as at least more-or-less Catholic, you’d think the government would shy away from taking on the Roman Catholic Church.  In fact, there are probably few things Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero likes better than a brawl with the bishops.

Lingering anti-clerical sentiment in sectors of Zapatero’s Socialist Party, particularly on its left-most fringes, means the PM has few more effective tools for rallying his voters than the sight of a protest march led by priests and nuns. (Photo: Prime Minister Zapatero, 5 June 2009/Juan Medina)

At a time when unemployment is closing in on 20 percent, Zapatero knows matters economic are not going to provide anything to cheer his supporters. So there was little surprise when the government rolled out a bill to liberalise abortion laws, including a provision to allow 16 year olds to abort without parental consent, in time for the European elections. At present, Spanish law allows abortion only in certain circumstances, such as if the birth poses a psychogical risk to the mother, although in practice it is easily available.

Do animals have moral codes? Well, up to a point…

wild-justice-2“We believe that there isn’t a moral gap between humans and other animals, and that saying things like ‘the behavior patterns that wolves or chimpanzees display are merely building blocks for human morality’ doesn’t really get us anywhere. At some point, differences in degree aren’t meaningful differences at all and each species is capable of ‘the real thing.’ Good biology leads to this conclusion. Morality is an evolved trait and ‘they’ (other animals) have it just like we have it.”

That’s a pretty bold statement. If a book declares that in its introduction, it better have to have some strong arguments to back it up. A convincing argument could influence how we view our own morality and its origins, how we understand animal cognition and even how we relate to animals themselves.

Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, a new book by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce, presents a persuasive case for some animals being much more intelligent than generally believed. The authors show how these animals have emotions, exhibit empathy, mourn for their dead and seem to have a sense of justice. They draw interesting parallels to similar human behaviour that many people think stems from our moral codes and/or religious beliefs rather than some evolutionary process. All this is fascinating and their argument for open-mindedness about recognising animals’ real capabilities is strong.

New on-line forum seeks “common ground” on abortion

A new on-line forum launched on Tuesday seeks to spark discussion among faith and secular leaders and activists about ways to find some elusive common ground on the divisive issue of abortion.

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It’s being rolled out by RH Reality Check, which focuses on reproductive health and rights issues, and can be seen here.

The initial posts include contributions from David Gushee of Mercer University, a leading intellectual figure in the emerging “evangelical center movement,” Katie Paris of Faith in Public Life, and Steven Waldman of Beliefnet.