Rev. Jim Wallis Needs a Reality Check on Abortion Reduction Plank

The Rev. Jim Wallis lives in a world where his self-reinforcing ideas become his divine reality. Today he has called for the Democratic Party to adopt an "Abortion Reduction Plank" to the party’s platform. What Wallis should realize is that many Democrats and moderate Republicans are already doing the hard work such a plank would call for. As opposed to picking a fight with the left, Wallis should be working with reproductive health advocates, asking why it is the far-right gets away with opposing common sense education and prevention ideas.

Comprehensive sexuality education, contraception and the prevention of unintended pregnancies, improved adoption and foster care and better health care for low-income families that include pre- and post-natal care, are all issues that progressives have been pushing for quite some time.

At one time Rev. Wallis believed social issues like sexual health and rights were too divisive, choosing to focus on the environment and poverty instead. Apparently abortion is good for headlines again.

From ABC:

“This is going to be a big Denver conversation,” said Wallis. “You
don’t have to call for criminalizing anyone. You don’t have to take a
different stance about a woman’s right to choose. But you begin with
the need for reducing abortion dramatically."

The abortion reduction plank that Wallis envisions would call for
making adoption easier, supporting low-income women, and stepping up
pregnancy prevention efforts.

Without calling for restrictions such as parental consent laws,
Wallis believes that if the Democrats were to alter their abortion
platform, it could help them make inroads among young evangelicals and

“Taking abortion seriously as a moral issue would help Democrats a
great deal with a constituency that is already leaning in their
direction on poverty and the environment,” said Wallis. “There are
literally millions of votes at stake.”


Yes, Rev. Wallis there are millions of votes, as well as women’s health and lives at stake, which is why the reproductive health community has been leading the fight for education and prevention issues. For us, it is not an issue of political convenience, or publicity, but the ultimate question about women’s health and rights to determine how, when and how often to bring life into the world.

Instead of taking time to learn what advocates in the reproductive health care community actually believe and work towards, Wallis has at times bought into the "pro-life" social conservative talking points that would have people believe the GOP is the "big tent party" as he said in 2004, more accepting of pro-choice views than Democrats are of "pro-life" views.

Ironically, the Republicans, who actively and successfully
court the votes of Christians on abortion, are much more ecumenical in
their own toleration of a variety of views within their own party.


He might want to consult some pro-choice Republicans on that, like this piece on RH Reality Check from Darlee Crockett, Chair of Planned Parenthood’s Republicans for Choice. He could also see that pro-choice Democrats are already seeing common ground with "pro-life" Democrats on prevention issues, and see that the real divisiveness on this issue is in the GOP, in two excellent pieces by Dana Goldstein.

Rev. Wallis has supported some education and prevention measures in Congress so he should understand that his ideas about pro-choice advocates are dated, and colored by social conservatives who DO NOT believe in education and prevention. The far-right wing of the GOP (and complicit Democratic Congressional leadership) prefers to keep using federal tax dollars on failed abstinence-only programs, denying the integration of family planning and HIV services to better help women and girls abroad, and persuading people to ban contraception, with slogans like "The Pill Kills."

As opposed to picking a fight with the left, he should start asking his fellow religious leaders on the far-right why they are so opposed to common sense education and prevention efforts. Anyone truly interested in reframing the debate about women’s health understands that’s where the real problems are.

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  • invalid-0

    Obama is right on so many issues. However as a Catholic faithful to church teaching the life issue is a deal breaker. Scott Swenson and Barak Obama seem to feel that if the unborn child is wanted by the mother, the child gets to live. If the unborn child is not wanted by the mother, the child is killed. Ever try a logic course Scott? Cardinal Ratzinger said that a Catholic would need “proportionate reasons” to vote for a pro-abortion candidate- In other words if two candidates were equally bad on the life issue or one were marginally better- In this election that is not the case.

  • scott-swenson


    The majority of Americans, and Catholics, understand that reducing the number of unintended pregnancies with comprehensive sexuality education, and contraception, will lead to the reduction of abortions — and not harm women in the process. Making women and doctors criminals, as “pro-life” candidates who support overturning Roe v. Wade would do, does nothing to reduce abortion and will, instead, endanger the lives of many women who will still seek to terminate unintended pregnancies. No country that prohibits abortion has seen a reduction in abortions, just an increase in women who are injured or die because one medical act is unsafe and illegal. The question voters should ask is which candidates actually support policies that encourage healthy decisions through education, prevention and access to health care so that every child comes into a family ready and capable to support him or her.

    The “proportionate reason” will fall to candidates that support education and prevention, not prohibition, not criminalization.

    What Rev. Wallis should see in the comment above, and in this site, is that progressives are fighting for prevention and education, and that it is religious leaders (and the few who follow them) on the far-right that need to change to achieve the goals he advocates, and that the sexual and reproductive health community has advocated for decades.

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • kirsten-sherk

    While I’m glad to see Rev. Wallis finally see the light about preventing unwanted pregnancy, bringing the zeal of the converted to the pro-choice church of the Democratic Party strikes me as counterproductive. Yeah, there should be more support for preventing unwanted pregnancy. We get it. We got it 80 years ago. Thanks for joining us.

    He is also late in joining other faith groups in recognizing the importance of healthy sexuality, grounded in one’s belief system. The Episcopal Church, stuffy institution that it may be, has long had a position that supports comprehensive sex education to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STIs. And there are some really excellent examples of pro-faith sexuality education initiatives, such as "Our Whole Lives," created by the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association.


    I agree with you, Scott, that Rev. Wallis would be most productive if he reached out to mainline faith groups and reproductive health groups to see what they could learn from each other – because I do think that we are often dismissive of evangelical allies – and from there, he should be reaching out to those that have mindlessly opposed comprehensive sex and reproductive health services.  But the way he’s going now looks more like a bid for media attention than for a real desire to move the debate forward.

  • invalid-0

    Nice try, Kirsten. Wallis has been attempting to do just what he is proposing for probably as long as you have been alive. And nice word-play with “we got it 80 years ago.” You aren’t that old so quit trying to claim the moral high ground. Try to live up to your own dictum: “I do think that we are often dismissive of evangelical allies.” Sheesh.