For three decades, a common refrain among many conservatives has been they wished their conservative political candidates would avoid the cultural issues and just focus on the core issues.
You know: low taxation; free-market capitalism; limiting government spending and intrusion into our lives; less regulation; strong national defense; the right to bear arms; law and order; and the principles in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
But as it has turned out, while those issues are important, these days so much turns on contentious cultural issues — recreational marijuana, alleged climate crisis, alternative energy, LGBTQ, DEI and the tinder box: abortion.
If you’re a politician, especially at the state or federal levels, the cultural issues cannot be avoided. Here in Florida over the past two years, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican Legislature indeed have pushed the core issues aside and confronted the cultural issues.
“Why would they do that?” we have heard many Republicans say. “Why would they pass and sign an abortion bill that bans abortions after only six weeks? Don’t they know that’s going to cost them elections?”
Why would they do that?
For one, because they can. Republicans have veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate. And with that, they think that gives them a mandate. And they certainly now have the power to adopt a conservative cultural agenda that heretofore could never be passed.
For another, the tide actually has turned in their favor — at least on one volatile issue: abortion. When the Supreme Court last summer overturned Roe v. Wade, turning the regulation of abortion back to the states, that gave pro-life conservatives and lawmakers the opportunity for which they have been fighting for 50 years.
It presented a James Baldwin moment. The late American writer and civil rights activist said: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
DeSantis and Republican legislators showed courage for the second consecutive year. Instead of taking the safe route of doing nothing so they can be reelected, they faced the abortion issue. In 2022, they banned it after 15 weeks; this year, they banned it after six.
Now they will have a year and a half until the 2024 election to see if indeed the abortion tide has turned.
But here’s a dichotomy: While Florida and other red states’ legislatures are shifting to more pro-life, more restrictive abortion laws, American culture is going in the opposite, more secular, anti-family, anti-children direction.
In 2020, the national marriage rate fell to 5.1 per 1,000 people, its lowest level in 121 years. The U.S. birth rate hit its lowest levels since 1950 in 2018, 2019 and 2020 — 11.9 per 1,000 people.
And there is this: According to a recent poll by the National Opinion Research Center, the importance of religion among Americans has dropped to 39% from 62% in 1998. This trend surely is contributing to the disintegration of America’s once strong moral, God-based, cultural moorings.
And there is this: If you attended or watched the almost four-hour Senate Health Committee meeting March 20 in Tallahassee on Senate Bill 300, the bill banning abortions after six weeks, you might easily conclude a majority of Florida women are not aligned with the governor or the Legislature.
You could say a majority of the more than 60 speakers represented the 62% of Floridians who oppose banning most abortions. That percentage surfaced in a 2022 University of North Florida poll of registered Florida voters.
And these speakers were passionate in calling for less-restrictive, legalized abortion. A sampling:
- “Remember, you’re not preventing abortion, you’re preventing access to safe abortion.”
- “It is extreme and out of touch with what Floridians want and need. This cruel bill will force of hundreds of thousands of pregnant women to have to travel out of state to seek the care they need. Others will be forced to remain pregnant against their will and endure labor and delivery and all the significant medical risks associated with pregnancy, birth or C sections.”
- “If this bill is passed, it will kill women and girls.”
- “Most people don’t even know they are pregnant after six weeks.”
- “When will this government overreach stop?”
Now stop for a moment. Reflect on what those speakers were saying. It was the perspective of wanting legalized, convenient access to abortion — to be able to eliminate an unborn child in the womb without recourse or interference from the State.
This is where this issue becomes complicated, especially, say, for a Libertarian, who believes in freedom for the individual and that government’s only roles are to protect us from foreign invaders; protect us from others harming or using force against us; and to serve as an umpire in disputes.
On the one hand, the Libertarian believes the pregnant woman should be free from government coercion and in charge of her life. On the other, a Libertarian also believes the State has a duty to protect everyone from harm.
In that instance, abortion is physical harm, violating the unborn child’s right to life, as guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence.
But philosopher Ayn Rand, an Objectivist and arguably a Libertarian, didn’t believe that. She argued “a piece of protoplasm” has no rights” and that “rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the unborn.”
Piece of protoplasm?
During testimony in Tallahassee, an embryologist and Ph.D. in neuroscience argued on behalf of SB 300. “A unique individual is formed at conception,” she said. “At six weeks gestation, the embryo has a heartbeat that is rhythmically beating at around 110 beats per minute. This means by the end of the six weeks, that heart will have beat more than one million times.
“This heart is moving blood throughout the developing embryo. And that circulating blood is essential for the embryo’s continued growth. At six weeks, the embryo’s brain is growing in three main sections.
“I’d like to finish,” she said, “by saying the people of Florida are taking a heroic step by following the science and recognizing the humanity of pre-born children.”
Now add to that, this: When Sen. Erin Grall, R-Fort Pierce, explained SB 300 at the March 20 hearing, she said: “For 50 years, it was legal to kill an unborn child, resulting in … the loss of more than 63 million innocent lives … We should grieve for what we have done to our country.”
And that brings us to the Bible. If you’re a believer in the “one, true” God, the Almighty was explicit in the beginning on the subject of killing human life:
- Commandment six: Thou shalt not kill.
And in the five books of the Jewish Torah (Old Testament):
- Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed …”
- Exodus 21:12: “Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death … [I]f a man schemes and kills another man deliberately, take him away from my altar and put him to death.”
- Leviticus 24:17: “If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death.”
- Numbers 35:20: “If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.”
- Deuteronomy 19:11-13: “If a man hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him, assaults and kills him … the elders of his town … shall hand him over to the avenger of blood to die.”
Based on the above, it would seem any rational thinking, God-fearing person would conclude: Thou shalt not kill unborn children in the womb — at any time. It is murder.
To be sure, this issue will never be solved here on earth. The wars between the pro-life and pro-abortion believers will go on. And abortions will continue, legal or not.
We shall see in November 2024 in Florida on which of these sides are the majority of Florida voters. And that will tell us whether America’s social disintegration and anti-life secularism will continue or begin to be reversed.
In my case, I am pro-life and subscribe to the Bible. But I also believe every woman can and should make her own choice. In the end, we will all face our Maker.