The National Association of Evangelicals has just announced that it is willing to partner with groups that distribute contraception and offer other women’s health services in order to reduce the number of legal and illegal abortions that occur in the United States. The project, known as Generation Forum claims that “the high rate of abortion in the United States is disturbing to a vast majority of Americans” (perhaps not a “vast majority”, but new polls certainly show that the trend is towards the pro-life position) and that “it’s time to generate a productive dialogue and collaborative efforts that honor the dignity of all human life.” In their new report titled “Theology of Sex,” the NAE has cited a new collaborative poll they worked on with Gallup that shows most Evangelicals think that abortion is of serious concern, but that new routes rather than mere shaming and hardline, all or nothing anti-abortion stances must be taken.
As a result, the NAE believes that they can work constructively with pro-contraception organizations, as this is seen as somewhat of a lesser evil than potential accidental pregnancies that may lead to abortions. Indeed, the group makes no secret that they are completely opposed to abortion, thus a strong and full partnership with explicitly pro-choice groups (Planned Parenthood, NARAL, etc.) seems rather unlikely.
While the group is an exciting development, I personally will not be holding my breath, but not solely because the group is unlikely to work with fully pro-choice organizations. As USAToday religion writer Cathy Lynn Grossman notes, this endeavor may succumb to the same lack of interest and level of internal derision that has plagued the NAE’s previous mainstream collaborative effort, Creation Care, a project which tries to get Evangelicals involved in the Green movement. That group’s leader, Richard Cizik, who described himself as a, “pro-Bush conservative,“ was ousted last year as many more conservative Evangelicals felt his environmentalism (and seeking of a middle ground on gay unions), was effectively a cop-out to a liberal, secular and anti-capitalist agenda. Thus, it is not hard to believe that efforts to collaborate on reproductive rights, which tends to be a more ideological battleground than the environment, will suffer a similar fate. Indeed, pro-life Democratic Representative Tim Ryan, was “booted” off the board of Democrats for Life of America for sponsoring legislation which effectively mirrors the NAE proposal by supporting contraceptive use to reduce unintended pregnancies. If Evangelicals are not receptive to Generation Forum, they risk alienating more moderate members (as has happened to DFLA) and becoming, in Ryan’s words, just another “fringe group,” whose influence will continue to wain in a country that is no longer dominated by conservative Republicans and others that subscribe to rigid, separatist ideologies.
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