That summer I worked for a Democratic polling firm and the next summer, in 1988, I worked on Michael Dukakis's presidential campaign. It was abundantly clear to me that if I were to follow everything I had learned about my Christian duty to society I would have to work even harder on the issues I cared about so passionately. Who could doubt that Jesus supported me? I sure couldn't. And I didn't really interact with anyone who disputed me. Then again, I was going to school in Boston, not Austin.
Yes, elsewhere in America, many others would have disputed my priorities. For if slavery had been the moral issue for Christians in the nineteenth century, abortion was the same for many late-twentieth-century Christians. The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973 had mobilized Christian political activism more than any other single event. It wasn't just conservative Christians who were stunned. Not too long after the decision, Jesse Jackson wrote, "What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of a person and what kind of a society will we have 20 years hence if life can be taken so casually? It is that question, the question of our attitude, our value system, and our mind-set with regard to the nature and worth of life itself that is the central question confronting mankind. Failure to answer that question affirmatively may leave us with a hell right here on earth." Congress seriously considered and nearly passed a Human Life Amendment. Abortion became the litmus test for politically inclined Christians in examining the moral conscience of anyone running for office.
In 1989, the spring semester of my junior year, the Supreme Court was preparing to hear arguments in a case innocuously known as William L. Webster v. Reproductive Health Services. In 1986, the Missouri legislature had placed a number of restrictions on abortions. A law was passed stating that "[t]he life of each human being begins at conception." Public employees and public facilities were not to be used in performing or assisting abortions unnecessary to save the mother's life; counseling in favor of abortions was prohibited; and physicians were to perform viability tests upon women in their twentieth (or more) week of pregnancy.
For the first time since 1973 the legally guaranteed right toabortion was in serious jeopardy. Celebrities, Democratic political leaders, and abortion rights advocates championed the right to choose. Religious leaders, Republican political leaders, and pro-life advocates championed the rights of the unborn. Both sides fought for the moral ground. One side saw itself representing the rights of mothers, the other, the rights of the unborn children.
I had never thought much about abortion until my girlfriend had one.
In the midst of the Webster debate, my girlfriend became pregnant. She wasn't gung ho for Jesus, as I was. And when she was around, I was far more gung ho for her than for Jesus. I knew that premarital sex was a Christian no-no. But it didn't seem to me to be a big no-no. Murder and rape and adultery and genocide and torture were big issues. Sex? It seemed far less significant. Jesus was no match for my hormones.