In a highly visible rift in the anti-abortion movement, a coalition of evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic groups is attacking a longtime ally, Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson.
Using rhetoric that they have reserved in the past for abortion clinics, some of the coalition’s leaders accuse Dobson and other national antiabortion leaders of building an “industry” around relentless fundraising and misleading information.
At the center of the dispute is the Supreme Court’s April 18 decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, a federal law against a procedure in which a doctor partially delivers a late-term fetus before crushing its skull.
Dobson and many other antiabortion leaders hailed the 5 to 4 ruling as a victory; abortion-rights organizations saw it as a defeat. But six weeks later, its consequences have been, in part, the reverse.
“The Supreme Court decision totally galvanized our supporters” by raising the prospect that the court could soon overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 opinion that established a woman’s right to choose an abortion, said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Both our direct-mail and online giving got a serious bump,” she said.
Among antiabortion activists, meanwhile, the decision in Gonzales v. Carhart has reopened an old split between incrementalists who support piecemeal restrictions and purists who seek a wholesale prohibition on abortions.
In an open letter to Dobson that was published as a full-page ad May 23 in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Focus on the Family’s hometown newspaper, and May 30 in the Washington Times, the heads of five small but vocal groups called the Carhart decision “wicked,” and accused Dobson of misleading Christians by applauding it.
Carhart is even “more wicked than Roe” because it is “not a ban, but a partial-birth abortion manual” that affirms the legality of late-term abortions “as long as you follow its guidelines,” the ads said. “Yet, for many years you have misled the Body of Christ about the ban, and now about the ruling itself.”
Read it all.