For this reason, his statements about people who think differently from him on legalized abortion seem out of character in their stark and demonizing tone.
Abortion has been legal in this country for 39 years, and that’s an intolerable travesty to many people. Yet a substantial majority of Americans, even many who regard abortion as morally wrong, believe it should remain legal in at least some circumstances.
The 2011 election and the current legislative session have brought abortion to the forefront in Mississippi after years of relative dormancy. Bryant ran with a vigorous pro-life message, and he and Republican legislative leaders have been attempting to tighten up Mississippi’s abortion laws, already the nation’s most restrictive. Bryant readily acknowledges he wants to end abortion in Mississippi.
That is certainly his right, and many Mississippians are cheering him on in that quest. Others, however, feel differently. While the issues were much more complex than simply pro-life or pro-choice in last year’s vote on the personhood amendment, the fact that 58 percent of the voters rejected it suggests a wide range of opinions on the subject in Mississippi.
Yet the day before the election last year in Tupelo, Bryant said that if the initiative were to fail, “Satan wins” and he described the vote as a battle of good versus evil of biblical proportion.
Last week in an interview with American Family Association President Tim Wildmon, Bryant said of his critics on the abortion issue that “their one mission in life is to abort children, is to kill children in the womb.”
This is an extreme statement, to say the least, and an extraordinarily broad-brush denunciation of many people who have struggled with this issue. Does he really believe that anyone who objects to efforts to make all abortion illegal is on such a “mission”?
Bryant is a United Methodist. The official position of his denomination is that abortion, while not being an acceptable means of birth control, should be legal. The United Methodist Social Principles call Christians into “a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion,” in spite of the grave moral and theological questions abortion raises.
And that’s the central point: Abortion is perhaps the most divisive issue in America. There are people on opposite sides of the question – and in the middle – who feel very strongly about it, and many others who have come to a position through agonizing personal struggle. Most people who believe abortion should be legal, if you pressed them, would hardly consider it a positive good.
Why is it necessary for our governor to speak of his opponents as if they did? Would it not be more effective to acknowledge the sincerity of their belief while still declaring that they are wrong? These days, sadly, it seems we can’t disagree without demonizing those with whom we differ.
Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662) 678-1579 or email@example.com.