Is There A Rift on the Right?

Amie Newman

Operation Rescue calls Focus on the Family "evil." A smackdown ensues.

A posse of politico anti-choice organizations berated James Dobson of Focus on the Family and a long list of anti-choice stars today for not being anti-choice enough as evidenced by their support of the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the federal abortion ban.

In an open letter to Mr. Dobson, some of the most vocal opponents of women's reproductive justice accuse him of "perverting what it means to be pro-life" and "celebrating one of the most barbaric opinions ever issued in an American court." The letter, co-signed by the leaders of Operation Rescue, Human Life International, Colorado Right to Life, and American Life League condemn James Dobson/Focus on the Family and many others as "groups celebrating this evil ruling."

It is no surprise that the above organizations have come out kicking and screaming against Dobson, a slick media maven who knows how to work the system. American Life League and the others are known on the "inside" as those who allow for absolutely no exceptions to their anti-choice stance — none. Rewire has outlined the origins of these organizations and, about the founder of American Life League, states:

"Brown says exceptions 'can never be morally justified' and that 'expert medical opinion' insists 'abortion can never be necessary to save the life of the mother.'"

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So who are the other groups celebrating evil? We're talking about extremist organizations like Concerned Women for America, The Christian Coalition, Family Research Council, and the ACLJ. These are hardly bastions of progressive thought. Apparently, however, Flip Benham of Operation Rescue and his minions are not satisfied with our highest court in the land stripping women of our right to access a medical procedure with absolutely no health exceptions.

The "gang" accuses Focus on the Family and others of using the so-called "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban" to fill their own coffers — as a hook with no meat:

‘Focus on the Family and many ministries celebrate this wicked ruling to justify the fifteen years of wasted effort. Pro-lifers gave tens of millions of dollars to the movement responding to countless fundraising pleas that mention the PBA ban. A major pro-life fund­raising firm told Colorado Right To Life's V.P. Leslie Hanks, "The PBA script gets the best results."'

It is true that Dobson is a business man's man having perfected the art of raising money for himself first and foremost under the umbrella of doing "Christ's work."

As Rewire has noted, "Dobson is literally a business unto himself -incorporated under James Dobson Inc. (JDI). JDI contributes $60,000 annually to Focus on the Family, in exchange for massive promotional assistance from the organization to help sell a variety of his products, including books, audiotapes, and self-help seminars. JDI is a money-making machine for Dobson, allowing him to beneficently serve Focus on the Family without compensation and make generous, tax-deductible donations to the organization, while reaping the benefits of a practically-free international publicity engine and public relations service."

The division that exists within the anti-choice movement is not surprising but it is enlightening. For Dobson and the rest of the crew that came out in support of the ruling, political victories like these are essential. And, in fact, they are seen as incredibly damaging to the pro-choice position as well. Most reproductive rights advocates have taken to calling it the "Federal Abortion Ban" in that there is potential for the ban to be applied to abortions beyond those performed as a D&X procedure.

But for many anti-choice extremists, the popular political strategies do not stay true to their ultimate goal of creating a country governed entirely on fundamentalist interpretations of the Christian Bible. The fuming letter writers skewer Dobson for what Dobson hails as positive for their movement while not adhering to what they believe are true biblical values and even compare his legal maneuverings to the Nuremberg defense.

This rift, however, has been looming for a long time. They write, "Two years ago in this same newspaper some of us published an open letter to you and we produced a DVD, Focus on the Strategy, to warn about legal positivism" (i.e. laws based on the decision of the state). Rather, they charge that because of Dobson and others; justice based on "God's principles" has been thrown away.

It will be fascinating to see where this goes — if anywhere. The letter writers, purists who support complete restrictions on women's reproductive rights, represent that small majority of Americans who wish to do the same. However many say that the chipping away of women's reproductive rights on the state and federal levels may be doing more to restrict access than we can possibly imagine. But is this division a barrier for the anti-choice movement in their quest to stomp on other forms of reproductive health access as well? There is clearly a movement of anti-family planning activists who attempt to restrict access to contraception, medically accurate sexuality education and STI prevention methods. And it is the Dobsons among us who know how to manipulate the system. The organizations named in the open letter as "enemies" for their willingness to compromise (!) so to speak, are savvy and motivated to be sure. And while these anti-choice strategists duke it out, we are still left fighting for our rights every day.

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