Jackson: Why an abortion foe backs Obama

Philadelphia InquirerOctober 31, 2012 

My people often are accused of voting for a political candidate because he looks like them.

My people often are accused of voting for a political candidate because of one position of his party.

Yes, I'm talking about two different groups of people.

As is typical in America, perhaps more than in any other country, different groups of people easily intersect on common ground while remaining distinctly separate in other areas.

Because I am African-American, it is taken for granted by many within and outside that racial group that I would support the reelection of this country's first black president.

Similarly, I am a pro-life, born-again Christian, and there are many members of that group who would not expect a fellow pilgrim to support a president who is pro-choice.

Am I conflicted? Not in the least.

First of all, there is no reason for anyone to support President Obama just because of his skin color. Lord knows, he has bent over backward not to make race an issue in his political campaigns or his administration, so why should anyone else?

Personally, I wish Obama would say more about race relations. Other than his famous 2008 speech here in Philadelphia, and an oblique reference to racism after the February shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, he has said too little.

That's not altogether surprising. I suspected before Obama's election that his international upbringing in a mixed-race household might mean he wouldn't treat racism with the same urgency as someone like me, who grew up in the Jim Crow South.

Having experienced segregation as a child, I'm left with emotional baggage that Obama doesn't have — but I'm glad he doesn't. It makes him a better president.

Obama's lack of a racial agenda also means African-Americans are under no obligation to let their pride in his historic accomplishment dictate their votes. But there are reasons beyond race for them to turn out for him.

African-Americans are more likely to be poor and poorly educated than any other group of Americans. In fact, the average white household in this country has 22 times the wealth of the average black household. Hispanic households are only slightly better off than black households.

That inequity doesn't necessarily require race-based solutions, but it does require leadership that understands the pivotal role government must play in education, job training, medical assistance, and crime reduction to reduce the disparity.

Mitt Romney, who as governor brought the mother of Obamacare to Massachusetts, should understand that. But he's running on a ticket that would set fire to the social safety net that poor people depend on so he can avoid supporting any tax increase on the wealthiest Americans.

That unbalanced approach to deficit reduction not only threatens severe funding cuts to programs the poor need, it also leaves the middle class vulnerable to tax-code changes that will have them paying more even if their tax rates are reduced, as Romney proposes.

When it comes to which presidential candidate will do more to protect the nation's most vulnerable citizens — a group in which African-Americans, unfortunately, are overly represented — the choice is clear. It's Obama.

By the way, you also couldn't blame African-Americans if they bristle at the condescending way Romney has campaigned for office. Without providing an iota of evidence to show he would have improved the economy faster, he now wants Obama to hand over the keys so he can claim credit when the economy really revs up.

Romney has all but said, The boy did as well as he could, but now it's time for a man to take over.

Just as Romney wants people to take it as gospel that a businessman knows best how to govern a country, he is counting on evangelical Christians lining up behind the Republican candidate because that party has been more supportive of efforts to outlaw abortion.

But as hard as it is for Christians to leave their hearts out of a decision like this, they must.

They need to consider how their help in electing George W. Bush didn't end abortion. They need to consider that even if a Supreme Court with new Romney appointees banned abortion, it wouldn't end.

Just as bootleggers thrived during Prohibition, and drug dealers have thrived during the war on drugs, there will be people getting rich by providing illegal abortions. Babies will die. Women will be subjected to butchery.

The best way to end the carnage, to end the horrible devaluation of human life, is to make this a nation that provides so many good, viable alternatives for women who don't want to raise a child that abortion stops being routine.

Prenatal and support services should be guaranteed and abundant, so women don't have to worry about having healthy babies.

Foster care and adoption services should be guaranteed and abundant, so women don't have to raise a child if they don't want to.

Child care, education, and income supplements for mothers should be guaranteed and abundant, so having a child doesn't become an economic burden.

This is a job too big to be left to chance or charities. Americans are generous givers, but there aren't enough rich philanthropists like Romney who would contribute to charities at the levels necessary to impact the abortion rate.

Government is the best vehicle to provide the services and benefits needed to ensure that abortions are no longer a matter of choice, but of medical necessity.

Will that require paying higher taxes to pay for all those services? Probably. But I would pay more to save a life.

Indeed, that's the example Christians are supposed to follow; it's the example of Jesus, who we believe paid everything he had to save us from eternal damnation.

If you consider which presidential candidate is more likely to put this nation on a course in which it provides the services needed to make it easier for a woman to choose to have a child, the choice is easy. It's Obama.

Email Mr. Jackson at hjackson@phillynews.com.

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