Who Stands for Women?

Capitol Hill is reeling under the shock of sexual harassment charges against Oregon Senator Bob Packwood, brought by several women lobbyists and office workers. The irony is that Senator Packwood has been a champion of the feminist agenda, from the equal rights amendment to abortion. Feminist leaders are devastated by the charges. Several have appeared on television nearly in tears, asking how anyone with such a sterling record of respect for women's rights could display such crass disrespect for the women he worked with. Mary Heffernan, director of a women's foundation in Oregon and one of Packwood's accusers, describes his behavior as a "deep violation of what he stands for"—a "severe contradiction" to his entire career. But is it really such a contradiction? Stop and think for a moment. It's true that Packwood labored hard for abortion. But does support for abortion necessarily signal respect for women? I hate to be the one to say it, but a man just might support abortion because it's to his own benefit. We'd have to be blind not to see that abortion lets a lot of men off the hook. It allows them to avoid unpleasant things like paternity suits, shotgun marriages, and child-support payments. Anyone who has worked in a crisis pregnancy center has counseled women pressured into an abortion by a lover. Anyone who has picketed an abortion facility has seen weeping women hurried along by a boyfriend. There's no way around it: Abortion should not be labeled a woman's right but a man's retreat—from responsibility. Even before I became a Christian I was opposed to abortion--for this very reason. I recall one day President Nixon asked me, "Why do you feel so strongly about this issue?" I replied, "Because abortion promotes promiscuity." You see, in the past, if a man caused a pregnancy, he felt at least some responsibility to help raise the child. But today, there are men who feel positively noble if all they do is put up a couple hundred bucks for an abortion. And if the woman doesn't accept his offer, well then the pregnancy is her own problem. Not his. In his eyes, he's done his part. So I make no judgment of Senator Packwood personally. But I do urge you to take this opportunity to show people that the feminist assumption is simply unsound. When a man favors abortion, that does not necessarily mean he is concerned about women. It could mean he is looking for a way to legitimize irresponsibility for men. In an interesting twist to the Packwood story, several feminist leaders admit they knew he had a reputation for harassing women. Why didn't any of them report it sooner? The answer is they covered up for him because they didn't want to discredit a political ally. As Heffernan puts it, "Abortion rights were on the line." So there you have it. Clarence Thomas, a political conservative, was fair game. But Bob Packwood, a prominent liberal, was protected. Feminist groups are accusing Packwood of hypocrisy. But in this sorry affair it looks to me like there's a lot of hypocrisy on all sides.


Chuck Colson



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