Massachusetts Congressman Stephen Lynch is that rarest of creatures, a pro-life Democrat. But the recent abortion bans passed in states like Alabama are too extreme even for many abortion opponents. Lynch has responded in the Boston Globe by emphatically saying . . . nothing.
There are a number of positions a politician can take on abortion. For example, presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg favors no restrictions at all. Many Democrats accept the current rule in most states, which prohibits abortions in the third trimester. Many Republicans favor prohibiting abortion with exceptions for incest and rape; others take the position favored by Alabama, which allows no exceptions at all.
But for a politician, regardless of your position, you’re going to upset some people and gain the support of others. There is no “magic middle” position here . . . you have to take a stand.
Unless you’re Stephen Lynch.
I’ve taken apart Lynch’s op-ed. There’s no position in it.
Here’s Lynch’s op-ed with my analysis and translation:
If this is the new ‘pro-life’ movement, count me out
While my position on the issue of abortion has never fit neatly on a bumper sticker, I have always used the term “pro-life’’ to describe myself, no doubt a position partly informed by my faith. And it’s partly because of that faith — not despite it — that I am compelled to denounce and reject the recent efforts in several states to isolate, abandon, and condemn women who wish to avoid pregnancy or are faced with an unwanted pregnancy.
Translation: I oppose abortion and want to be known as “pro-life” — but these new laws make me uncomfortable.
In Alabama, Missouri, Ohio, and Georgia, legislatures have recently adopted draconian measures on abortion. Alabama has banned abortion at any stage of pregnancy, even in the case of rape or incest, while several other states have banned abortions as early as six weeks, which is often before many women may even know they are pregnant. In Georgia, a woman terminating a pregnancy after six weeks could be charged with homicide. These laws are far more punitive than those in place before the Roe v. Wade decision — so intrusive and so restrictive that the basic constitutional right to privacy from government intrusion into health care decisions would be effectively eliminated. Meanwhile, other states are actively considering similar restrictive measures.
Translation: I don’t like the new laws. They’re too “pro-life” for me. I want to be pro-life but I don’t like punishing women.
And this all occurs against a backdrop in which Republicans in Congress have repeatedly attempted to eliminate women’s access to contraceptive services offered by groups such as Planned Parenthood, even though such services actually prevent unwanted pregnancies and thereby reduce abortions. Ironically, in seeking to shutter these clinics, they would also be cutting off expectant mothers, especially those in low-income areas who rely on their services for the prenatal and postnatal care they need to ensure that they have safe and healthy pregnancies. Being pro-life includes supporting the health of pregnant women. It includes feeding and educating and housing children. Simply opposing abortion does not make you pro-life.
Translation: I support women’s health care offered by people who also offer abortions, but I don’t favor the right to abortion.
The Supreme Court’s decisions on reproductive rights — as controversial as they may be in our country — have sought to acknowledge and balance the constitutional interests that are at stake on this issue. While critics abound, even without this onslaught of restrictive state legislation, the numbers of abortions that are performed in the United States each year has dropped dramatically, largely due to the impact of effective and widely available contraception, family planning services, and education. Women are in charge of their reproductive health, and their efforts to reduce unwanted pregnancies are working. All of which leads many to believe that the timing and the similarities of this multi-state campaign reveal a purely political strategy to energize and motivate the religious right. That too is shameful.
Translation: Abortion is political. I don’t like that.
While I am personally informed by my faith, my actions as a legislator must be in support of and in defense of the Constitution. That is my oath. So if these recent developments define the “pro-life’’ movement, you can count me out.
Translation: I have no position.
There are consistent positions here. Lynch has taken none of them.
Does Stephen Lynch think abortion should be legal or illegal? We don’t know.
Does he favor maintaining the protections in Roe v. Wade? Yes (according to this). But he doesn’t say that in this op-ed.
At what state of gestation should an abortion be illegal? He doesn’t say.
This is a non-position. Here are some consistent positions that a politician who is conflicted on this issue could take (these are not my personal positions, but they exist):
- Personally opposed to abortion but don’t want to make it illegal.
- Think women seeking an abortion should have restrictions on their decision, so they don’t make it arbitrarily.
- No public funds should be used for abortions.
- Abortion should be allowed in a bunch of special cases, such as rape or incest.
- Abortion should be legal, we should do everything possible to educate women and make pregnancy prevention easy, to reduce the number of abortions.
- Supports restrictions on certain abortion procedures.
- Supports abortions up to a certain point in the pregnancy, such as 20 weeks.
Lynch has taken none of these positions. He’s just sort of waffling without taking a stand.
If you vote for politicians based on their support of abortion rights, don’t vote for Lynch, he doesn’t clearly support those rights.
If you vote for politicians based on their desire to stop abortions, don’t vote for Lynch, he hasn’t made his stand clear.
Basically, if abortion is important to you, either way, don’t vote for this guy. He hasn’t chosen a middle position. He’s chosen no position at all.