The Extreme Abortion Views of Republican Senate Candidate Sharron Angle

July 8, 2010

Since winning the Republican nomination for Nevada Senate, and being pit against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the November midterm elections, Sharron Angle has had to deal with a fair share of controversy over her views on the hot-button issue of abortion. And for good reason: they are rather extreme. Angle has stated in recent months that she opposes abortion in all circumstances, and that cases of rape or incest provide women the opportunity to turn "lemons into lemonade." 

The first statement surfaced in January, when Angle got into the following exchange on the Bill Manders show:

Manders : I, too, am pro life but I'm also pro choice, do you understand what I mean when I say that?

Angle : I'm pro responsible choice. There is choice to abstain, choice to do contraception. There are all kind of good choices.

Manders : Is there any reason at all for an abortion?

Angle : Not in my book.

Manders : So, in other words, rape and incest would not be something?

Angle : You know, I'm a Christian and I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations and we need to have a little faith in many things.

Nevermind that neither Angle, nor any human being for that matter, can actually access God's plan -- or whatever people claim it to be -- which by itself is perhaps the largest problem with religious faith determining public policy. There is a more devastating observation here. If the pregnancy and birth of a child that is a product of rape is part of God's plan, then it would seem to follow that the act of rape -- even father-on-daughter rape -- is also part of God's plan. How does Angle deal with that theological implication? No word yet.

But wait; it gets better (or worse). Angle supports her line of thinking not only with the idea that God has a plan, but that the situation also provides women a chance to make lemonade out of lemons. From the Alan Stock Show in late June:

Stock : What do you say then to a young girl, I am going to place it as he said it, when a young girl is raped by her father, let's say, and she is pregnant. How do you explain this to her in terms of wanting her to go through the process of having the baby?

Angle : I think that two wrongs don't make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade. Well, one girl in particular moved in with the adoptive parents of her child, and they both were adopted. Both of them grew up, one graduated from high school, the other had parents that loved her and she also graduated from high school. And I'll tell you, the little girl who was born from that very poor situation came to me when she was 13 and said 'I know what you did, thank you for saving my life.' So it is meaningful to me to err on the side of life.

This response is fraught with post-rationalization and selective choosing. Angle picks one case that happened to turn out fine and generalizes it to all cases. One woman who didn't get an abortion, and the child she had, turned out fine. Was this even the best possible outcome for the young woman involved? Has this been the outcome for every woman who has not had an abortion when she wanted it? Will this be the turnout for every woman who wouldn't be allowed an abortion under Angle's ideology?

As much as people might want to dismiss Angle and her views as radical, there are two reasons why that is not a smart idea: she's not alone in her convictions, and she's winning. First, her views are extreme only in the sense that they are ridiculous to the rational person. They are not extreme in that people don't agree with her, because roughly one in five Americans think abortion is wrong in all cases. Some might find this sort of number unconvincing, or argue that it is substantially lower than polls indicate. Yet the smallest oceans can still make pretty big waves (and, to be sure, this group has some substantial support from other pro-lifers who are a bit more lenient in cases of rape, incest, and the mother's health). Despite the security of Roe v. Wade, attacks on abortion rights in this country have been consistent. One needs only look at the current abortion legislation around the country, or at least activity on attempted legislation, to see the power that Angle-like arguments have on abortion policy. Second, she is currently leading Reid in the polls 48 percent to 41 percent. Unfortunately, as many might not know, Reid isn't exactly the secularist's best friend when it comes to abortion. But, at the very least, he is a friendlier companion than Angle.

In sum, many people agree with Angle, and many of those people will vote for her. She might get into office, and if she does, she will surely push for abortion laws to change. Supporters of abortion rights need to fully air her beliefs in the public square, and not merely because the of the situation concerning Angle-Reid, but also because her views are shared by millions of Americans. Debating the beliefs that make our public policy is a prime responsibility of citizens in an our open democracy. Anything less, and we should not expect things to turn out in our favor. 

Note: For anyone not following this race, Angle has also recently argued that the government ought to cut unemployment benefits to encourage the unemployed to get back to work ; and stated separation of church and state is not in the U.S. Constitution . For a fuller look at her political positions, visit her Wikipedia page.  


#1 Kritikos on Thursday July 08, 2010 at 2:08pm

Nevermind [sic] that [neither] Angle, nor any human being for that matter, can actually access God’s plan—or whatever people claim it to be—which by itself is perhaps the largest problem with religious faith determining public policy. There is a more devastating observation here. If the pregna[n]cy and birth of a child that is a product of rape is part of God’s plan, then the act of rape—even father-on-daughter rape—is also part of God’s plan. How does Angle deal with that theological implication? No word yet.

In a way, this sort of criticism misses the target, for it presumes that the religious beliefs that people like this Ms. Angle invoke to justify their ethical and political conclusions are sufficiently determinate to have clear logical implications. I doubt, though, that any such thing is the case. Rather, her beliefs are so vaguely defined as to allow her to draw whatever conclusions she is pleased to draw from them (provided, of course, that they are shared by the crowd to which she is appealing). What they confer is not so much a principled justification as an association with divine authority.

#2 Michael De Dora on Thursday July 08, 2010 at 2:13pm

Wow, I mangled that paragraph. That’s what you get for editing copy after putting it into the blogging dashboard.

#3 Michael De Dora on Thursday July 08, 2010 at 2:15pm


Are you saying that it is not worth secularists’ time and energy to point out the implications of certain religious arguments? If so, what is the better way of handling such arguments?

#4 Kritikos on Thursday July 08, 2010 at 3:15pm

I didn’t exactly mean that, though now that I face your question, I feel some uncertainty about what exactly I meant. Of course it is fair to say, “This person’s professed position has the following implication (which she herself would never accept).” I’m just saying that when an aspiring politician invokes her religious beliefs to support her position on political issues, consistency and coherence are among the last things that either she or her audience cares about. When I said that “in a way, such criticism misses the target,” I just meant that the criticism treats such a person as offering a justification, while psychologically and pragmatically (in terms of communication with their favored audience) what people like Sharron Angle are doing is rather a different thing from that. She is making an appeal to people who believe just what she believes, and inviting them to bask with her in the light of purported divine authorization for their political opinions. Exposing the incoherence of her reasoning is a legitimate part of making the same point. I suppose I should have offered my point as a supplemental one rather than a correction.

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